Litigation Uncategorized

Don’t sweat it, Dwarka!

Justin Thomas visited the Dwarka District Court Complex and explored the possible future of district courts in India.
Justin Thomas visited the Dwarka District Court Complex and explored the possible future of district courts in India.

A district court in India, usually housed in a majestic colonial-era building, is easy to describe. There are the rows of advocates and notaries under every semblance of a shade. Liver-red pan stains, that marker of Indian civil space, is ubiquitous. The milling crowd haplessly try making sense of the time-place set. It is crowded, chaotic, confusing and altogether brutish.

Since the September of 2008, the Dwarka District Court Complex (“the DDCC”) has strived to be not just an exception to the rule, but also a prototype for the future rule. Situated right next to the Sector-10 Metro station in the Delhi suburb of Dwarka, the complex is a sensible blend of practicality and the futuristic.

That the DDCC is different from other courts is apparent as soon as you enter it. As you go past the gates manned by private security guards and into the complex, two things stand out – it is rather unexpectedly spic and span, and even at the peak of a Delhi summer, it is pleasantly cool. The DDCC is India’s first district court with centralised air-conditioning and 24-hours power backup.

The 79 courtrooms of the DDCA are housed in four wings in two seven-storey buildings built around a tasteful, circular courtyard. Courtrooms are at every alternate floor, surrounding expansive lobbies, with the judges’ chambers distributed in the other floors. Separate buildings house the lawyers’ chambers and the administrative block. The entire facility is disabled-friendly and provides barrier-free access.

dwarka-tjThe complex also has a canteen, a post office, a facilitation centre, and separate libraries for judges and lawyers apart from the police station and judicial lock-up. Could not find a white shirt in the morning? There is a TJ’s outlet, a Tihar Jail initiative, where white shirts sell as briskly as their famed namkeens.

The facilitation centre provides all the information the litigant or the lawyer might need about matters taken up during the day and the courtrooms where they will be heard. Coupled with the digital display boards outside every courtroom, it goes a long way in making life simpler for those with business before the court.

Mr. I. S. Mehta, the honourable district judge, who has been at the helm of affairs here since the inception of the complex, has a very hands-on approach in running it.  “When we took possession of the complex, none of these amenities were around,” he points out, “Since then we have kept adding user-friendly features to it.”

The court is also in the forefront in the use of technology. Video-conferencing enabled courtrooms are extensively used in deposing in such sensitive matters as rape cases. A new biometric attendance system will be in place from next month for employees.

The lawyers’ chambers go a long way in adding to the dignity of the complex. It provides consultation rooms to lawyers at a nominal amount. “Chambers are essential for the efficient functioning of lawyers. The facilities provided in other (Delhi) courts are hardly conducive for business,” said Mr. P. S. Singh, Secretary of Dwarka District Court Bar Association, as he was overseeing the final work on the chambers on the sixth floor.

The facilities available at the DDCC have prompted demands for the shifting of more business here. Though the court’s jurisdiction is limited to the South-West district, it has special jurisdiction over all S.138, Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (cheque bounce) cases involving financial institutions in Delhi. The lion’s share of pendency emanates from the S.138 cases, and eight evening courts function exclusively to dispose of them. The Family Court, too, functions in the premise. The complex also has state-of-the-art alternate dispute resolution facilities.

dwarka1With just thirty-odd functioning courtrooms, the complex is heavily under-utilised. The authorities here deem this issue a policy matter for the Delhi High Court to decide on. “There is a lot of opposition from bar associations of other courts to shifting more matters here. ” a lawyer, who did not want to be identified, informed this correspondent. There is an excellent case to be made for the shifting of more tribunals to the complex. The real test for the complex would be when it approaches capacity functioning. Also, for a court complex that has automatic taps in the washrooms where you would be loath to touch the plumbing with your bare hands in most other courts, it is extraordinary not to have a website.
It is easy to pine for the architectural refinement of Patiala House. But once you visit the cool environs of the DDCC, it is hard to keep complaining.

Justin Thomas Panachackel works at Rainmaker.


Beef fry advocacy



I decided to give Shubho, a friend from Calcutta, a glimpse of Kerala outside the tourism brochures. We were about 20 km from Alleppy town, and on our way to Kumarakom.  The plan to do the trip on a Bullet 500 was waylaid by two Kerala inevitabilities – rain and hartal. After taking a detour and riding an extra 15 km to avoid the local hartal, rain caught up with us. Realizing the eternal wisdom of “if you can’t escape it, enjoy it”, we stopped at a lonely roadside shack, a ‘thattukada’.

We had got prime seats for a surreal view of the monsoon when a bearded man in his mid thirties appeared and let loose at the pace of mutual funds being subject to market risks. I could make out a few words like beef, chicken, prawn, fry and “kappa” (meaning tapioca). I ordered everything dead, fried and roasted.

Shubho had been sore and angry about work as a litigator, and I had been trying to persuade him about the thrills of litigation. “I didn’t study five years of law to argue on notice period for a demand of payment”, he thundered.

Suddenly, the voice from inside the shack said, “within fifteen days of receiving information from the bank”. “See, even he knows that,” said Shubho, but I was taken aback. In Cochin, I had even seen an auto-driver reading Das Kapital, but this was unbelievable. Not only did this guy seem to know the law on the subject, he was speaking decent English too.

As soon as I had glibly finished explaining to Shubho how even small traders in Kerala were very literate about commercial laws, came the next bomb. “I am an advocate also”. My confusion at that point would have been similar to the feelings of friend after he had been “tranny tricked” in Pattaya. Shubho was so surprised that the beef fry remained untouched for 15 seconds.

Spurred on by our stunned looks, the man told us his story. Justin (name changed, the real name is ironically derived from the patron saint for advertisers) told us that he was a graduate from Ernakulam Law College, an education that continued for almost a decade. He had repeatedly flunked jurisprudence and constitutional law. The same teacher had taught both courses, and he suspected some personal bias probably because he used to be seen with a group that once almost buried the teacher’s car under sand for refusing to cancel class to commemorate Vietnam Day.

He waited till the teacher retired from service and then another two years for re-exams to be conducted, and almost a year for the results to be declared and moderated. Finally, on a rainy day in 2004, he enrolled as an advocate.

I wanted to ask him many questions, but realized that he had just started with his story. He proudly told me that when he finally passed his jurisprudence and constitutional law exam, he got full marks for his viva on the “Hard-devil debate”.

“I was always good with people. While studying in the college, I used to do a lot of odd jobs; I worked as an LIC sub-agent for almost a year. I used to earn enough money to survive”, he said to Shubho with a smile.  “After enrollment, I started working under an advocate in Alleppy. For the first 3 months, I did not make any money. It was a hard life. You had to be in court all day and in the evenings be in the senior’s office when the clients came. The job was basically scavenging whatever files the senior needed. After 3 months, I started appearing in court for adjournments. It was around that time that I was appointed as the fact-finding commission in a property dispute. It was like a miracle, so many juniors were sitting in the court and the judge had to choose me. I got 2000 rupees for the job. It was a lot of money for me then.

“Around that time, I realized that being just an advocate was not going to be enough, and my friends and I decided that it was time that we started some business. It was Christmas season and we had the idea to sell firecrackers. We got the money together and bought the crackers wholesale from Sivakasi. We made around 50% profit. But then, you can sell crackers only during season.

“Then, my uncle who had been running this shack fell ill. Anyway the business is only in the afternoon and I can go to court in the mornings

The rain was over and we had finished our food. It didn’t seem odd that Justin was not interested in knowing more about us, even after figuring out that we are also lawyers. He was just happy he found someone to talk to. We paid for the food and lit a cigarette. Shubho, who was finding it hard to divide his attention between the delicious food and Justin’s story, thought that he should take over the running of Calcutta High Court canteen.

We walked back to our bike, which was left in the rain. Confirming fears, it refused to start. My brother had warned me about the faulty wiring when he gave me the bike. After a few semi hearted kicks, I turned back and asked Justin expectantly, “Eh…do you by any chance know something about bikes too?”

Ajith James works at Rainmaker.

Law Schools

Volunteers for technology

By Vishnu Shriram

Vishnu Shriram recently took over the reins of the Cyber Committee at the W.B.N.U.J.S. Here, he narrates the story of how a bunch of students became an Internet Service Provider to a University.
Vishnu Shriram recently took over the reins of the Cyber Committee at the W.B.N.U.J.S. Here, he narrates the story of how a bunch of students became an Internet Service Provider to a University.

Internet access used to be a prized commodity at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS). Six years ago, internet access was provided for one to three hours a week at a common computer to students who paid a required fee. Faced with repeated refusal by the University to support technology access in any credible manner, the Committee used to survive on generous student donations and regular salvages at the computer market at Chandi Chowk.

Today, “nujs.local”, spanning two six storey buildings and over four hundred users is the resident network, wholly conceived, setup and managed by the Cyber Committee. ‘ccom’, as it has come to be known, is comprised entirely of students and has become one of the core committees under the Student Juridical Association (SJA). Like every other committee, it has a Faculty Advisor who guides committee policies and helps out in matters which require funds and consent from the University.

It was established nearly nine years ago as a temporary measure until the University hired professionals to provide internet access and manage the network for the two hostels and the academic block. A high investment proposal by ERNET (a wing of the Information Technology Department of the Government of India) was (and still is!) in the pipeline and so ccom was established by a bunch of nerdy law students who took it upon themselves to provide internet access to the hostels.

Mammoth change

After Akash Sirohi (Batch of 2009) took over from the original resident network admin Joydeep Haldar (Batch of 2008) as Convenor of the Cyber Committee, a host of changes were made to the network structure and the software systems that are used to run the various components of the network. The switch from the popular and proprietary Windows platform to open source software on the Linux (Ubuntu) platform helped make tremendous headway. The members became regulars on Ubuntu and networking forums. Sirohi and Soumya Shanker (Batch of 2010), a trouble-shooter for the committee since his first year at NUJS, began the slow and arduous switch to more powerful networking systems. It was also during this period that a cache web server was put into place and faster broadband connections were acquired from BSNL.


Today, the Cyber Committee has put in place far more problem-free system – at least on the software side. The local network is fully self sufficient now with a resident firewall, web cache proxy server, a direct connect hub for file sharing purposes, an in-house DNS resolution server, an authoritative DHCP server, an ad-block proxy server, an Ubuntu update cache server and a host of network management services on all of these. The structure of the network map has been reworked only slightly since its initial days and currently uses CAT5E cables and entry-level access layer switches on each floor of the hostels. Apart from these, the signals cascade down to the access layer switches from a pair of distribution layer switches and the core switch of the network.

The winter semester of 2009 saw the arrival of the much awaited 2 MBps Leased Line connection (courtesy of BSNL again) and new switches. It took the committee a bit of time to free funds from the hands of the University in order to incorporate the newly acquired connection into the network as December 2009 saw a remarkable change in internet access at NUJS. We were all at long last, a static entity on the internet. This spelt joy in project making as research websites such as Heinonline and Westlaw which had access in the library could not previously be incorporated into the hostel network. The popular file sharing program DC++ was also introduced to users soon enough and a file sharing frenzy gripped the network. Today, nujs.local has over eight terabytes of shared data across the network.

The Works

Simply put, ccom is the resident Internet Service Provider. The committee carries out both the technical and the administrative side of running a network that is a medium-sized one, even in networking terms (small being between 180 – 200 users).

The administrative work by itself proves quite cumbersome as this involves the gathering of funds to pay off bills and the replacement of the usual loss by wear and tear. The bill for the leased line is paid off by gathering an equal portion of the bill amount from all users of the network’s facilities. Usage is tracked through a system of compulsory static IP addresses that are assigned to the users upon registration. Members also make regular jaunts to the Chandni tech market to meet the routine needs of the network. For several years now Anshuman Rath (Batch of 2011 and Convenor) has been at the helm of affairs in this department.

The technical part of running a network is divided in some sense into two tasks – that of managing the hardware and that of the software systems in place. The committee members branch out when it comes to this and people take up what they are most comfortable with.  A feature of the Committee is that the entire network is hosted and managed from a server room (two hostel double rooms put together) on the third floor of the Boys’ Hostel so naturally the role of the female ccom members is minimal. This is as a result of the basic network structure (being centred away from the Girls’ Hostel) and in some sense due to a difference in the level of technical expertise. All technical duties are invariably undertaken by the guys while the work of compiling lists of users on every floor and the like is carried out by the ccom member on every floor. This obviously means that ccom members are pretty much the only guys who have easy access to the girls’ hostel building. This can be quite irritating as lack of access fails to prove a good enough excuse for failing to fix electronic equipment that has been put out of order by a female hand (which is very often the case).


Doubts have been expressed  in the past about over-dependence on certain ccom members, especially in managing the networking and software. However, over the years, a notion of continuity has strongly been established as senior members tutor the less experienced ones to carry the baton once they have left. The Cyber Committee’s work almost never ceases, computers having no time or place to give up on you and troubleshooting and management even at preposterously unearthly hours is almost expected of the committee. The committee provides an essential service, and is not simply a form of co-curricular activity, This places it on quite a different footing on comparison with its counterparts.

There are certainly perks associated with the position of a network administrator just as there are perks with every other position of responsibility and power, but members in the past have expressed concern over a growing notion amongst the student body that the ccom is obligated to keep the network running, forgetting that the committee is in its truest sense, just like every other, where the members are simply enthusiastic and interested volunteers who are setting aside personal time and space.

With the ERNET project still hanging uncertain, the committee has chalked out grander plans of improving connection stability and to add more features to the network. An 8 MBPS leased line connection and power backup to begin with.

As of Monsoon Semester 2010, I have taken over the hefty baton of the Committee. At the end of the day, despite the seeming thanklessness of playing a network administrator at nujs.local, the sheer volume and vastness of the knowledge and skill that one acquires as a committee member, especially on the technical side is something in my opinion, every ccom member ought to be extremely thankful for.

Human Rights

On the commercialisation of education

Recently the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in Nalanda Education Society and Others v. Government of Andhra Pradesh, while dealing with a challenge to the regulation of fee structure for the pupils studying in the private and corporate schools, took serious cognizance of the general and increasingly strident complaints by parents and students, that there is crass commercialisation of education, which is reaching alarming proportions.

Hon’ble Justice Goda Raghuram speaking for the Bench observed:

“Post Independence, India witnessed a gradual transformation, from an initial stage of the State being the principal provider of educational infrastructure and regulator of formal education to being a supporter (grants-in-aid) and to now being largely a mere regulator, contouring and determining academic and faculty standards and infrastructural norms. The State is steadily and inexorably withdrawing from the funding of educational infrastructure at all levels and is content to merely regulate.  Education is now exponentially and largely a free market commodity. With accelerating privatization and an ever increasing demand for education, alongside well meaning philanthropists committed to altruistic support to education, came the carpetbaggers. The scourge of commercialization of education looms large; education is now big business and is occasionally or often pursued with a cynical and ruthless disregard for the raft of intermeshing values that must substrate a rational, benign and sustainable medium for accretion, dissemination and transmission of the wealth of accumulated human knowledge, within a generation or across generations. The Indian State has now a new and emergent item on its governance agenda – containing the rampaging sociopathy of the commercialization of education.”

Despite these observations, the Court set aside an attempted regulation of fee structure by the Government of Andhra Pradesh as being a misadventure. The Court held that the State must evolve effective and sensitive tools to regulate the educational sphere, to maintain that delicate balance between academic and operational autonomy of private unaided educational institutions and the legitimate Governmental interest in ensuring that these private entities do not indulge in profiteering.

Justice Raghuram observed: “In the matter of fee regulation the State must maintain that delicate balance; between permissible regulation to verify and prevent profiteering and collection of capitation fee by the management of a private unaided educational institution in whatsoever form, garb, guise or camouflage on the one hand and avoidance of undue intrusion into the operational, managerial and academic autonomy of the institution, on the other. This balance is the nucleus and essence of the guaranteed right under Article 19(1)(g). The fee regulating authority must be sensitive to and conscious of the broad spectrum of academic and operational autonomy that inheres in a private unaided educational institution….The instruments of regulation must be nuanced and appropriately calibrated to ensure effective but non-invasive oversight.”

According to the Court, an effective execution of the role of a regulator was possible only through informed discourse and a rational analysis after due consultation with relevant areas of expertise.

A perusal of the judgment drives home hard, the fact that it is high time, that the Governments evolve with utmost expedition, fair and effective instruments to curb profiteering and the collection of capitation fees. However since regulation of the educational sphere ‘is a pious platitude which is not calculated to give any mileage either to the politician or to his political party,’ one wonders if it is time for governments to pass on the baton to independent regulators.

(Pavan Kumar is a Hyderabad-based advocate.)

Law Schools

The Training of Trapeze Artists

bibliothequenationale“The diploma gives society a phantom guarantee and its holders phantom rights. The holder of the diploma passes officially for possessing knowledge, and comes to believe, in turn, that society owes him something. Never has a convention been created which is more unfortunate for everyone- the state, the individual, and in particular, society.”

Paul Valery

This Independence Day, a friend studying at NLSIU wrote an exam on Private International Law. The special repeat in question (more on those in a minute) was scheduled for the previous afternoon; postponed at the last minute at the request (presumably) of Rahul Gandhi’s security detail, who occupied NLSIU’s academic block all afternoon. ‘We figured the exam was cancelled’, said my highly amused friend that evening, ‘when we were waved away from the building by a guy with a gun’. Mr. Gandhi was coming later that day to address a student body directed to bedeck and bejewel themselves in his honour, but refrain from any spontaneous displays of political acuity.  That a politician could halt and censor the administration of the best legal school in the country isn’t, however, the amazing part of this story (though is it only alumni who remember when Yasin Mallik was to be found waiting to give his talk at tea-shops outside law school?). Of the four people who wrote the exam the following morning, a final roadblock for the weary on the path to graduation two weeks later, only three passed. It was a somnolent public holiday, not to mention the Sabbath, yet the college revived itself from the festivities long enough to shaft someone. Maybe I reread Little Women a few too many times growing up, but does this sound like an allegory of Pilgrim’s Progress already? And I’m just getting started.  If only a German professor could come rescue us already.

The culturally appropriate reference here is probably 3 Idiots, the college-angst movie I watched rather late in the hype. Many themes in the movie were familiar to anyone who has spent time in educational institutes across the country: the suicides we avoid, the intellectual tyranny we seek to escape, vindictive and petty teachers, the formalisation of an education system focused more on job training and less on creativity. In science circles, this has meant the invention-cycle gets derailed and we expend our brains to help other people make discoveries; in legal circles, it means we care less about policy and big pictures and more about dodging regulation and honing the company line. Other elements in the movie, like Aamir Khan’s wholly improbable character, are clearly theatrical. Colleges punish slackers, true, but they punish the genius maverick just as much. Rather, they define and distort such people until either the genius or the maverick in them is burned out. Perhaps, though, that is only my college. Did yours happen to fail anyone on Independence Day?

It was no ordinary exam that she failed: the special repeat is granted only to those people who have one subject standing between them and salvation, whether it be going up a year or getting out entirely. This special repeat was a fifth-year one, which meant the person who failed will only graduate next year, after being a hair’s breadth away from a finishing line she has been aspiring to for eight years. The length of the stick bears no comparison to the paltry carrot: the NLS degree, a barcode to the good life. Parents consider it a guarantee for employment; friends, who know better, counsel legitimacy.  For the people who are writing this exam, the degree is a shiny piece of cardboard limp with age and effort; long toil having sapped any enthusiasm they might once have had for it. It is only an ability to explain to the curious and the critical what one did for the last five (six/seven/eight) years that motivates people writing exams one week before convocation; the quick rebuff, ‘I got my degree’, because you have no genuine response to the question. It is a scenario to prove Montaigne’s prescience: the school of necessity is indeed kept by a violent mistress.

I did not run that particular gauntlet in my final year, but can vividly sympathise with the emotion that propels it. One year later, I am still filling the vast gaps in my education, still grappling with the terror of utter ignorance. Arguably, a legal education is intended to forge orators more than writers and framers of technical minutiae more than artists in abstraction; maybe the failing is all my own. I was not the brightest button in my class, nor in my college, but neither was the person who topped it, at best a schemer and at worst a venal backstabber. To be a star in this academic firmament, you needed not only smarts and work, but also the right kind of intelligence and increasingly the right kind of wheedling.

If you were to ask me what I discovered in my five years training to be a lawyer, how to down a dozen shots and the wondrous Sonny Boy Williamson would probably rank higher than any academic achievements. On the other hand, I am an inveterate reader, and a finer library you would be hard pressed to find in your everyday college. The “elite college” is thus a complex conundrum: quicksilver classmates who take one from country bumpkin to consummate blatherer, teachers who can inspire if they would just try, a vigorous curriculum which can’t but help improve one’s erudition and elocution. I learned plenty writing four papers every trimester; it taught me invaluable lessons in pacing, structure, discipline, research, and creativity. True, these developments went largely unnoticed by anyone except me: they certainly didn’t reflect on my grades. Yet, without law school I wouldn’t be writing this column, and for that I will always be heartily grateful.

If the only marker of education is the improvement of one’s personal lot in life, there is no doubt graduating from a reputable institution repays one hundred-fold. For every classmate lost between years, there is one at Harvard and another making more money than Midas. Yet, all too often, the cost of the degree is obscured by publicity, and all anyone on the outside hears about is the payoffs and the kickoffs. As with any bloodsport, broken bones and buckets of guts and tears are ignored in the quest for the ideal outcome, the perfect reputation. When this goes on for too long, middlemen and managers become peddlers in dreams and fantasies, and an image is crafted that lacks any relationship with reality. Everyone doesn’t graduate; people leave to save their sanity, people are forced to leave; sometimes they kill themselves, often they become cardboard cutouts of their earlier vibrant selves. Any worthy enterprise takes its toll, to be sure, but shouldn’t worth be measured, partially, by its downside? Don’t potential students have the right to know what they might be getting into, rather than be encouraged to rush headlong into the promise of a rosier existence?

The real benefit of the education is emancipation, social as much as personal. It opens up worlds and doors that are all too readily closed to fresh blood, it catapults one into the arena where decisions are made and policy considered. It gives one, to use a hackneyed word, agency. A legal education, with its emphasis on the ways in which we are governed, does that better than most. We are, truly, the music-makers, the movers and shakers; and sometimes the world-losers and world-forsakers.  It is not a responsibility that is easy to evade, which is not to say we don’t flee as fast as we can into the arms of private capital, but to have informed, considered opinions on our politics and our democracy is no small thing. Democracies are run, or ought to be run, from a vantage of knowledge, and simply reading India’s constitution with a view of understanding it, does, in fact, take the better part of three college courses. Yet, this is precisely what makes a stultified legal education, of the kind we increasingly notice in our institutions, such a terrible waste: laws were invented to be interpreted, and when one’s creative faculties are locked away for five years, that is a skill it is impossible to learn. One might know, down to last precedent, what everyone else thinks of the matter (and reap the rewards of being such an autodidact) without the least inklings of an autonomous opinion.

It is the fearlessness required to prove everyone else wrong, or dated, that makes a good brain a brave one, and that is the difference education is intended to foster. We were all smart before we got in (while the entrance exam tests for privilege rather than potential, that is the subject of another essay), it is the purpose of a professional education to transform us into courageous, enlightened, and engaged intellectuals, with less to lose than most people and thus more spunk and daring on display. It is the purpose of a legal education to empower one to convert helplessness into franchise, to aid those who can’t speak to stand up for what they are owed by society, by privilege, by history. Chomsky called it the ability to speak truth to power, a responsibility Edward Said once spoke passionately about in Representations of the Intellectual:

“The intellectual, in my sense of the word, is neither a pacifier, nor a consensus-builder, but someone whose whole being is staked on a critical sense, a sense of being unwilling to accept easy formulas (sic), or ready-made clichés, or the smooth, ever-so-accommodating confirmations of what the powerful or the conventional have to say, and what they do. Not just passively unwilling, but actively willing to say so in public.

“This is not always a matter of being a critic of government policy, but rather of thinking of the intellectual vocation as maintaining a state of constant alertness, of a perpetual willingness not to let half-truths or received ideas steer one along. That this involves a steady realism, an almost athletic rational energy, and a complicated struggle to balance the problems of one’s own selfhood against the demands of publishing and speaking out in the public sphere is what makes it an everlasting sphere. Yet its invigorations and complexities are, for me at least, the richer for it, even though it doesn’t make one particularly popular.” 

We were sent to a law school that was founded on the premise that it would educate questioning minds as well as polished ones; that it would train people to appreciate what Joyce meant when he said “Thinking is a mode of experiencing the world”. Instead, we leave little more than trained monkeys who can marry the right AIR with the right occasion (admittedly no small skill; shelves of AIRs induce vertigo in my brain). To boil it down to a nutshell sound bite, here is my point: perhaps, to be advocates in the truest sense of the word, we should also be taught to stop and wonder, every so often, whether precedent might be less important than principle, and heresy more productive than hierarchy.

Nandini Ramachandran blogs at Chaosbogey and is the “subtlest beast of all the field”. We understand she will write on law, society and education.