Justice Kathawalla retires from Bombay High Court
Justice SJ Kathawalla of the Bombay High Court was given a grand farewell by two advocates’ associations on Tuesday as he is slated to demit office on Wednesday after more than a decade on the bench.
The judge in his farewell address spoke at length about what the “judgeship” meant to him and also had some advice for young and budding advocates.
At the farewell event organised by the Advocate Association of Western India (AAWI), Justice Kathawalla spoke of how his “pilgrimage” was ending.
“To me, Judgeship was never a savvy career move or a professional high point. But in fact, it has been a pilgrimage that is coming to an end tomorrow,” he said.
He added that he felt blessed for having completed his pilgrimage and was in awe of the glory of the institution that he venerated deeply.
Putting to rest the million dollar question of why he gave up a lucrative practice to be a judge, he stated that his desire was always to ensure that justice should be dispensed effectively and efficiently to every litigant so that the “faith of society in the temple of justice never wanes”.
“Is money everything? When you come with nothing, and leave this world with nothing, should money be your master? What about soul satisfaction and the warmth in your heart when you realise that those cheated, defeated, miserable litigants who came vexed, crying and begging for justice before you are leaving with a smile, basking in the sheer delight of having their faith restored in the rule of law? Or their joy when they realise that the legal system is fair, just, humane and gives them their due when most needed it,” he said.
He added that it was more important to answer to the higher calling to dispense justice to every strata of society, which he described as being the collective “karma and dharma” of the legal profession.
While speaking at the farewell organised by the Bombay Bar Association, Justice Kathawalla spoke of how he cultivated the practice of wiping his mind clean of any and all prejudices that he may have harboured against opponents.
While speaking at both events, he dispensed the following pearls of wisdom to young and budding advocates who aspire to join the Bench:
This profession calls for burning the proverbial “midnight oil,” as not only fortunes of litigants, but sometimes their life and liberty, depends on the hard work;
One may attempt to escape the blame of defeat, especially where it is on account of not doing one’s best by blaming the judge or calling it a bad case, but deep down, your lack of effort will be your real defeat;
An over simplified principle – do your best and leave the rest. He described one’s “best” as being till you can honestly tell yourself that you cannot do more or better;
Answer the higher calling and move from Bar to the Bench in the larger interest of justice;
One cannot fall prey to either fear or favour, nor is one sitting on the dais to win a popularity contest. “It is a tightrope walk and there will always be many who you will displease, including the powers that be – whoever they may be!”
Nobody will remember us for our fancy cars and designer watches. We will be remembered for our dynamic work ethic, our uncompromising quest for righteousness and aptitude for empathy;
The legal profession is thriving, but we need to safeguard against the quantity versus quality dichotomy. There needs to be more pro bono work. “Just because some people cannot afford the high costs of litigation does not mean that justice should be denied to them,” he said.
Justice Kathawalla was born on March 24, 1960 and enrolled as an advocate of the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa on September 30, 1985. After having a lucrative practice for more than two decades, he was appointed as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court in July 2008. He was made a permanent judge in July 2011.