From Black Gowns to Spotless White Dhotis - The New Indian Express

From Black Gowns to Spotless White Dhotis

Published: 02nd April 2014 07:56 AM

Last Updated: 02nd April 2014 08:08 AM

Every election season reinforces the enduring bond which lawyers and lawmakers have been sharing since the days of the freedom struggle. A look at the list of candidates fielded by various political parties for the coming Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu shows that leaders are liberal in granting tickets to advocates.

While the ruling AIADMK, which is trying its luck alone in all the 39 constituencies has fielded as many as 15 law degree holders, its principal rival the DMK has given 13 of the 35 tickets to advocates.

MDMK leader Vaiko and BJP state president Pon Radhakishnan, who are in the fray from the Virudhunagar and Kanyakumari Lok Sabha constituencies respectively, are also qualified lawyers. Even the Madras High Court Advocates Association president R C Paul Kanagaraj recently floated a political party ‘Tamil Maanila Katchi’.

“Right from the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajaji (C Rajagopalachari) many lawyers have been successful politicians,” says R S Bharathi, the DMK’s legal wing secretary. He agrees that the present day politicians cannot be compared with the iconic national leaders but nonetheless they do play a prominent role in politics.  But how has this bond between men in black and spotless dhoti been successful? “There is also a perception among the people that since Parliament has all to do with law making, advocates would be more suited for the job,” argues Bharathi.

However, observers say not all advocates who manage to get party tickets are well versed with law. “There are many who have obtained LLB degrees from law colleges in neighbouring States without attending classes. Some of them can’t even get appear before a magistrate and get an adjournment for a case,” says a senior advocate.

Sometimes leaders reward lawyers who are effective in dealing with political cases or vociferously counter members of the rival party’s legal wing. For instance, in the nineties a lawyer Thalavai Sundaram organised a feast on the Madras High Court premises to counter a fast staged by another group of lawyers. This brought him instant recognition from the AIADMK high command and he went on to become a Rajya Sabha MP, MLA and also a Minister in later stages.

Another lawyer Jothi, who defended AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa in court when she was battling cases filed by the then DMK government, got nominated to the RS. Taking a cue out of this, the DMK rewarded its member and former Public Prosecutor Shanmugasundaram with a Rajya Sabha ticket in the early part of this Millennium.

Very few leaders with a legal qualification however continue active practice. Union Minister P Chidambaram is an exception. Between 1999 and mid-2004 when he was out of the Cabinet, Chidambaram donned the black gown and appeared for his clients, including journalists, in the Madras High Court.

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