The nation-wide protests in support of Anna Hazare and the bigger issue of corruption saw unconditional participation from professionals like lawyers, doctors and government employees alike, striking work or wearing black badges to express their solidarity with the anti-corruption movement.
Lawyers echoed the sentiments of the people and all district courts in the Capital remained closed on Wednesday as they abstained from work and staged dharnas at a few places, demanding that the proposed Lokpal Bill should include the judiciary in order to stem corruption even at the highest levels of their profession.
While corruption can be as simple as bribing a traffic policeman to avoid getting a ticket, the methods employed for tax evasion is a complicated issue, involving bribing the accountant and devising means to undervalue one's earnings, said an Anna supporter.
Take for instance the case of Kishen, a bus driver, embroiled in an accident case for the past five years. Occupying his favourite spot, a green bench outside his attorney's office in the court premises, he seemed surprised that there was something called a receipt. “I've always paid my dues to my lawyer on time, I never got this receipt or whatever…I just pay him in cash to carry on this never-ending case of mine,” he said, adding that he has a bank account but the attorney insists on cash payment.
Gaur, a government employee, bears the scars of his unfortunate bike accident on his face and has spent over Rs.1 lakh in his three-year legal battle. “The money is usually paid by my father in cash, we've never received a receipt but we are always assured that all our troubles will end,” he laughs, adding that his lawyer is also a distant relative from his village so formalities like receipts don't come into the picture.
Waiting all alone outside another court hall is a lady who has come as a witness to a property-related case, “I don't deal directly with the lawyer, all my family members are inside with him. But, I know for sure that of the Rs.3 lakh that we've paid him, my husband has never once issued a cheque,” she said.
Another couple are patiently awaiting their turn outside a small office. “This lawyer only talks and takes money and insists on cash because he is afraid we will issue him cheques that are going to bounce,” said the visibly agitated husband who has been caught in a dacoity case.
His sentiments are in a way echoed by Bhim, who drives a rickshaw and had come to leave his father, who was seeking a legal opinion on a property matter. “Why will they take cheques from dacoits and robbers, they are not stupid. They must've had bad experiences with such people, that is why they do this, and why should these people want or need receipts?” His father has been seeking legal opinions from different lawyers, paying all of them in cash.
Though lawyers might be usually seen as being ruthless and pushy, this general categorisation may be unfair as there are examples of good lawyers whose contributions are significant to the society.
Tariq and his friends have been summoned for discussions regarding a robbery case and the lawyer is a good friend and relative. “He is a good man, we get everything free. We just pay him to cover expenses like getting stamp paper and this has been happening for four years,” said Tariq.
Keywords: Anna Hazare