21 May, 2024

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A Question To The NPP Lawyers

By Fr Chryso Pieris SJ –

Fr Chryso Pieris SJ

Introduction

In The Island of 19 May 2018, in an article titled “Cleaning the Augean stables or the Judiciary”, I had raised this question in vain. Nothing happened. In fact, I watched an interview of Saliya Pieris by Handungoda. He queried why lawyers do not give a receipt for the fees they receive for appearing in courts or for consultation. Saliya smiled sweetly and wiggled out of the situation answering thus: “If you ask for a receipt the lawyer has to give it”. Of course, we know that if you ask for that preposterous receipt, there is not much chance of winning the case.

Receipts

About the judiciary I have a big complaint. That is, no lawyer in this country gives his/her client valid receipts for the money they receive (or shall we say extort?) as fees from their clients. (Law firms give receipts for money received but only a tiny wealthy minority and big businesses can afford to retain law firms.) Every trader, businessman, serviceman and even the small tea shop owner, if you ask him, gives a receipt with his rubber seal on it. Only the cobblers sitting cross legged on the pavement can get away with not giving a receipt. But the lawyers get away with it. How convenient! What are the Inland Revenue people or the Income Tax officers doing about this anomaly? Do they realize what an immense revenue the country is losing by allowing the lawyers to charge fees without issuing receipts? This is the first complaint that comes to my mind.

Unending dates

The second one has many jokes connected to it. What do the lawyers and camels have in common? Dates! Here’s another. The old proctor has handed over his practice to his just passed out lawyer son and is relaxing in his easy chair with his legs up and a shot of the old stuff by the side. The son returns from the courts all jubilant and says: Daddy I won and finished that old case that was going on for years. And the old man retorts: Idiot, it is that case which paid for this house gave your sister in marriage and educated you through the Law College, and you go and finish it!

Laugh if you want to but the jokes expose the true and ugly reality as it is. When they postpone a case and get a new date for it, they charge you. They charge you for procrastinating and not doing their job. They have no fixed charges. They do not give a receipt. They can go on doing this for years. Sometimes they go on till the client goes bankrupt. Sometimes the client dies and the next generation goes on paying for new dates. They are heartless. The butchers in the abattoir are kinder. Once when a poor lady could not find the full amount demanded by the (lady?) lawyer for getting a new date for the case, she snatched the chain off the poor client’s neck. They are shameless Shylocks. The judge hearing about it ordered her to return it. Thirty years ago, a certain leading lawyer in Colombo, now deceased, would not even talk to you when you go for a consultation until you place Rs 25,000/- on the table. Of course, no receipt was ever given to anybody.

Land disputes for decades

Here is a good example of a case now being heard. It is a land dispute. I am narrating the defender’s story. It is now twenty-five years old and god only knows when it will conclude. The defender, the father of the family passed away five years ago. Now the mother who is ill has to continue it. Actually, the daughter is doing everything. On the average there are five hearings a year. Two lawyers are appearing for them. When the senior lawyer appears they have to pay him more than double what they pay to the junior. Calculating roughly the average per hearing; they have so far spent over one million including the expenses of surveying the land. Forget the wasted time and energy in searching for documents, photocopying them and running around to and from the courts and the lawyers’ offices and houses. They do not have a single piece of paper to show how they spent over one million rupees. When will this poor, innocent family (They are literally a poor family.) have peace of mind and be free of this yoke around their neck? Isn’t justice delayed for twenty-five long years, justice denied? In that case what is the use of this judiciary? There must be hundreds and thousands of cases such as this currently going on and on ……. and on, sucking the blood of the poor of this country.

Justice delayed is justice denied

Here is another example of a case I personally am acquainted with. When I requested from the accused, who was finally acquitted, information about the case, he sent me an email and I quote it here. “I was in remand prison from 1st to 8th October, 2001. My first entry to courts was on 8th October, 2001 and the last time was on December 7th, 2016. (15 years and 2 months.) I attended courts 53 times without missing even one day, the minimum being two times to maximum being seven times a year. I saw at least eight judges. We had several lawyers due to very different reasons. Every time we had a senior lawyer, we had to pay a big amount of money and after a few years they would ask us to pay another large sum to continue the case.” Forget the lakhs and lakhs of rupees spent; the mental torture and the social suspicions he had to endure for fifteen years would have broken a weaker man. The complainant, who was trying to blackmail him, and the lethargic police, who could not prove the case, go scot-free as if nothing happened. Where is justice?

The rare gems

But like rare precious gems among pebbles, stones and rubble there are, thank god, excellent lawyers, women and men of integrity, ladies and gentlemen. But they never become rich or famous. I knew one such gentleman who is no more among us. People remember him with great respect; he would even help a poor client out of his own pocket. Of course, we cannot forget the stars that illumined the legal firmament like C.G. Weeramantry and Mark Fernando. The country is proud of them.

My question to NPP lawyers

Watching and listening to the May Day rallies of the NPP, I am much encouraged, enthused and consoled. Granted that the whole judiciary needs a thorough overhaul, I want to know what you are going to do about these two simple problems; Receipts and Dates.  Thank you.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    Fr Chryso Pieris SJ,
    You are asking the wrong party. (not Party).
    Hire a regular Lawyer. Tell him that he’d not be governed by the ruling.
    .
    Everyone, who knew me, wanted me to become a Lawyer. Little did I know that they wanted to see me rich!

  • 3
    0

    I think this article is a very useful information about receipts and dates about lawyers but also some other professions such as doctors, builders etc. There are number of private clinics by government doctors charging for consultations and treatment and medicines. Do they give any receipts?

  • 4
    1

    Would you be interested to know about a case of the pinnacle of corruption at the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Justice, by the judges and lawyers? How to get it across to you.

  • 5
    0

    The NPP lawyers will not provide any answers to your questions, Father.

    I once made a critical remark to my counsel directly to his face in connection with a partition case I had filed. I just told him he was not a sympathetic person. He immediately handed over the case file to me and told me to find another counsel. This happened the day before the trial date. Of course, the case was postponed as I had no one to appear for me. Not only do lawyers do a shoddy job, you cannot complain about it!

    In another land case in which I appeared on behalf of a relative who was not on the island, after three years of shuttling between the lawyer’s office and the court, the judge declared the plaint was defective and ruled that an amended plaint be filed. So I had to go through the rigmarole all over again!

    By the way, a Buddhist monk was a party to this case. I have always wondered why so many Buddhist monks come to court when they are only supposed to go around with a begging bowl in hand!

  • 3
    1

    At the height of the Aragalaya NPP/JVP lawyers were at the forefront of it and used to appear frequently at press conferences in numbers defending the Aragalayists and criticising the Government, among other things, for alleged corruption. However, when in Parliament Mahindananga Aluthgamage lambasted them for their hypocrisy in not paying the taxes due from them and asked that their files be checked, I noticed that there were hardly any JVP lawyers seen at press conferences defending the Aragalaya thereafter!

  • 2
    0

    It was different in Jaffna many years back. Most of the senior lawyers were members of parliament and they meet their clients day before the hearing date and collect their fees after a short discussion. The following day when the case is called for the hearing, the lawyer walks closer to Judge’s bench and ask for a date stating that he needs to attend the Parliament that afternoon without fail. Judge accedes to his request. The illiterate client who sits far away from the Judge and not knowing what had happened to his case run behind the lawyer when he leaves court room. The lawyer pretending to be in angry mood that the Judge had postponed his case, walks away blaming the Judge. The poor client had no option but to see him again before the next hearing with fees.

    I don’t know the current situation in Jaffna.

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