The Prashant Bhushan Interview: Journey, views on Legal Profession, Advice to future Lawyers and more
Whenever the common people have given up hope in India this legendary soft-spoken lawyer has acted upon. Be it misuse of Power by the most powerful people of the country or even Institutions he has always challenged the system judicially and given people hope.
He is none other than Prashant Bhushan- Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India. Although there has been a lot in his journey so far that is worth documenting and for sure books can be written on them here in this candid Interview with Rishu Malhotra of Educere India he shares his views on the Legal Profession, His journey of becoming a lawyer, advice to future lawyers and legal aspirants and more.
Here are excerpts from the Interview:
Rishu Malhotra: Your journey towards becoming a Lawyer is quite interesting, it started with you going to the IIT, went into philosophy too and eventually ended up becoming a Lawyer. Would you like to take us through your journey?
Prashant Bhushan: Though my father was a successful lawyer, I was initially not particularly drawn towards law and I originally went to IIT to study engineering, thinking that it would be the place for anyone interested in Science to go to. Within a short while I realised that my interest was really in physics. So I left IIT and returned home with the intention of studying physics. However, I had to intermediate (class 12) before I could do a BSc in physics. Since I came back in January and the intermediate exams were in April, though I was allowed to take the exam, they didn’t allow me physics and chemistry since I had not done the practicals. Apart from maths, I took the exam with economics and logic as my electives. I read Samuelson (8th edition at that time) from cover to cover and I found economics quite interesting. At that time I also got introduced to Bertrand Russell. ‘ABC of relativity’ was the first book that I read. Thereafter I read several others and I found philosophy fascinating as well. Instead of repeating the year, with physics and chemistry, I decided to do a BA with economics, philosophy and political science (Allahabad university). During that time, Mrs. Gandhi’s election case was argued (my father being Raj Narain’s lawyer), in the Allahabad HC and then in the Supreme Court. That was my first close encounter with law. I realised that even law was interesting enough. However, by the time I completed my BA, my interest in philosophy kept growing and I wanted to become an academic philosopher. However friends and family warmed me about the abysmal state of philosophy departments in Indian universities. So I decided to formally enrol in an LLB programme while continuing to study philosophy and physics on my own. By the time I was completing my LLB, my interest in philosophy was still growing. I applied for and got admitted to a PhD programme at the Princeton University in the US, for a course in the Philosophy of Science. By this time, I was what is known among philosophers as a logical positivist, who considered much of metaphysics to be meaningless. I read Princeton expecting the world of academic philosophy to have moved on from the traditional metaphysics but I found that academic philosophers there were still playing intellectual games, now couched in a different vocabulary called, philosophy of language. I also realised that the kind of work I wanted to do in the philosophy of physics I would need to spend several more years studying physics. That when I decided to return to India to complete my study in law and enrolled as a lawyer.
Rishu Malhotra: With most of the money earning opportunity present in Civil, Criminal and Corporate Law which most Lawyers opt for, what motivated you to be different in such environment?
Prashant Bhushan: I have been fortunate enough to be in a situation where I didn’t need to earn large sums of money to be reasonably comfortable, because of my father being a well to do lawyer and my using his office and residence infrastructure. I have always been moved by my perception of justice and public interest and therefore I soon got interested and involved in a number of public interest causes.
Rishu Malhotra: As it is in Medical profession and even other professions as well where if the parents are in the same profession its easier for the child to enter it. So, how does this play out in terms of Legal profession?
Prashant Bhushan: The legal profession has been one of the most nepotistic professions, with children of judges and established lawyers having an easy passage and inheriting the practice and sometimes judgeship from their parents. However with the advent of national law schools as well as corporate law firms, it has become easier for bright, young people graduating from these good law schools to get good jobs with these corporate law firms and then gradually move up the food chain, through their ability and diligence.
Rishu Malhotra: What will be your advice to students who take up Law as a profession in the future?
Prashant Bhushan: My advice to young aspiring lawyers is that as lawyers you are supposed to be civilised warriors for justice and therefore you should not treat the legal profession as merely an avenue to make a living. It’s important to be aware and sensitive to various injustices in our society and do whatever little one can to use the profession and the machinery of justice to bring about at least some more justice to the world. This is not to say that lawyers should not bother about making a living. Of course they need to, in order to do any other public interest or socially oriented work. But they must always bear in mind the essence of the profession that they have taken up.
Rishu Malhotra: There has been a change in terms of the kind of students that enter Law colleges. Mainly because of the 5 year Integrated Law just after school. How do you see the future of Law education in India with the 3 year LLB and 5 year LLB coexisting in the system?
Prashant Bhushan: I have always been of the view that asking children to choose their professions immediately after school is not fair since very few children understand at that stage what various professions entail. Besides their interests are not yet fully developed and are still developing, Therefore, the choice of a profession should be made normally after graduation when children have greater maturity and understanding of society as well as different professions. Besides this, in my view three years in a good law school is more than enough time to teach anyone all the basic principles of law, develop an understanding of the constitution and then educate them enough about how to search for various specific provisions of specific laws. It is not required to teach people the details of different laws which are often being amended and in any case are accessible online and easily available bare acts or commentaries.
Rishu Malhotra: You have been taking on the system for quite long and still doing the same with even tougher present situation than ever before. What keeps you going and does ever come a point where you feel frustrated and think of giving up?
Prashant Bhushan: I feel angry when I see any serious injustice and I feel that I must make use of my influence and voice to at least speak up against that and do what I can to redress that. Perhaps also because I come from a privileged background, I am not very fearful of the consequences. My experience has shown that if you consistently and with due diligence speak up and act against injustice you come to be respected and even feared by the establishment, the government and the judiciary. Though I sometimes realise that my voice is a voice in the wilderness making little difference to the establishment, yet often it does resonate in different quarters, especially among the people and does make some difference. So I persevere in the faith and hope that what I say or do will make some difference if not immediately, then sometime in the future.
Rishu Malhotra has studied Masters in Business Laws from National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore and has been counselling students for their career for more than 7 years. He is presently the Founder and CEO of Educere India.
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