Pave way for anti-generic lawyering
Arpeeta Shams Mizan
Let me begin with a small story, a story of a boy. A diligent pupil, he loved Satyajit Ray and Tagore. Being moved by the history of the Renaissance, he decided to pursue his higher studies in History after his HSC. As we can all guess, the factual world is not so dreamer-friendly, so in order to ensure good living, his family decided for him that he would be going for an LL.B program. He compromised, started his journey with a hope that he would still be learning much in the legal field and was enrolled in one of the top most institutions in Bangladesh. From thereon, his journey towards compromise began. He found out that the institution lacked in resources, and he compromised with that. He saw there were no dedicated teachers, and he compromised. He found out that the theoretical classroom lecture hardly provided him with an in depth and real life knowledge of the profession, a profession which he believed to have a human touch; and again he compromised. This journey of his ended at the Bar, and today clients flood his chambers, and compromise their only piece of land in the hope of having justice delivered, which they hardly receive.
This is a story of a boy, who could be anyone. A closer perspective will reveal that this story shows the actual scenario of the legal education in Bangladesh, till today. When the nation is striving towards development in manifold sectors, we, the students of Law, find us outsourced. Well, it can easily be said that we are exposed to a large number of seminars, workshops and training programs than is offered to any other field of study in Bangladesh. Having said that, I feel, it is important to assess what impact it has at the end of the day on minds which are trained to function in a mechanized manner. With Four years of theoretical training, these workshops which stretch from 48 hours to 14 days attain little success, because by then it becomes quite hard to extract what those incentive courses are offering, and even the new dimensions provided are received and analyzed with the typical mindset moulded in the four walls of the classroom. Further problems are faced when we move on from the institution to the bar, bench and human rights organizations. Law is mainly seen as a tool for social engineering, associated with legal doctrines, and a bit of Sociology, with another spoonful of Political Science. However in this grinding process, we fail to add a sprinkle of human insight, which would provide the students with a fresh perspective and make the judiciary, lawyers and legal professionals human friendly. Since we do not consider testing our legal ups and downs under the touchstone of History, Psychology and the like; the jurisprudential discussion does not carry us much far. We may well know why and how martial law becomes unconstitutional and what are the after effects of the Fourth Amendment Cases. We never explore the historical backdrop which led to such turns of events, or what psychology drove the actors to act in such drastic manner. Until we establish a link between all these fields, we may never become students of Law in the purest sense. We will never be able to come up with brilliant new drafts which will address the problems from a wholesome approach. Training our minds to function in such a robotic way, we often mess up the driving force with the irrationality of adult attitudes of the society. When Atticus Finch advises his only son never to shoot the mocking bird with his air gun, it is only with the help of his enlightened neighbour that the thirteen year old boy finds out the intrinsic meaning of his ancestral advice: the mocking bird human heart with the joy of music, it never hurts a soul and that is what a lawyer is supposed to do. Atticus tells his son: when the boy was a black slave encountered, his father tells him to grow up with the values of his innocent heart intact. This advice from the thirties is also applicable for the law students in Bangladesh. Young students opt to study law because they want to fight the injustice, but the session jammed-bookish-typical-worn out process uproots that thinking, that spirit which a thirteen year old boy was encouraged to preserve. We get such inspiration seldom, to be frank. The majority of students are encouraged by their families who want to see their son or daughter become a 'big man', powerful and with more than enough solvency, and ultimately we assist the “all having ones', instead of fighting for the 'have-nots', and kill the real “mocking” bird, the common people, who mock the rule of law. Such situation is hardly going to help if we truly wish to bring about a change. Therefore, the problem should be addressed with a two-fold approach.
However, these problems are not generally addressed or even realized so long as one is within and amongst the students of Bangladesh. But when one is exposed to a broader arena, the preparation provided seldom appears to be ample. We find that we are looking up to our counterparts from other countries, that our brilliant ideas are very easily outcast and surpassed by their neauvelle approach, and we start to question our competency, which take quite toll on whatever performance which we can give.( you can take my word on this point, by the way!)
It is equally important to realize the significance of Human Rights Studies. Last year, while attending the 6th Henry Dunant Memorial Moot Court Competition in New Delhi, the Bangladeshi Team (the writer was a member of the team) was reflecting upon the ever widening gap in socio-economic development between India and Bangladesh. We learned that India also had the similar social problems that we do, but India has decided to move forward with the problems intact. While she tries hard to eradicate such evils, she focuses more on developing her strategic capacity. India has been for sometime pursuing the motto that she is going to move ahead with the huge number of destitute, and use the resources for strengthening a comparatively small body to such extent that they represent India as an emerging super power, with the deprived and downtrodden mass behind the curtains, suppressed to silence.
I must confess, the idea had its charisma to me, and I still think it is not a bad strategy in today's capitalist world. But, then I remember the Proclamation of Independence, where we, the people of Bangladesh have pledged to ensure respect for Human Dignity. We earned our constitution with a river of bloodshed, and as such we must address our problems from a different perspective. India may well adopt such measures, but if we focus on poverty reduction and other socio economic problems from modern materialistic approach, then we will leave our legacy behind, and cease to be who we are. It is how we came to being that determines our identity, and if we do not plant this insight in the students from the very inception of our legal learning, then by the time we graduate, it will be too late. For then, while giving a judgment, I would consider what Enrico Ferry and Rafael Garofello said, and order the DCC to ensure better street lighting. But I might never be able to understand why the person under trial before me chose to murder an innocent passer by just for a couple of Takas. I would give directions on the pollution of Buriganga, but will I ever know why Buriganga faces this fate, when she was the harbinger of life in this part of the Indo-Pak-Bangla subcontinent from time of Islam Khan. I doubt it. I would not be dealing with the people from their perspective.
That is why we need a better understanding of Human rights in the Bangladeshi context. It is time the conscience of the society steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy was pricked by the stamina of anti-generic lawyers' struggle for justice. Bangladesh can pave way for anti-generic lawyering; all we need is a little rethinking, restructuring, and a faith, that is on us to fight the real mocking bird of the society.
The writer is Street Lawyer and Student of Law, University of Dhaka.