With my supervisor out of the office until Wednesday, I took the opportunity to accompany some of the advocates to India’s Supreme Court today. It was such a great experience; my first exposure to lawyering outside the United States. Some things were familiar of course, India grew it’s legal system in the UK’s shadow as the U.S. did, but that only made the differences more apparent.
For one thing, the decorum of the court was completely different. There was no introducing cases, no amplification, and advocates actually interrupted judges regularly. The rhythm seemed to be: advocate begins to make her case, judge interrupts with questions, advocate stammers a response which seems to have nothing to do with what he was prepared for, the judge tosses the file before the advocate finishes and is on to the next case. Then there were the more senior advocates which I judged to be the ones that were able to hold the floor for more than 30 seconds.
Colin, HRLN’s executive director, is definitely a senior advocate at the high court. When he reached the podium, there was a notable change in the energy of the room. Most the people in the visitor’s gallery rose to their feet with notepads in their hands whereas a number of the advocates quietly sat down.
The case at hand concerned the government’s failure to implement legislation passed years ago that would protect basic workers rights. The court did not seem pleased with the government response and actually demanded that a commissioner appear at the next hearing to explain why the government was not getting this done. I couldn’t help but think of the protesters in Wisconsin also battling their government for workers’ rights. Human rights apply to us all.