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   ROUND AND ABOUT... (August 28, 1969)

The other day, at the Esplanade Court, a seedy-looking gentleman was produced. The charge: theft of a ball pen (property stolen, one ball pen; property recovered, nil).The gentleman told the magistrate that it was a frame-up. That he was innocent, that six CID men had grabbed him and charged him with something that he had not done.He told the magistrate that he was not a thief, he did not do such things. He was a bootlegger.Such simple human comedies are daily acted in the police courts.Like yesterday when the defence lawyer argued for his client. His client, he told the magistrate, was a man of some status, used to a good standard of living. He could not be treated like any common underground criminal and huddled into the police lock-up.The magistrate, perhaps with an eye on the recent developments in the country, told the lawyer that such social distinctions were now to be forgotten.An afternoon spent in a police court is an experience. Esplanade Court, looking like a gaunt citadel from a Walter Scott novel, full of birds and bird droppings and the smell of seized illicit liquor.Girgaum Court with its tiled walls and paved floors where one sometimes comes across a glamorous film star in dark glasses. Some film star charged with running over somebody and not reporting the accident or reporting it the next day.And over the Nesbit Bridge, in a part of old Bombay, is the Mazagaon Court. Rambling old buildings with high ceilings situated in a large garden.But for the presence of the alpaca coats and the occasional loud 'choop' from the constables, it could be mistaken for an old manor of Sir David Sassoon.And the people in the courts. The advocates sitting in the bar libraries, surrounded by the records of ages, waiting for a brief. The touts at the entrance, the typists banging on their old machines.And the hardened criminals, some of whom seem to know more about their legal rights than the lawyers themselves.

- Busybee

 
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