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36. Mysore Lawyers

Several Mysore lawyers who had taken part in the Mysore Satyagraha struggle have been disbarred by the Mysore Chief Court. The last victim is Shri H. C. Dasappa, a most respected Mysorean and a practitioner of twenty years' standing. Serious as the disbarring of a member belonging to a liberal profession must be, such cases have-happened before now on insufficient or purely political grounds. Such injustices have to be borne with resignation and fortitude. But the order of the Chief Judge in Shri Dasappa's case as reported in The Hindu has made for me most painful reading. Shri Dasappa had the hardihood to defy a magistrate's order not to address meetings in a part of Mysore, and had the equal hardihood under my instructions to advise Satyagrahi prisoners, to boycott the departmental inquiry by Justice Nageswara Iyer. For these grave offences Shri Dasappa has been disbarred forever. He will be reduced to penury, if the Judges could help it and if their verdict has any potency beyond the paper on which it is written. Shri Dasappa becomes a man without a character to be despised and shunned by society. I happen to know Shri Dasappa personally. I hold him to be a man of spotless character and unimpeachable honesty. He has been manfully striving to practise non-violence to the best of his ability. He has done what many patriot lawyers or no lawyers have done in British India. And nowadays the judges take no notice of their conduct, and the public have made of them heroes. Advocate Bhulabhai has been Advocate-General of the Bombay High Court. He has defied laws. So has Advocate Munshi, and so has Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. They have not been disbarred. Two of them have been Ministers in their Provinces. Public inquiries have been boycotted before now with impunity. Neither the honour nor the character of those who have brought about such boycotts have been impugned. In my opinion the Judges of the Mysore Court have forgotten themselves in delivering their judgment. Shri Dasappa has not suffered. He will rise in the estimation of the people of Mysore. But I make bold to say the Mysore Judges have suffered by allowing themselves to be carried away by prejudice.
Such travesty of justice has happened before now. A Durban Magistrate who was carried away by some stupid prejudice had condemned an innocent man. His judgment was reversed, and the Supreme Court condemned it in such scathing terms that the Magistrate had to be removed. The Judges of the martial law days in the Punjab were not removed, but many were thoroughly disgraced because they had pronounced judgments which could not be supported by evidence before them. This Mysore judgment is worse than the Punjab judgments. Then there was panic. Murders had been committed by the mob, and eminent men were tried not by ordinary courts but by martial law tribunals. In Mysore nothing of the kind has happened. The Chief Judge's order is a cool and calculated attack on the honour of a man who could not defend himself against reckless statements from the Bench. Judges sometimes forget, as these Mysore gentlemen have done, that there is the bar of public opinion which is no respecter of persons.
My condolence and pity go out to the Judges who have delivered a judgment which, let me hope, in their cooler moments they will regret. For Shri Dasappa and his colleagues who have been disbarred I have nothing but congratulations. I would ask them to turn the punishment into a blessing. It is well that they cannot appear before judges who can be so grossly prejudiced as the Mysore Judges have proved themselves to be. Let these lawyers be proud of their poverty which will be probably their lot now. Let them remember Thoreau's saying that possession of riches is a crime and poverty a virtue under an unjust administration. This is an eternal maxim for Satyagrahis. The disbarred lawyers have a rare opportunity of so remodelling their lives that they can always be above want. Let them remember that practice of law ought not to mean more taking daily than, say, a village carpenter's wage. Let them make redoubled efforts to produce such a state of affairs in Mysore that the travesty of the nature I have described may become impossible. It is no pleasure to me to have to write as strongly as I have done. But I could do no less if I was to serve Truth.

Harijan, 13-7-1940, p. 205