Murlidhar C. Bhandare, Senior Advocate
Born in the year 1928, Muralidhar Bhandare completed his law at the time when India had attained Independence. After struggling for some time he was soon able to establish a name for himself in the legal profession. Later, in the 1980s, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha thrice. Bhandare has also been the Chairman of the U.N. Subcommission for Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and is presently the Managing Trustee of the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation. Having an excellent track record, Bhandare, now 74 years in age, is still active in the legal profession. Mr. Bhandare speaks exclusively with our correspondent Renu Sharma.
There were several reasons because of which I opted for the legal profession. The main reason was that I always wanted to be independent. I could have never imagined myself working under anyone. I never wanted to seek employment under any person or organisation. I always had this bearing in mind that independence is my first right. I was never meant to work under anyone. As such I thought law would be the only profession where I could think, work and act independently.
“I have always believed that- friction leads to progress”
What were the difficulties which you had to face as a new entrant into the profession?
Like any other new entrant, I also faced many difficulties. I always felt that I had more difficult times as compared to my other friends who passed out law with me. When I started my career in law I was not only briefless, but I was also a penniless lawyer. I did not have enough money to go to the court by tram, which was the cheapest mode of transport available in Bombay at that time. I used to walk long distances to reach the courts. When I had completed my law I had my two sisters, who were studying medicine at that time, and I had to take care of their studies and requirements. I had to do tuitions to earn money, as I did not have many cases to sustain myself decently. I also did not have enough money to get myself enrolled with the Bar. I had to work for nine months for collecting Rs.1000/- for getting myself enrolled as a lawyer. As such I lost one year after completing law. But I must say that these difficulties made me stronger, and I used to see these difficulties as challenges.
I remember that I used to sit in the High court with my other classmates, who all are well known lawyers today. We used to get clients in the courts itself, because at that time in the high courts the litigation was done in the presence of the clients. And it had so happened on many occasions that whenever you had performed well in your arguments, you used to get new client who had seen you arguing in the court. Similar thing happened with me and whenever I used to finish an argument and obtain a favorable order, I used to be approached by several other persons who at that time had seen me arguing my case and had appreciated it. This way slowly and slowly, I developed my practise in Bombay and then in the year 1968 I decided to shift to Delhi to practise in the Supreme Court.
“These difficulties made me stronger, and then I used to see these difficulties as challenges”
Can you tell us something about the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation, of which you are the Managing Trustee?
Sunanda was my wife and I have named this foundation after her.
I got married to Sunanda when she was only 18 years old. We two made a world by ourselves. Sunanda did her law after the birth of our son. I was already in practise at that time. Sunanda completed her law and then came to practise. Later she was elevated to the Bench. But Sunanda left us at the young age of 52, taking along with her all her dreams which she wanted to fulfill.
She wanted to do a lot for women and the upliftment of women in Indian society. She herself was a very strong woman and if she would have been alive today, she may have retired as the Chief Justice of India in the year 2007.
I have made this foundation in her memory and am trying to do what Sunanda always wanted to do. This foundation aims at providing gender justice and to put Sunanda’s credo into action, namely the freedom of choice and the right to excel.
How does the foundation function and what have been its achievements since 1994?
This foundation is a personal effort and most of the work which is carried out is because of the efforts of my team. The foundation aims at having a world of equality between men and women. Women must be given equal opportunities, and given a chance she can always prove that she can excel. We are working to create an awareness of an affectionate equality, because there cannot be equal dignity without affection. For this purpose we conduct awareness camps and programmes. We are aiming towards an attitudinal change. If the attitude changes the whole world changes. You may have noticed there has already been an attitudinal change which has taken place in our society. You can see the difference as to how the women were treated earlier and how they are treated today.
We have so many well-known personalities who are woman and have far excelled as compared to men. For this sake we may take the example of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. I consider her to be the best Prime Minister this country has ever had.
Mother Teresa had also created a name for herself in the field of social work. She was given respect by the whole world and even today, after her death, she is being remembered for her contribution to society.
We here at Sunanda Bhandhare foundation, by holding awareness camps and programmes, are trying to create an awareness amongst our women folk of the rights and equalities guaranteed to them by the Indian Constitution.
The practical aspect of law is very different from what is taught in law colleges. Are you satisfied with the study approach in law colleges or do you feel a need for change in the level of education?
I had been a professor at Law College, Bombay for 4 years and have very closely seen the working structure of law colleges. Yes, I agree that whatever is being taught in law colleges is quite different from what one does when he enters the legal profession. I always encouraged my students to develop a passion for law, apart from gaining knowledge of law. I believe that if there is a passion for law it will automatically lead to greater efforts. There should be more practical exposure for the law students. There must be camps which should be conducted by the Bar Associations for law students for updating their knowledge on various legal issues. There must be options for training during the annual/midterm breaks. This would give the students a chance to see the way the court functions.
But I believe that most of the law colleges are already heading this way and provide ample opportunities to their students to enable them to gain both theoretical and practical knowledge of law.
Are you satisfied with your professional achievements or do you feel there in scope for much more?
Law is such a field that nobody can ever be satisfied with what he has attained in his career as a lawyer. If you mean satisfaction in terms of financial gains, I would say that yes, I think I have done well for myself and am today quite contended with what I have. If you mean satisfaction in terms of contribution to society, I think I still have to do much more. The Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation above is the basis from which I would like to do much more for society. As a lawyer one can contribute a lot. Law is one subject which has an endless number of tasks to do. These tasks I consider to be challenges, and to overcome such challenges itself is a big challenge and I am always looking forward conquering them.
This interview was published in LawZ, December 2002 issue.