Diary of a judicial officer: Circa 1996 Aurangabad. T’was was a gloomy dark day. It was pouring cats and dogs. The bar association had called for bandh for some reason, in support of one amongst many of its oft repeated demands. I don’t remember the exact reason. The Bar had circulated a circular to the effect that no adverse orders be passed as no Advocate would attend Court and all matters be adjourned. We virtuous judicial officers, of course, were required to be on the dais at 11.00 a.m sharp notwithstanding that there was no one there except our own staff. As one of the most junior members of the judiciary at that time, yours truly was also on the dais at the appointed time. I finished going through the daily board and calling out the names of parties. At the fag end, at about 12.00 noon, I saw an old shrivelled up, bent lady, hardly able to stand, hobbling into Court with a walking stick, held up on both sides by two youngish ladies. She somehow managed to walk up to the bench reserved for accused and sit down. There was a flurry of activity as the two young ladies tried to dry her wet head and wring her clothes dry as also their own. After a few moments realizing the futility, they also sat down. By this time, I had almost come to the end of my daily board. After a few moments, I asked them why they were there. One of the young ones answered that they were being hounded by the police and that a warrant had been issued against the old lady for having committed the alleged offense of throwing garbage on the street under some obscure Act. Seeing me addressing them, the old lady made a valiant attempt to get to her feet, but, no avail. She couldn’t stand up without support. I checked the case papers and found that the offense carried punishment of fine upto Rs. 100/- and that only a summons had been issued in routine course as the case was more than 10 years old at that time. I then informed them that the Bar had called for a strike and no Advocate would attend the Court and therefore, I would give them a date. At this, the old lady burst into tears and told me that she was willing to undergo whatever punishment the Court would impose and that she did not want to ever come back to Court again. I ascertained from her whether she wanted to plead guilty and also told her that if yes, she would be convicted. She answered once again in the affirmative, all the time weeping. I then asked her why she was crying. What I saw on her face was a strange mix of rage, desperation and helplessness. She then narrated that the police had been hounding her for the last 2 weeks, knocking on her door at all odd hours and making demands for not arresting her there and then and hauling her to the police lock up. She also told me some four figure amounts that she had paid the Advocate, best not specified, to represent her. After all this, she once again asked me to impose whatever punishment I wanted to and finish this chapter once and for all as the alternative for continuing harassment till the next date and also the monumental efforts required for bringing her to Court. She also pointed out that the two young ladies were her daughter and daughter in law respectively and that they had left their respective young ones at home, unattended, only to come to Court. Surprisingly, just then, the Learned Advocate on record rushed in, in a flurry and demanded that he be given a date as the Bar was on strike. I related whatever the old lady had told me to him and pointed out that she was insisting on pleading guilty and finishing the matter there and then. The Advocate on record most aggressively told me that I could not under any circumstances, accept the plea of the old lady and if at all I did that, he would complain against me to the Principal District Judge. All this while, the old lady was signalling me frantically not to listen to him and that he only wanted money. Once the Advocate’s tirade stopped with an ultimatum to complain against me, the old lady once again pleaded that I finish the case and free her from the clutches of the police as well as advocate. The crucial question was whether I should follow the old lady’s wishes or give in to the demands of adjournment of the advocate under threat of complaint against me – the ultimate weapon the members of the Bar hold against the poor, beleaguered, hapless members of the judiciary. The question was a difficult one as I was still a probationer, just seven – eight months into the judiciary. The prospect of ‘complaint’ was scary.. considering the stigma it carries amongst the elite members of the judiciary as well as staff. There is a hush hush discussion about how there are complaints against the concerned officers. There is a sudden pin drop silence whenever he/she enters a room. In other words, the punishment begins even before there is any procedure followed to verify the complaint. To come back to the episode, this prospect was petrifying, that too, at the nascent stage of my career. However, somehow, the old ladies hapless and harassed state, her entreaties to finish the matter, the Advocate’s belligerent attitude played out in my mind. The thought of how the whole family had to go through so much dishevelment in order to enable her to attend Court yet again compelled me to accept her plea of guilty. She signed the necessary form and waited with a defeated look for the sentence to be pronounced. In those days, we junior judicial officers did not have even a stenographer. Hence, I started writing down the order, all the while wondering how I would tackle the problem. Finally, I convicted her and put to use the Probation of Offenders Act and let her off on admonition. The Advocate went off in a huff, still threatening to file a complaint. The old lady’s visible relief and gratitude, somehow wiped out all the doubts in my mind. A sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, and also a sense of gratitude to the Lord for having placed me in a situation where I could provide some relief to a harassed old lady engulfed me. P.S: The Learned Advocate did not file any complaint.