Lazy Sunday afternoons in my childhood usually meant sitting with my family and watching a movie. I genuinely believe that one of the many elements that bring a lot of drama to movies are the tense courtroom scenes.
From a very early age, my perspective of Indian courts was that they were very royal in appearance. The lavish tables for judges, two guards to escort them to and from their desk, and a court full of people rooting for each side all led me to believe that Indian courts were like lesser versions of grand palaces.
Of course, the big question in my curious mind is – how much of the drama and masala portrayed in movies is authentic. And so I went and found out!
Here are some answers.
1. Damini and the loud arguments:
Damini is a critically acclaimed movie which focuses on its female characters. One woman fights against powerful men in the court of law to give justice to a victim of gang rape. The case and courtroom drama were an essential part of the movie.
I am not criticising the base of the film, and nor am I saying that they should have brought the drama to the bare minimum. However, here are a few things that do not occur in real life.
While a lawyer (Amrish Puri) is arguing, the witness (Meenakshi Sheshadri) interrupts him saying that his claims are false. While the interjection could be argued as necessary for the scene, in real life, non-lawyers are not allowed to interrupt the proceedings while lawyers are speaking.
Lawyers, of course, are allowed to cut through an argument if it seems necessary.
2. Identification in court:
In a continuation of the scene, Damini is asked to identify the four rapists from a group of men, who faces are covered in Holi colours (this is an important plot line in the movie.)
The lawyer then ups the drama by pushing each man upon Damini, trying to provoke her to make a point. In reality, however, the process of identification is not conducted in court.
The police have to file a charge-sheet and make a case before any one comes to court. Even then, the identification process will not be brought in the court of law, let alone be so dramatic that the witness is visibly intimidated.
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3. Your royal honour:
Well, who hasn’t seen those lavish polished tables on a judge’s desk in a Bollywood movie? The judges are almost always escorted by two guards, sit at a high table and enjoy a large space where lawyers walk around as they try to prove their point.
While most of this is true in High Courts, and of course, the Supreme Court, district or village courts do not enjoy such luxuries.
To get a better perspective of a district court, you can watch movies like Pink, Jolly LLB 2 or even Court, a highly acclaimed Marathi movie. Here, files of various cases are shown piling on cupboards and tables. The judges enjoy more humble seating, and the courtroom follows a more suitable setting.
4. Destroying evidence that actually helps you!
In Meri Jung, Anil Kapoor is left with no choice but to drink a full bottle of medicine only to prove that it is not, in fact, poison. Maybe he did have other options but he chose the fastest one to prove that his client did not poison the bottle.
However, if someone tries that in real life, he will be held in contempt of court.
No sir, lawyers are not allowed to drink evidence in the middle of the court to prove their point. They have to follow procedure and not go beyond it to win their cases.
5. A superb entry might be your exit gate.
In the movie Shahenshah, Amitabh Bachchan drives an old woman, who is the only witness in the case, to court …rather, inside the court, to be precise. Such a dramatic entry was warranted by the fact that on his way to the court, he is attacked by goons with machine guns.
No matter how urgent the case is or how important getting a person alive to the court is, neither lawyers, nor the police or any one for that matter is allowed to break down the doors of the court to make a grand entry.
This is most definitely a contempt of court, illegal and might even lead the Bar Council to cancel your license to practice.
However, all said and done, what would movies be without their dramatic moments? This article is definitely is not trying to get directors to bring down the level of drama, or become more realistic.
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Movies like Shahenshah are made for the entertainment of their audience – although they have some moral teachings as their base.
To get a closer look at authentic courts without having to go there, you can watch movies like Shahid, Pink, Jolly LLB (1 and 2), Ek Ruka Hua Faisla or Aitraaz.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)