Vijay Bahuguna, Senior Advocate
Being the son of Mr. H N Bahuguna made little difference to Vijay Bahuguna, for he had to start his career from scratch. He never sought any help from his father, who was always busy with his party activities. He and his family always wanted him to become a lawyer, for his maternal grandfather and other close members of the family were all lawyers. He studied law and started practise in Allahabad. Soon he was able to create a name for himself in the profession. He was later offered Judgeship in the Allahabad High Court, which he accepted. He has to his credit many important judgments. Mr. Bahuguna also has a very active political life. He has stood in the Lok Sabha elections from Uttaranchal. Now practicing in the Supreme Court as a Senior Advocate, Mr. Vijay Bahuguna shares his experiences of life as an Advocate, Judge and a Politician with our correspondent Ms. Renu Sharma.
How did you enter into the legal profession?
Since my childhood it was my parent’s desire that I become a lawyer. I was brought up with this thought in mind. It was not that I did not have a legal background. My maternal uncle and my maternal grandfather were lawyers. I was quite familiar with the profession, as I had seen my other family members as lawyers. With the passage of time law became a passion and my determination to become a lawyer grew stronger.
What motivated you to leave your successful practice and accept Judgeship?
In the legal profession a judge and a lawyer, I believe, are two sides of the same coin. As a lawyer your duty is to argue a case to the best of your capability, and as a judge your duty is to decide the matter to the best of your ability. I had already put in quite a few years of practise when I was offered judgeship. I never hesitated in thinking to accept it. Of course, I knew that I was sacrificing my well-established practise, but I was young at that time and never gave it a second thought. My father-in-law had been a Judge of the Supreme Court. This had given me an opportunity to see the judiciary from a close angle. I was very fascinated with the life of a judge and always wanted to be one. So when I was given this opportunity I intended not to miss it.
“A judge has to prepare his case, to do substantive justice in all the cases that are listed before him the next day”.
Can you tell us something about your daily life during your tenure as a Judge?
Life as a Judge, I would say, is very tough. You are always strained with the tension of doing Justice. Of course you have to study each and every case which is listed before you the next day. As a Judge you must be ready with your stock of questions and queries on which you might want to confer with the Arguing Counsel.
As a lawyer you always have a choice of accepting briefs which you enjoy doing. As a judge you do not have such a choice. You have to do all cases, the law involved in which you might not have studied earlier. You have to be familiar or rather well versed on the subject on which you have to decide a case. So, you see, one develops a knack for study and do research, as a Judge. You have to do an in depth study of the new laws, which as a lawyer you might have never wanted to explore, by choice.
But this task was exciting and I enjoyed doing it and loved my tenure as a Judge.
When you opt to become a Judge, ofcourse your social life becomes a bit secluded. You cannot move commonly in lawyer’s circles, which you often do when you are in practice. Yes, in the beginning you do miss your social days as a lawyer, but its not that Judges do not have a social life. When I was a judge in the Allahabad High Court, we used to have a nice time within our Judges circle and we enjoyed that a lot.
When you compare your life both as a Judge and as an Advocate, which side do you think was tougher?
The life of a judge and the life of a lawyer, I think, are not very different from each other. Both sides of this profession demand exhaustive study of law, a quick thinking mind, and integrity. A lawyer has to do deep research on the subject on which he has to address the court the next day. Similarly, a judge has to prepare his cases to do substantive justice in all the cases that are listed before him the next day.
Both as a lawyer and as a judge you must have a lot of patience. As a judge you must have patience to listen to whatever arguments are being addressed by the lawyer. As a lawyer you must be patient enough to listen to arguments made by your fellow lawyer. You must have the patience to wait in the court for your matter. You must be patient with the judge. Never fight with a judge, as they are the ones before whom you have to practise every day.
You are now practising in the Supreme Court as a Senior Advocate. You are also very actively involved in politics. How do you manage to balance time between both these demanding professions?
Yes, I know that it is very difficult to strike a balance between law and politics. Law is my passion and politics is in my heart. I cannot sacrifice one for the other. Therefore, I have always tried to keep both these professions apart. When I am in the court, I do not discuss politics. When I am involved in my political activities, I avoid discussing law. I have been successful in striking a balance between the two. I fix my court days well in advance and accept limited briefs when I know that I would have to give more time to politics. I have my constituency in Uttaranchal State. I have to be there with my party people to discuss issues relating to the welfare of the common people. I cannot ignore the people of my constituency. I cannot ignore my clients, either. I cannot make one suffer because of the other. It becomes difficult at times because I am involved in electoral politics. I have stood in elections to the Lok Sabha, and have lost very closely, by a margin of one percent vote. But this is what politics is all about. This did not put me down but made me more determined to do more for the people of my constituency.
In the end, I must say, that I am enjoying all that life has given to me.
-This Interview was published in LawZ February 2003 issue
Mr. Vijay Bahuguna is an Indian politician who served as the 6th Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. Vijay Bahuguna was a also member of the 14th and 15th Lok Sabhas of India.