Rotary culture as reflected in the Judiciary


Judges are not engines of power, they are engines of Service, and render the best kind of service and justice in different and difficult situations. They are social engineers and social architects. Judges render service by removing the sense of ‘injustice,’ bearing which is the worst kind of agony and torture. Judges liberate you from this and much more. It is their duty, culture, way of life. So is true of Rotarians. The basic structure of Rotary is founded on service to community … humanity.

Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, was a lawyer. RI President, Ron D Burton (2013-14) practiced at the US Supreme Court. Many international Rotary leaders have belonged to the legal and judicial coparcenary. Seven presidents of RC Chandigarh Midtown have been lawyers. Rotary and judiciary have a common culture; for both you need to be good human beings. MC Chagla was Chief ­Justice of the ­Bombay High Court from 1947–1958. Even after retirement he rendered ­different kinds of service. After his death in 1981, when his statue was unveiled outside the Chief Justice’s Court, the inscription read: A great judge/A great citizen/Above all, a great human being.

Justice HR Khanna occupies a unique position on the judicial map of India. He lived till he was 96, rendering service. Known for taking a contrarian view quite often, Justice Khanna provided durability and longevity to the Indian Constitution and made it a living and working document. He was an embodiment of justice and practised Rotary values in spirit.

Nani Palkhivala was a courtroom genius who was unique in every respect and imbibed many Rotary values without being a Rotarian. Often he would do many cases free for good public causes. He has recorded that his father nurtured in him compassion and kindness for the less privileged. He believed that he was entitled to keep only what was reasonably needed for his requirements. The rest he held as a trustee of the needy and created many charitable trusts and donated to charitable institutions. He also donated the profits from one of the editions of his hugely popular book ‘The Law and Practice of Income Tax’ to Jayaprakash Institute of Human Freedom. A prominent eye hospital in Chennai needed financial help and Palkhivala invited its Director to dinner, after which while seeing him off, the eminent jurist handed over to his guest a closed envelope containing a cheque for Rs 25 million with the words, “If you need more, do not hesitate to ask.”

In 1997, Justice Kuldip Singh of the Supreme Court of India presented Palkhivala a citation on behalf of various Rotary clubs of Bombay. The citation read: “One feels that he is not a man of this world but someone from outside. I have many times tried to explain him as a man. But it is very difficult. One can only feel his essence and enjoy it as one enjoys the fragrance of a flower or the smile of a child. He is like a cool breeze on a warm sunny day. This is Nani, the gentleman.”

Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar was a legal ‘Colossus.’ Born in poverty and brought up on charity, he rose to be one of the principal architects of the Indian Constitution. He had a large practice, and charged princely fees as well. But he was also available to poor litigants without any fee. The cause mattered the most to him. Many a time, happy clients whose cases Alladi won, would offer him a larger fee than stipulated. But he would refuse this as he considered it unethical, suggesting the client donate the extra amount to the Ramakrishna Mission Students Home. The clients willingly did that. The life story of Alladi was weaved in Rotary spirit. He was very kind- hearted towards those who worked for him and generous with his money for good causes.

There are many life stories which inspire you. From Gandhi to Mother Teresa to Kailash Satyarthi. Judges need to be sensitised in the role they are required to play in furthering ­service, social issues such as child slavery and labour.

The true success of Rotary lies in kindling the Rotary spirit and ­culture in all walks of human activity, without limiting it to Rotarians. It is wrong to assume that Rotary has stagnated for the last 10 years. Let us look beyond membership numbers and ensure that we spread Rotary ­values in our surroundings.

Let this union of Rotary and ­judiciary work in unison for the good of humanity. Some of the best poetry was written by Milton when he was blind. Some of the best music was composed by Beethoven when he was deaf. One of the greatest ­Presidents was ­Franklin D Roosevelt, who served from a wheel chair.
Both Rotary and judiciary require good human beings.

(The author, a Past President of
RC Chandigarh Midtown, D 3080, was a
former Director of the National Judicial Academy.)

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