31. Practising Law

The Patrika devotes a leading article to an examination of the position taken up by me regarding lawyers and strongly dissents from it. The Patrika thinks that, practising lawyers may continue to lead public opinion on Congress platform. I respectfully suggest that any such deviation from the non-co- operation resolution will be a serious mistake. I am aware that the Patrika thinks that the Congress has not called upon all lawyers to suspend practice. I venture to differ from the interpretation. The resolution calls upon all lawyers to make greater effort to suspend practice. And, in my opinion, those lawyers who have not yet succeeded in suspending their practice, cannot expect to hold office in any Congress organization or lead opinion on Congress platforms. Will titled men be elected as office-bearers, although they may not have given up their titles? If we do not face the issues boldly, we stand in danger of corrupting the movement. We must exact correspondence between precept and practice. I hold that a lawyer president of Provincial Committee cannot lead his province to victory, if he does not suspend his practice. He simply will not carry weight. I have noticed this again and again during my tours. Lawyers, who have hitherto led public opinion, have either renounced practice or public life.
The Patrika errs in comparing practising lawyers to merchants. Not many merchants have yet led public opinion, but where they have come forward, they have certainly renounced dealing in foreign cloth. The public will not, I am glad to be able to say, tolerate divorce between profession and practice. But not to seek, or give up public position is one thing, and to help the movement as a weak but humble follower is another. Thousands are unable to carry out the full advice of the Congress and are yet eagerly helping as silent camp followers. That is the position that practising lawyers should take up. It will be honourable, dignified and consistent. We may not, in our progress towards Swaraj, consider the lead of any class or individual as essential to success.
The Patrika goes beyond the scope of the paragraph of Young India when it presents as an alternative to suspension, derision and insult. He would be an unworthy non-co-operator who would deride or insult a lawyer, or anyone else who is too weak or otherwise unable to respond to the Congress call. Because we may not elect such persons as office­bearers, we may not be intolerant and insulting to them. On the contrary, those who are honestly unable to follow the Congress resolution are in every way,- worthy of sympathy.
Nor is the Patrika right in thinking that, before practising lawyers cease to be leaders, there should be a complete boycott of law courts; and as that is impossible without a rebel government, and as we do not contemplate rebellion, practising lawyers may safely lead opinion as hitherto. There is an obvious fallacy underlying this suggestion. Carried to its logical extent, it would mean that no leader need practise what he preaches. The fact is that, although law courts may not be completely boycotted by the sacrifice of Messrs. Nehru and Das, and by our refusal to give any public status to practising lawyers and others who have not carried out the Congress resolution, we have successfully demolished the prestige of these institutions, and, therefore to that extent, of the Government. If we restore titled men, lawyers and others to their status even though they have not responded, we commit national suicide. Lastly, the Patrika is wrong in arguing that the Congress has called for suspension in order to secure the lawyers' services. The motive as the preamble of the original resolution clearly states, is to undermine the Government's prestige by the non-co-operation of parties to the institutions on which the prestige is built.

Young India, 30-3-1921, pp. 98-99