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54. Lawyer's Duty

I have never minced words in criticizing lawyers. Mahadev, during his short reign, castigated them to his heart's content. But the lawyers did not misunderstand him. They saw that the shafts he aimed at them were shafts of love. Though the lawyers deserve criticism, their contribution to the fight for freedom is no mean one. Pherozeshah Mehta, the uncrowned king of Bombay, was an eminent lawyer. The Lokamanya was a lawyer. Manmohan Ghosh, Lalmohan Ghosh and Lalaji, the Lion of the Punjab, all of them were lawyers. Deshbandhu, who sacrificed lakhs in the service of the country, was also a lawyer. Motilalji, Malaviyaji, Vithalbhai Patel, Sardar, Jairamdas, Rajagopalachari, Prakasam, Venkatapayya, Santhanam, Munshi, Kamdar, Purushottamdas Trikumdas and Broker, all these are lawyers, and the President of the Congress himself is a lawyer. This list is not exhaustive. I have mentioned only the names which occur to me at the moment, but many others can be mentioned.
The lawyers have, therefore, no reason to feel ashamed of their contribution, but there is none to feel elated either. If despite the sacrifices of all these lawyers people speak ill of lawyers—even I have done so—there is reason for that.
People expect every lawyer to be a patriot, as they expect every Brahmin to possess spiritual knowledge. A lawyer, by his very profession, is an advocate of people's rights, an expert in law and politics and one who saves the victims of oppression by the State. When, therefore, a class of people who should regard service of the country as their profession give themselves up to the pursuit of self-interest, lead a life of self-indulgence or have no other aim than making money by encouraging litigation, people naturally speak ill of them. Though, taken absolutely, the number of patriotic lawyers named above will not appear insignificant, if we have regard to the total number of lawyers and the magnitude of their task, it will appear small indeed.
Lawyers have not remained untouched by the present awakening. The sacrifices of Shri Munshi and other lawyers stem from the present struggle. I see that lawyers who dare not or cannot give up practice, still wish to do some service. I hear that many lawyers in Bombay have stopped wearing hats and foreign clothes. Some lawyers in Gujarat have come forward to investigate the cases of those against whom atrocities are being committed. All this is welcome indeed. But, leaving aside the question of their giving up practice, the important thing is that they should come forward in large numbers to offer civil disobedience and remain undeterred if the courts cancel their sanads. They cannot betray the country for the sake of their sanads. If in consequence of their doing national work they lose their sanads, they should welcome this as if they had been cleansed of dirt. If lawyers thus become fearless, they can help the people of their districts in many ways. If they shed fear, lawyers can

    1. keep accounts of public funds;
    2. explain legal intricacies to the people;
    3. enquire into civil disobedience cases which have been arbitrarily dealt with and bring them to light;
    4. be present at places where there is fear of violence;
    5. explain to the people all cases of arbitrary use of authority;
    6. enquire into injustices being perpetrated at present and point out to the public the Government's misdeeds;
    7. help in manufacturing khadi;
    8. help the women in bringing about boycott of foreign cloth;
    9. since in every province almost all the prominent leaders have been arrested, lawyers can lead the people and encourage the present spirit of fearlessness.

I have suggested these items only by way of illustration. Those who are keen on doing service will think up many fields in which they may do it.

[From Gujarati] Navajivan, 4-5-1930 The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XLIII pp. 383-384