Hailing from the small hamlet of Sondekoppa near Nelamangala, Senior Barrister SS Naganand is an eminent lawyer and recipient of the Indian Bar Association’s ‘Living Legend of the Law’ award.
Chronicling his professional life and weaving it with the history and development of Bengaluru, Naganand’s recent book “Story of the Clan” provides insight into legal practice in the city.
In an interview with Ambarish B of DHNaganand shares some ideas about the book.
You started as a chartered accountant and moved into law to continue what your grandfather SD Ganesha Rao and your father SG Sundaraswamy had started. How did the transition from CA to law go?
I am fortunate to belong to a family that had a historical perspective in law. The office started by my grandfather in 1925 was continued after him by my father and by the time I graduated my older brother had joined the firm as a lawyer.
But there was a fairly large volume of corporate law and taxation that the office dealt with. My father believed that I should become a lawyer so that we could develop this branch of the practice of law. Many of the tax issues that my dad used to handle as a senior attorney, he entrusted to me.
You talked about a lawyer’s role as an officer of justice in the book in addition to pointing out that he also has a dual responsibility. Could you elaborate on this and what is expected of clients when approaching a lawyer?
When a client comes to see a lawyer, it is the lawyer’s duty to help the client, just like a doctor diagnoses a patient. If a person comes to me with a problem, my duty is to study the case, then apply the four corners of the law and explain the problem and the possible solution to them.
A lawyer is also an officer of justice in the sense that he has a duty towards the court to be fair, to be clear, not to stifle the facts, to speak frankly. There is a line we must draw in our profession as to how far we will act as the client’s advocate and do whatever is legally and legally necessary. At the same time, we must not cross the ‘Lakshman Rekha’.
After an illustrious career as an eminent lawyer, your father kept declining offers to be a judge. What was the reason for refusing these offers? And, what was the reason you declined such an offer in 2000?
We’ve had hundreds of cases in every jurisdiction. There is no area of law that is not covered at the office. My father felt that there was a vast practice and there was no second line for him to take over the practice and run it. If he accepts the post of judge, the chambers will have to fall back. The second reason was that the salary of a judge at that time was Rs 2,500 per month. The family had an obligation to maintain a family temple, there were about 25-30 people working in the office. More or less for the same reasons, I also refused when it was offered to me in 2000. In my opinion, more than anything, a good lawyer is an asset to the judiciary. Today, I cannot name a good cross-examination lawyer in Bengaluru. So your service as a lawyer to the judiciary is as important as the service of a judge.
There is an elaborate account of old Bangalore in the book. One of the special mentions is the use of bicycles these days. Now there have been efforts to bring back the bike lanes. Do you think cyclists can still use the roads in Bangalore?
I believe it is possible. But the fact is, we are a nation of outlaws! There isn’t a single educated person I know who honestly believes they should follow the law even if it gets them in trouble. What kind of society we have become where the rights of others are not respected.
They made bike lanes and all the bikes go on bike lanes. What to do with them? How many of them are you going to pursue? If the cycle path is strictly implemented, at least some people will think of using them.
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