Monday, March 31, 2008

Fitness matters

The new mantra is fitness. It is the buzz word amongst the business elite, the filmy people, the celebrities and indeed everyone who is a person of reckoning. As lawyers and judges, we are more the objects of public gaze, as performers of cerebral arts through speaking and writing. We work at home, at the chambers, in the car and in the courts. There is a whole range of people of diverse ages, the young, middle aged and the old; the galloping types, the slithering ones and the slow paced; the persons who traverse the corridors in ones, twos and in a multitude. Whoever you are and whichever category that you belong, ask yourself these questions: Do you scowl at the folks at home when you return after a hard day’s work? Do you refuse to be drawn into any fun game with your young son or daughter? Do you scorch your clients with harsh words, for his query-some concerns about when his case is likely to be disposed of? If your answer is yes to any of the questions, it is time to shift gear.
Our profession calls for indefatigable energy. The successful ones are the persons who carry on their lives with abundance of cheer. You will find more successful lawyers in a club playing bridge or rummy than any other professional. Music sabhas will have a fair sprinkling of our genre as office bearers than persons of any other calling. They are better public speakers than many other persons pursuing different avocations. Successful persons of law are those who carry a brisk life style, with healthy body and mind. Antacid chewing lawyers are getting side-lined! The winsome countenance belongs to the healthier among the men in black. Recreation and regular exercise bring the sheen to this admirable brand of people. Don’t merely rest with what physical activity that the walking in the court corridors compel you to do. Set apart some time for exercise and physical activity outside the court milieu. Some texts describe ‘physical activity as an inclusive term that refers to any expenditure of energy brought about by bodily movement via the skeletal muscles; as such, it includes the complete spectrum of activity from very low resting levels to maximal exertion. Exercise is a component of physical activity. The distinguishing characteristic of exercise is that it is a structured activity specifically planned to develop and maintain physical fitness.
Physical conditioning refers to the development of physical fitness through the adaptation of the body and its various systems to an exercise programme’.
The greatest benefit of a regular exercise programme is an improvement in overall fitness. Appropriate exercise improves muscular strength and endurance, body composition, flexibility, and cardio-respiratory endurance. You do not get fatigued fast. You will have learnt the art of walking from court to court without complaining. You will have greater lung power not to be caught short of breath. You will not be on edge when you are asked the most inconvenient question, or when your opponent is delivering the most untenable arguments. All this is not to suggest that you become a saint by being fit but you will have attained to a level of coping with minor aberrations that accompany all our lives. If you do not mind a little technical detail, ‘a middle-aged person who exercises regularly will have a maximal aerobic power 10 to 12 times resting, so a 4 km per hour walk will represent only 25 to 30 percent of maximal capacity. Any sub-maximal task is relatively much easier for the conditioned individual. A person cannot work throughout the day at much more than about 20 percent of maximal capacity without becoming chronically
fatigued. The de-conditioned person who has a maximal aerobic power of six times resting can comfortably sustain a work level of only about 1.2 times resting throughout the day (6 x 0.20 = 1.2). This low capability for sustained energy expenditure can support only a very sedentary existence: for example, 20 hours of sleep and rest, two hours of personal care, one hour of housework and shopping, and one hour of activity at three times the resting rate each day’. Different types of fitness may be important not only to different individuals but also to the same individual at different times. When you were young and in college, participating in a completion was what could have been your focus. The typical middle-aged individual is not as likely to be concerned about athletic success, as with general health. Characteristics of health-related physical fitness is only partly determined by genetic factors and inheritance but profoundly influenced by exercise habits.
In court and at your chambers, keep a constant self appraisal about how you sit, how you walk, how you stand and how you speak. Sitting erect is not the correct sitting posture, contrary to the commonly held opinion. This erect sitting posture cannot be maintained for more than one or two minutes and usually results in fatigue, discomfort and poor posture. It is slightly bent-over position, such as when you are lying on your side while sleeping, which is appropriate. A seat that tilts forward encourages this natural posture. Opposing muscle groups are balanced and the lumbar curve is preserved producing balanced seating in which the back is straight, the joint angles are open and the muscles are relaxed. This position provides greater mobility and relieves pressure on the lungs and stomach. While standing for argument, stand on both legs. Don’t stand up straight or slump over the small wooden stool placed on the horse-shoe table. A poised stance is when your legs are positioned about a foot wide and look facing the person whom you are addressing. And about your voice level, keep it to a comfortable pitch that does not strain your vocal cords and make you cough. Adopt a tone that is appropriate for the occasion. Anger, reprimand, jest, seriousness and light banter have all their space and relevance. None of these emotions require raising the voice.
Are you ready now? Get, set, go…

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Think differently

Law and logic seem to be inextricably inter-twined that a serious practitioner of law is tempted to believe that a structured reasoning alone could deliver results. In actuality, a certain kink in a smooth terrain brings unbelievably superb results. This applies to what makes poetry; what explains great economic theories; what makes a comic situation; what secures enduring results in a negotiated settlement and what gets at truth in cross examination of witnesses. Each of these statements would admit of facile examples.

Modern poetry makes no virtue of meter and rhythm. The content has to be fresh, though. It should fill you with wonderment by the time the central idea to the poetry sinks. Haiku adopts one such technique. A Japanese innovation that once was, is universal in its practice. Even Rabindra Nath Tagore wrote Haiku poems in Bengali. The beauty of this form is its brevity and a stunningly surprise element in the last line. The first two lines go along a trajectory and the third one lets you see the whole subject in a new context; in a new direction and in an unexpected dimension that thrills your soul.
Gracefully slither

He sneaks to the net untouched
With one swing he scores.
The game that had taken India to the pinnacles of glory has slipped away from us. Look at how a poet puts the imagery of the game through a successful player. His is a dribbling type. He does not sprint. He does not run fast. He slithers. No one notices him going up to the goal post. He literally sneaks to the net. Everything about his movement seems to be to deceive. See what he achieves. He swings, he scores, and there is attention from every quarter. There is a roar. There is victory. From an unnoticeable action to a resounding thud at the deck!

Freakonomics was an expression coined by Steven D.Levitt and Stephen J.Dubner to explain the method of exploring the hidden side of everything. Why does not capital punishment deter criminals is one of the questions asked. Given the rarity with which executions are carried out in the country and the long delays in doing so, no reasonable criminal should be deterred by the threat of execution, they would answer. Does increasing the number of police reduce crime? If your answer is yes, the authors would remind you that when the crime is rising, people clamour for protection, and invariably more resource allocation is found for cops. So if you look at raw correlations between police and crime, you will find that when there are more police, there tends to be more crime. That does not mean of course, that the police are responsible for more crimes!

A good joke is a narration of an incident that goes along an even keel. Allow the inference of fact or an inner meaning to a given incident as constituting the next dimension. On a triptych, often not on the same wave of logic but a third dimension which is possible to extrapolate from the factual matrix constitutes the comic situation. You may apply this test to any joke from the vulgar and profane to the subtle and esoteric. For instance, in a typical court room setting, the lawyer asks the doctor, “ Did you perform the post mortem on the dead body?”. The doctor replied, “ I always perform postmortem only on dead bodies!” The first query seeks to elicit a simple response. If the answer had been yes or no, it would be most logical. The comic situation, is how the doctor perceives the question to reply in a different context, applying a different logic

De Bono invented two famous theories, ‘lateral thinking’ and ‘parallel thinking’. With the traditional argument or adversarial thinking each side takes a different position and then seeks to attack the other side. Each side seeks to prove that the other side is wrong. This is the type of thinking established by the Greek Gang of Three (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) two thousand four hundred years ago. Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the 'truth' not to build anything. With 'parallel thinking' both sides (or all parties0 are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinated thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel. In the final stage the way forward is 'designed' from the parallel thought that has been laid out. Ask any of your friends trained in mediation. He will vouch for the success of this method of resolving disputes which aims at enduring settlements by identifying the underlying interests of the contesting parties that may not always appear on surface by the posturing that the litigants adopt, but given an insight into parallel thinking, you will arrive at the desired result.

Are you a trial lawyer? In criminal and civil practice, so long as your questioning seeks to elicit a fact along a chain of logical events, the answers will be predictable. A resolute no or yes that you get from the witness gets you nowhere near the truth. Take a round about turn and ask him about an event which only the deponent knows but which he wants to assiduously conceal. Presto, in an unguarded moment, he will splutter the truth. That is why cross examination is an art, while chief examination is a procedure.

The central theme to this piece is, there is no logic for every happening. Seemingly unconnected things have a rare design. The beauty of the spectacle resides in the beholder whose ability is to marvel at this design which is divine. You cannot be what you are not destined to be. You cannot do what is not assigned for you. Now read the first sentence again. Get reaffirmed in the faith, there could be law that is not subsumed in logic. Higher laws could transcend logic!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Of Law Reports, authors and legislations

Shri.V.C. Gopalranam, who edited the commemoration volume of the completion of a century of the High Court had catchy slogans for judges and lawyers alike, for the work turned out by them through his expressions, ‘They sat and decided’ while referring to the Judges and said of the lawyers, ‘They stood and argued’. Even apart from the judges and lawyers, are we justified in trying to gauge the development of law only by the judgments rendered by High Courts and Supreme Court without minding the vast repertoire of statutory enactments and the writings of eminent authors, asked Shri.T.R.Mani, a venerable senior counsel of Madras High Court, when we were trying to trace the development of law by the Madras High Court with reference to landmark judgments of our High Court. Significant developments there no doubt have been, when through judgments, there were new interpretations of statutory law; when the principles of law have been enunciated through lucid judgments and when judgments have signaled the march of law by simplified procedure. But law reports, legislations, authors and eminent lawyers, have each made impressive contributions to the march of law, have they not?

Shri.T.R.Mani shared interesting information about the diverse facets of the development of law. First to innovative law reporting: If our High Court was constituted in 1862 the Madras High Court Reporter (MHCR) rolled out its volume even a year earlier, that is, from 1861! We have had interesting legal history through pioneering system of publication. The Madras Law Journal published Subject Noted Index of Case Laws in three volumes in 1955. The first volume consisted of digest of cases from Privy Council and Calcutta, the second volume of Bombay and Madras and the third volume of Nagpur. The index was the first citator of its kind recording ‘the cases followed’ and ‘cases overruled’. In these days of computerization, you may easily browse through cases followed and over ruled but recognise the arduous task of collecting all the cases and tracking their history through the value of precedents by a record of when each case was followed and when it was overruled. If the Madras Law Journal created history as the First Indian Law Journal in 1891, All India Reporter struck new ground when it compiled in one volume, all the judgments of various high courts in 1919, 28 years before independence. The success of the Indian experience was what gave birth to a similar publication through All England Reporter in the year 1935 in England. Labour Law Journal and Labour Law Notes were both started in our State with exclusive reporting of labour law cases. MLJ brought out the first March of Law in 1960 that captured all the important decisions that expanded the frontiers of law for better understanding. MLJ was contributed by libraries and courts in New York, Chicago and also by the Privy Council.

The Board Standing Orders of 1803 were regulations that held statutory character and now, even though the Board of Revenue has been abolished, several of the Orders still hold the field of Revenue Administration. The Madras provincial legislature had its firsts in several of the legislation that were the model for other states to follow. The Madras City Municipal Corporation Act 1919 and the District Municipalities Act 1920 were the first noteworthy enactments containing provisions for local administration. They were replicated with minor variations for other corporations and municipalities all over India. Hindu Religious Endowment Act 1927 was similarly the earliest piece of legislation governing Hindu religious institutions. Estate Abolition Acts established momentous milestones of land reforms and the first enactment came in the then Madras Presidency after Prakasam Committee report. The Act was drafted by Shri. K. Bashyam when he was the Minister of Law. The Madras City Tenant Protection Act of 1927 was the first enactment of its kind granting a right to the tenant to purchase the vacant site from the landlord, if he had put up a super structure on the demised land. The act was periodically extended to other major cities also. Sales Tax Act and Debt Relief Legislations were innovations from the Madras Province.

There have been great authors also in various fields from Madras. John D. Mayne brought out the first compilation of Hindu Law in 1878. Mayne wrote in his first edition on Hindu Law about his own inadequacy, which he called as painful consciousness of the disadvantage under which he had laboured from his ignorance of Sanskrit. Mr. Colebrooke had been a Sanskrit scholar and translated many important Hindu texts for the understanding of Hindu Family Law but did not have an inclination to write a comprehensive treatise. The first Indians to edit Mayne’s book were Shri. Srinivasa Iyengar and Shri. Raja Iyer. Ramaswamy Iyer on Torts was unique in that when it was published in 1932, it traced the law of torts from Fiji to America, that is, in diverse legal regimes of many of the English speaking countries, including all the now common wealth countries and of USA. Ramaiya’s Company Law in 1956 was truly epochal in the sense that the book became so popular with successive editions that the name Ramaiya has become synonymous with the subject that he wrote. Bashyam and Adiga’s Negotiable instruments in 1909 traced the development of law not merely from the case law cited in Madras High courts and other courts in India but had huge references to cases from England, Canada and even Singapore. Ganapathi Iyer on Trusts and Sundararaja Iyengar on Land Tenure were major contributions to the understanding of the land laws from the days of Manu to the borrowal of Roman law concepts of property holdings. Shri.V.G. Ramachandran began his practice from a mofussil court at Tirukkoilur to be later a member of the Languages Commission and still later in the editorial board of the Supreme Court Cases. His books on Land Acquisition Act, Fundamental Rights and Constitutional Remedies, Law of Writs, Contempt of Court, Declaratory Judgments and Contract Act are excellent contributions of a lawyer from Tamil Nadu to the legal literature in India.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The new auction game

Would you care to know about what you are worth as a lawyer? Our lawyers offer their services ranging from over 1 million rupees as day fee to a few eggs for personal consumption for bail. The lucky part is that the rates are settled in the confines of a lawyer’s chamber or in the shady region of a tree. It neither attracts media attention nor celebrity participation of attractive men and women attired in see through dresses and flamboyant goggles. If the Indian Premier League’s strategy of promoting the cause of cricket through cash-rich industrial houses should catch universal attention to adaptation in other fields as well, we may see many of our professionals going up in auctions.
The players themselves have sounded buoyant. Some have said that this signals the beginning of new era of popularizing the game. Some have said that the players have never had it better for improving their game for being offered better bids in future. The players have known their relative worth , they say. Did you think that McGrath was one of the world’s best bowlers with silken glide of a run up and smooth delivery? Have you loved to see Chanderpaul’s type of measured aggression? What do you think of another West Indian Ramnaresh Sarwan, who looks so much like your neighbor next door but cracks the ball hard? Poor lot, they were among the unsold ones! Symmonds will realize that we Indians could not be racial after all. There are guys who place a greater price for him than they have done for his own ‘white’ captain Ricky Ponting.
This event, for odious reasons, reminds one of the historically shameful practice that went in the shape of public auction of slaves. Go through the famous encyclopedias that chronicle this trade. Slavery, though abundantly practiced in Africa itself and widespread in the ancient Mediterranean world, had nearly died out in medieval Europe. It was revived by the Portuguese in Prince Henry's time, beginning with the enslavement of Berbers in 1442. New World black slavery began in 1502, when Gov. Nicolás de Ovando of Hispaniola imported a few evidently Spanish-born blacks from Spain. The Portuguese at first practiced Indian slavery in Brazil and continued to employ it partially until 1755. As the English, French, Dutch, and, to a lesser extent, the Danes colonized the smaller West Indian islands, these became plantation settlements, largely cultivated by blacks. When the slave trade was at its height during the 18th century, the export of slaves was averaging 45,000 a year. About half these
slaves were unfortunates in their own societies: criminals, the mentally or physically handicapped, debtors or those who had been sold for debt or pledged as security for a debt, those who had offended men of power or influence, or simply those who in some way had become outcasts from the family and tribal systems. Selling such people was usually simply an alternative to keeping them in some kind of servitude in domestic society or, in more extreme situations, condemning them to execution or to serve as human sacrifices in the festivals of ancestral or land cults. The remainders of the slaves exported were strangers to the societies that sold them, sometimes unwary travelers or border villagers who were kidnapped, but for the most part prisoners of war. The blacks from the western African region were the most traded lot in America. All the civil wars and equality doctrines have not effaced the memory of the subjugation of the blacks in USA or the deep scars of anguish of aborigines of Australia. Lawyers had roles to play in all these trades. They drew up indentures the same way as they now do for sale notes of merchandise of common use or sale deeds of immovable properties. See the sample deeds of sale in some popular websites and experience the revulsion.
Slavery has been abolished but trafficking in women and children have been the substituted practice. The hapless victims go to enrich a hateful community of pimps and pedophiles that all the laws have not been able to eradicate. We have now inaugurated an exercise which the law does not even prophibit. Shri.V.R.Krishana Iyer has excoriated through an article in an English daily the pernicious portent of this new initiative that sullies the delightful sport that cricket is. Bal Thackarey and Sharad Yadav have queried Pawar on how he is allowing cricket to slide down to such abysmal depths. If this practice gains public approbation, chances are, bidding for professionals may begin everywhere. Would you mind if someone is prepared to bid for you for $1.5 millions or $1.35 miilons as Dhoni and Symmonds have been bid for? Remember these players are offered these prodigious sums just for a few hours or days, when they have to pledge themselves for playful work. It is not the whole lifetime retainer. If this is done to us, would we not rather abandon practice than succumbing to a rating brought under public gaze by moneyed people?

Begin the legal celebrity count with ...

Strange is the course of legal history. The most remembered are not the men who wrote long judgments. Brevity has never been a popular trait either with judges or lawyers. You will find as many judges complaining about lawyers’ long winding arguments as you may hear of lawyers grimacing about the prolix ways of some of the judges. Chief Justice Sikri wrote 2263 paragraphs in about 650 pages in print in Kesavananda Bharati’s case. Perhaps, it was the longest judgment by a single judge in our Constitutional history of India since 1950. But whose name resonates with passion in your memory when you think of this case? In the same vein, when someone speaks to you about the ‘darkest hour of Indian judiciary’, who do you think held up the torch in that blinding abyss to which individual liberty was buried in ADM Jabalpur? It is impossible to forget the name of H.R.Khanna. Along with him were 4 men, who held differently and each had well trained writing prowess to give good reasons to support their views. One was a Chief Justice and 3 other men rose to be Chief Justices one after another. H.R.Khanna knew what he sacrificed but he was far too much a colossal figure to be accommodated in that seat. He died recently on 25th February 2008 at a ripe old age of 95.

It is not only poetry that is worthy of impromptu recall; there are great passages of prose. They make the whole body of literature. Legal literature would not be complete without reading and re-reading what Justice Khanna wrote about individual liberty, in A.D.M.Jabalpur. It shall not be placed on a platter conveniently for consumption here! Take that little effort to go to your library, dust the volume that contains the text and read it. A lone dissenter had beautiful expressions not to sulk but to exemplify the virtue of dissent, if only it was to say what your conscience dictated you to utter. He said, "As observed by Chief Justice Huges, Judges are not there simply to decide cases, but to decide them as they think they should be decided, and while it may be regrettable that they cannot always agree, it is better that their independence should be maintained and recognized than that unanimity should be secured through its sacrifice. A dissent in a Court of last resort, to use his words, is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possible correct the error into which the dissenting Judge believes the court to have been betrayed."

Betrand Russel said in his book, ‘Religion and Science’, “Those to whom intellectual freedom is personally important may be a minority in the community, but among them are the men of most importance to the future. We have seen the importance of Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin in the history of mankind, and it is not to be supposed that the future will produce no more such men. If they are prevented from doing their work and having their due effect, the human race will stagnate, and a new Dark Age will succeed, as the earlier Dark Age succeeded the brilliant period of antiquity. New truth is often uncomfortable, especially to the holders of power; nevertheless, amid the long record of cruelty and bigotry, it is the most important achievement of our intelligent but wayward species.” Know what each one of those three men did: Copernicus began writing his major work De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) in 1517 AD. His theory was that the earth rotates daily on its axis and revolves around the sun yearly. Known as the heliocentric system it challenged the Ptolemaic theory that the earth was the centre of the universe, the geocentric system. His work was put in the Index of Forbidden Books in 1611 and not taken out until around 1835. Like Copernicus, Galileo's books were included in the Index of Forbidden Books in 1616. In 1632 his book Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems was published. Galileo had cleverly titled his book but there was no doubt as to where his beliefs lay. His work was a clear endorsement of the Copernican system. The Pope was not amused and called him before the Inquisition to stand trial for heresy. Galileo was tried in Rome in February 1633 and on June 16 was sentenced. After years of work Darwin wrote his famous and at the time controversial book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection which was published in 1859. It basically stated that life evolves by a process of natural selection. As with Galileo the churches and theologians attacked the findings. It conflicted with their views of special creation placing humans along side the other animals.

The 3 men conflicted with established beliefs of the world’s most powerful religious institution. All the persecution and ridicule could not silence them. They cannot just be forgotten. If someone asks you to begin the count of great judges who made all the difference in terms of brevity of content and quality, would you not begin the count with Justice H.R.Khanna?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Debt Relief Legislation & Litigation

The budget proposal to write off debts to the tune of Rs.60,000 crores due by small and medium farmers to the banking sector and rural co-operative credit has been greeted with hooplas and hurrahs. A renowned scientist of international reckoning has said that these measures are not sufficient. He has pleaded for expanding the categories of farmers eligible for waivers to include persons holding larger extents with no irrigation facilities, persons with land holdings in certain dry parts of the country and also to farmers who have availed of credit from private money lenders. The last suggestion is a topic too familiar to lawyers. It was in the then Madras Presidency that the saga of agriculturists debt relief legislations began. Called by the common folk as Rajaji Act, it was Act 4 of 1938 that contained provisions for reducing the rate of interest of loans for agriculturists, notwithstanding the specifications for higher interest in the contract, provisions for scaling down of debts having due regard to repayments already made at higher rates of interest, wiping out debts if the amount paid towards interest or principal had equaled twice the principal, setting aside sales that had already taken place and reworking the amount payable. The Act also contained special provisions for redemption of usufructuary mortgages that had complicated and technical rules of discharge in instances when the mortgagor continued in possession under a lease back arrangement with the usufructuary mortgagee.

The Agriculturists Debt Relief Act was hammered and chiseled, maimed and amended several times both by legislative exercise and judicial pronouncements. Cases multiplied to such an extent that the Chief Justice Lionel Leach constituted a special bench with Wadsworth and Patanjali Sastri JJ to deal with all the cases exclusively so that there would be consistency in approach and interpretation. The constitutionality of the Act on the ground that the provincial legislation had no power to deal with matters relating to negotiable instruments was rejected by the Full Bench in Nagaratnamma v Seshayya (1939) by adopting the well known principle of pith and substance doctrine in identifying the Act as dealing principally with money-lending which was a provincial subject and indebtedness arising out of contract which was in the concurrent list under the Government of India Act 1935 and the Governor and General having assented to the legislation under section 107 of GI Act, the legislative competence of the provincial legislature could not be doubted. The vires of the Act came for consideration again when Wadsworth J, while dismissing a civil revision petition in terms of the Full Bench to which he was a party, granted leave to appeal to the Federal Court, which again decided that the Act was intra vires the legislative powers in Subramanyan Chettiar v Muthuswami Goundan (1941). The Federal Court, while dealing with Bengal Money Lenders Act, which dealt with scaling down of all debts had held in Bank of Commerce v Kunja Behari Kar that the Act was intra vires only in so far as the debts did not apply to negotiable instruments and ultra vires in so far as it made provisions for promissory notes. This decision was the cause for reference to a Full Bench again, which held in Perumal Reddiar v Suppiah Thevar that the fact that the Federal Court had granted leave in Bank of Commerce to prefer an appeal to Privy Council need not deter them and said earlier Full Bench ruling would stand in view of the Federal Court decision in Subramania Chettiar. There was soon enough an ordinance that the Act would apply also to promissory notes to clear the cloud created by Bank of Commerce decision. The challenge to the Ordinance was rejected again by the Federal Court in Kothapu Subbi Redi v Sanepalli Chenna Reddi (1946).

The 1938 Act and the litigations just refused to fade. It was resurrected through Amending Act 8 of 1973 and similar provisions for ‘indebted persons’ who were not agriculturists under Act 38 of 1972. From 1975 to 1980, there were several avatars of debt relief legislations through Act 15 of 1975, 16 of 1975, their periodical extensions, Act 40 of 79, Act 13 of 1980, Act 50 of 83, each containing novel provisions for scaling down or wiping out debts. Act 13 of 1980 came for adverse criticism when it completely wiped away debts to creditors irrespective of their own economic status and the Act was repealed to save the creditors from ruin. The law reports are surfeit with decisions that speak volumes on the interpretative forensic skills of the legal fraternity. There had been a long respite for debt relief legislations and it had to wait till the State Government, soon after assuming power in the last election made a wipe out of debts due to Cooperative Societies that cost the institutions Rs.600 crores.

Some people say that the proposal to write off debts gives a premium to dishonesty. The Finance Minister’s sops will soon be complemented, it is believed , with State legislation granting debt reliefs from private money lenders. These lenders have now known their game too well. They do not advance moneys on promissory notes. Instead, they enter into agreements for sale which they put into court for enforcement if the moneys are not repaid as promised. Whoever loses, there are more litigations round the corner. There could be reliefs from debts but how could anyone guarantee relief from litigations on debt relief?