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I finished my law degree in December 2019, and in January 2020, I went with my family to Jammu to spend a few months there. I told my father that I wanted to join the court there, and he informed me that he had a friend named Mohammad Aslam Bhat practising in the area. The next day, accompanied by my father’s close friend, we went to Bathinda, where he resided. Having recently returned from Umrah, he welcomed us with a bowl of dates and inquired about the purpose of our visit. My father explained that I had recently completed my law degree and wished to join the court to gain practical experience. He looked at me and said, “That’s great! Come tomorrow to the court and meet me there.”
The next day, it was raining, but I went to court and met my first senior at the Additional Sessions Court. He introduced me to Adv Naveen Dutt from Bhaderwah and Adv Rahil from Kulgam. For a few days, I couldn’t understand the proceedings in court, and meanwhile, Adv M.A. Bhat, as he was known, told me in his chamber at Gujjar Nagar that we had a new case in District Kathua. He asked if I could go there and file a Power of Attorney, to which I nodded my head, and he instructed the client to pay my fees the next day. The following day, I went there along with Adv Rahil, and we filed the P.O.A. It was the first time I got paid as an advocate, and it was a beautiful feeling.
By the end of February, we went back to Kashmir, and I went to District Court Kulgam to join the court but without my uniform. I saw my classmates there, and while talking to them, a court clerk told me to sit in the back seat as the first ones were for advocates. I looked at him and smiled. From then on, I put on my uniform regularly and went to court to observe the proceedings. I visited 3-4 chambers to inquire about any vacancies, but all the chambers were occupied. Finally, one day, a person from our locality asked me if I would join our chamber. I had a smile on my face and replied, “Yes.” He showed me the chamber and files and told me to meet my seniors, Adv Mohammad Iqbal, who dealt with civil matters, and Adv Suhail Ah Shah, who handled criminal matters. Adv Mohammad Iqbal had received coaching from Delhi for the judiciary, and he had the same enthusiasm even after leaving it. He assigned me and another new advocate to write an essay on the digitalization of the judiciary. It was a different experience joining this chamber; he used to give us different assignments, asking us to study various sections of CRPC, CPC, evidence, etc.
Due to COVID, my time with the new chamber and court was interrupted, and I could not learn much. Usually, I was handed a file and told by my seniors to call them when the file was called by the Judge. One day, my senior, Adv Suhail Ah, asked me why I called them when the file was called. He reminded me that I was an advocate, and I should appear for the party and speak; that’s how I would learn. He assured me that if anything untoward happened, he would deal with it. This gave me confidence, and I started studying little by little at home to not let my seniors down.
By the end of 2022, District Court Kulgam saw all judges transferred, and new judges joined. Mr. Tahir Khurshid Raina joined as Pr. Distt & Sessions Judge, Mr. Manzoor Ah Zargar joined as Chief Judicial Magistrate, and Mr. Vishal Bharti joined as ASMM. All three judges changed the style of proceedings in their respective courts; they questioned the advocates on their cases, asking for laws, judgments, and so on. I remember once Mr Manzoor Ah Zargar kept asking me question after question on my case, and I couldn’t answer satisfactorily. He told me to keep studying; he wouldn’t give me any relief if I wasn’t prepared.
Whatever little bit I was earning, I used to buy books, and then I started studying them. I began with the Law of Evidence, then the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Constitution of India, Juvenile Justice Act, and I kept studying at home and in court, wherever I had time. Once arguing with Mr. Manzoor Ah Zargar, then CJM told me to fight with him, and I kept fighting with law and words. One day he told me that he did all this grilling so that I could study and learn.
Although I am in my infancy of Advocacy, I have learned a lot. My chamber has taught me a lot and built my confidence. In my 2+ years of working, I have argued at Districts Rajouri, Ramban, Anantnag, Shopian, and Kulgam in various NDPS and POSCO cases, besides cross-examining various witnesses in different categories of cases. However, I do see other new advocates not being given the chance to argue even on small matters, as their seniors fear that adverse orders may be passed. I, too, once asked my seniors what if adverse orders were passed due to my arguing or examining of witnesses, to which Adv Suhail Ah Shah replied that at most, our client would get convicted, and he was there to get him acquitted, even free of cost in the appellate court, but I shouldn’t stop learning.

The writer is an advocate practising law at the District Court Kulgam. He can be reached at [email protected]

My journey of learning: From law school to the courtroom added by on
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