It’s moment of victory given the way incumbent Hon’ble Chief Justice of India has reacted to many a pleas and taken up the matter of ‘judicial clerkships’ in Jammu & Kashmir and by directions from Hon’ble Supreme Court, Jammu & Kashmir High Court has eventually started ‘judicial clerkship’ within J&K State and has invited applications for engaging ‘research assistants’. It’s pertinent to mention here that J&K State was only State which had not taken up this great initiative whereas all other states had taken the lead following the system prevalent in USA and other western states. While this endeavour of J&K High Court is laudable even though it’s a little late (given the value of ‘judicial clerkships’ and vistas it presents to a prospective law graduate abroad ) but it needs to be said that with Jammu & Kashmir everything is taken when sword hangs on concerned heads and result is before us. The situations in which presently J&K is in is result of deep alienation from long, demands that were not met, measures that were not taken, and hopes overshadowed by despair. Though it would be sheer naiveté to compare demand of plebiscite with demands like reform in individual institutions but it’s this apathy of centre towards Jammu & Kashmir (which has remained there since beginning of our relations with India) that has fed this deep alienation we’re witnessing now.
Although measure of ‘judicial clerkship’ is laudable but I think timing is not really apt. Although, I not long ago was desirous about its initiation in Kashmir but my concern is about ‘timing’, like why is this step taken at this inopportune time? How many takers such programs will have in times of turmoil, when existence and survival seem endangered? Given the situations in J&K, where each day witnesses a killing or two, from whom we could expect response to these measures, which are based on concepts of ‘governance’ and ‘justice’ – both of which have betrayed our state? Will these ‘research assistants’ be allowed to collect data on ‘pelleted youth’ so as to help shape law in that regard or collect data to evidence why draconian law like PSA needs to be withdrawn? Still one should not choose to embrace despair when light of hope comes from somewhere and in that respect while engagement of research assistants’ in J&K could be seen as great service to our legal field but much needs to be done to bring J&K at par with legal systems of other states. I’d posted a letter to honourable Chief Justice of India in May this year regarding engagement of research assistants’ in J&K and other related legal reforms and since one step has been taken towards that endeavour, we can hope that other issues confronting legal system in J&K will also be taken up at earliest and towards that end I’m reposting that letter here (with a few additions in light of present unrest in J&K) as an open letter to honourable CJI, with whose tenure we have high hopes.
Chief Justice of India
Kind Attention Sir: Tirath Singh Thakur
Dear Justice Sir,
I never knew I will one day feel need to write to and address Hon’ble Chief Justice of India. I wrote this letter almost ten times and every letter I tried in formal tone found place in wastebasket as in first place I’d that dilemma to “write or not to write” and some reluctance of sorts that was keeping me from it. Then after much thought I bumped into right reason behind writing this letter to your good self sir and I realised that all I wanted is to speak my heart out to someone from my place – Jammu & Kashmir – and that I may belong to a legal profession but yet would like to keep myself from technicalities and legal jargons in addressing you. I hope I’m granted this much leeway and that it won’t leave you in bad taste. I would never have attempted writing to someone like Chief Justice of India given the understanding of their tight work schedule to serve justice, had incumbent CJI not been someone from my state. J&K may or may not get this opportunity again. I may have read about “epistolary jurisdiction” all these years and yet would not have liked to disturb tight schedule of someone of the stature of Hon’ble CJI of country. There is one more reason of writing to you Sir and for that I need to be a little anecdotal and I’m really sorry for taking your precious time.
I’m your fan from the time I saw you first in Kashmir University when you visited University in 2013 and I vividly remember every chaste fine detail of your heart-touching and beautiful speech in which your good self shared with us journey from being a poetry lover, who would cherish being under shade of chinar trees in Naseembagh relishing kashmiri kehwa to your studying engineering at REC and then with wisdom of your father’s words letting yourself to tryst of destiny and joining law eventually. But more than that speech, I was touched by your emotional appeal to PM lately and I read that news stuff many a times to experience melange of bittersweet longing for one’s passion, pain behind every word and love for one’s nation, unconditional and manifold. So I found a heartfelt reason to overcome tide of reluctance and write to you. And all I would be asking for would be a favour for your own state sir, for my state, Jammu & Kashmir which needs attention as far as judiciary and everything connected to legal field is concerned. Lately, I was doing this research over “Judicial Clerkships” in India and abroad. As we know in USA it has importance beyond words, it’s considered as prestigious and coveted career option. In India too our Hon’ble Supreme Court realising its importance started “Indian Supreme Court clerkships” engaging fresh, bright graduates to experience this crisp sensation at top most court of their country. Almost every state High Court followed the suit with some High Courts even taking age bar to 30 years. Sir, I was startled to see situation comparatively with our state and I wonder why your state, my state, lags behind in every such endeavour worth effort. Young graduates are future of a state and of their country. Why would our attention not go to them and to evaluation of their career opportunities when they need it most? Our J&K High Court has not started such a programme so far and I wonder why! Though what is pertinent to mention here is the fact that our honourable J&K High Court is doing its job fabulously be that taking suo motu cognizance over issues of food adulteration or other core matters but tending to entire legal fraternity of state is dire need.
Sir, your esteemed self knows that Jammu & Kashmir unlike other states of country lags behind in every single respect but positive aspect is that we don’t have dearth of talent here. My state lacks on privatisation front, we have no concept of legal portals like Manupatra, Legally India, let alone legal firms and establishments or doing internships with law firms as prestigious as Luthra & Luthra. Our youth, both you & I know honourable sir, don’t have knack only for stone pelting but have proved their mettle whenever they were given chance and your journey is exemplary of that. J&K needs what all other states have on equality and parity ground. For how long our younger generation will satisfy itself with whatever little state has to offer. Our young law graduates need to think beyond career options of joining bar or academia. They need stints with good law firms and judicial clerkships and internships. A poor J&K law graduate efficient in every matter should not stop dreaming Harvard or Kings college just because it needs huge sum or a decent fellowship which would require as an important requirement a decent CV & for that decent CV all that I mentioned above lacking in J&K State is of much importance. “Judicial clerkship” sir as your esteemed self knows earns one valuable CV points and J&K State lacks such provisions. Though many students who come after their studies at top law schools outside of state do place their requests with High Court in which case they’re given opportunity of doing internships with honourable judges but it’s not every law graduate who gets such chance as formal programme of “Judicial Clerkship” has not yet been started.
Not only that sir, what is startling is that J&K State is the only state I came across where legal institutions operate from their own ivory towers. Where legal academia has not that decent connection with judiciary, where theory we read in law colleges and universities is never put to practice in bars because of every possible overt or covert flagrant violation of law (s) and no one ever looks to that as J&K lacks all such radars. Where we are instructed that academia has not to have any connection with practice in bars and vice versa and that is as hilarious as it could get and one can easily deduce fate of legal professionals in such a State. My state is one of its kind, where research publications in law are not considered forte of practising lawyers as it’s believed that only academia needs to do it for academic merit. Academic excellence is never debated nor our young legal minds encouraged contributing to law by research publications in international or national journals even if they be practising law. There are plethora of such examples sir and I’m afraid it may take your precious time.
Honourable Sir, I implore your humble self to attend to your state especially in catering to its legal institutions which merit your valuable attention like anything. Starting something like judicial clerkship in J&K State will be first endeavour and most important one given the way our young legal talent gets wasted in all other places like banks & doing odd jobs for upkeep. It will give our students’ opportunities to visit foreign lands and come with valuable experience to serve their country or for that matter it will help them in their legal journey forward by allowing them firsthand experience of working or doing internship (s) with honourable judges like all other states in country. Now in light of present unrest these pleas will be infructuous if in a large democracy with an independent judiciary ‘dissent’ will be muzzled by something as draconian as Public Safety Acts (PSAs), where even juveniles this time were not spared, showing all disrespect to International covenants and provisions of Indian Constitution, which talk high of ‘freedom of speech and expression’. Dissent forms part of freedom of speech and expression and literal interpretations only limit the arena of part III of Indian Constitution. Dear Sir, in times called as ‘normal’, we may have been desirous of programs like ‘judicial clerkship’ but now situations are completely different and what is needed more is ‘outreach’ than these programs – which can takeoff only when people survive. We hope these matters will be looked into. Thanking you for your precious time and consideration and any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.
Research Scholar at School of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir