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The Legal Affair

Let's talk Law

The Legal Affair

Let's talk Law

Interview with Senior Advocate P.S. Hundal

Interview with Senior Advocate P.S. Hundal

They say that a man with passion never settles with just a handful of achievements. True passion leads to a thirst for success that can never be quenched. To be able to exchange a few words with people who possess such a thirst instills a want of finding a purpose in yourself too.

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing such a man, Senior Advocate P.S. Hundal, a man with countless achievements and an undying urge to do more. His astounding in-depth knowledge of Criminal Law and relentless nature have made him a person of great stature.

Every lawyer has a few cases that are deemed as being the ‘most important ones’ in their career. They are usually the ones that get them into the spotlight and bring forth exceptional skills of advocacy. We asked Sr. Adv. Hundal about the cases that he thought were the most prominent in his career and he shortlisted 3 such cases for us.

Mr. Hundal takes us down memory lane right at the start of his career. The state of emergency was declared under the leadership of Indira Gandhi in June 1975 and Mr. Hundal left his post as a public prosecutor and started his own practice. He was approached by the office secretary of the Akali Dal to defend them. 3 years later the Nirankari case was handed to Mr. Hundal and his career took off.

The Nirankari Kaand

The Nirankari case and its details are quite famous among the students of law and much of the public but Mr. Hundal was kind enough to repeat each detail to us. He explains “There was a congregation of Nirankaris in Amritsar who were speaking against the Sikh Gurus. A group of Sikhs went to the Nirankaris to stop them from doing so.” 

It is said that 11 Sikhs were killed that day by the Nirankaris. Mr. Hundal further mentions that 64 arrests were made that day, all of whom were Nirankaris, and among the arrested was the then Chief of the Nirankaris and an IAS officer who worked in the Punjab Secretariat.

The trial was transferred from Amritsar to Karnal at the request of the Nirankaris who expressed the understandable threat of being in a Sikh-dominant area.

Astoundingly all the 64 Nirankaris who were arrested were acquitted on 4th January 1980. When asked how he achieved such a feat Mr. Hundal explains “I was able to make the honorable Judge R. S. Gupta  understands that the group of Sikhs took the first step and went up to the Nirankaris residence and thus they were the initial aggressors and not the other way round.” 

Operation Bluestar

All of us know about the blue star operation. No matter which side our sympathies lie with, it can not be argued that it was a terrible move and many lives were lost. To be able to witness a first-hand account of the actions of the government and everything that transpired after that was really moving.

Before he started talking about this Mr. Hundal took a moment to condemn the whole operation. He also pointed to an article in the newspaper recently where a US scholar talks about Operation Blue Star as being one of the worst moves by a government. 

“On 2nd June the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi had said on National Television that there would be no involvement of the army in the matter of the Golden Temple but the order for the army to make its move had already been given. June the 3rd was the day of the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev Ji and there were thousands of people in the Golden Temple. I say it was a blunder because I agree that the premises were to be cleared but this was not the way. There were other ways in which they could have done this. They could have cut the food and water supply till the accused people don’t come out.”

We could see that it was not easy for Mr. Hundal to talk about all of this even though we know he had repeated all of this countless times before. Despite the rush of emotions Mr. Hundal carried on, “Our own army, killing our own people in the holiest of the places which hurt the communal feeling of Sikhs and others in the worst possible way.”

Mr. Hundal further carried on “a total of 364 people were arrested while the total accused were 378 by the CBI. By a special notification a special jail; was created in the central jail of Jodhpur Rajasthan. The people who were arrested were airlifted to jail. A refined judge and a fine man, Mr. K.C. Sharma was picked up from the Rajasthan Judiciary and made the trial judge. I was in charge of the case as the defense. These trials started in the jail so I had to carry my entire library and team to Jodhpur for this case as it was obviously a case of national importance.”

When asked what was the final verdict of the case Mr. Hundal replied “The case was withdrawn 4 years later by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi through a treaty between him and Sant Longwal.” 

The end of operation Blue Star from a judiciary point of view may be anti-climatic but the events of the operation and the emotions the case carries with it for lakhs of citizens are highly soul-stirring. 

Ludhiana Bank Robbery

5,73,00,000 (five crore and seventy three lacs). This was the amount that was stolen from the underground chest of Punjab National Bank from the heart of Ludhiana city. Mr. Hundal puts into perspective the large heap of cash that was stolen by the dacoits. “There were no 500 or 2000 Rupee notes at that time. There were only 100 Rs notes at that time so simply imagine the huge pile of cash that had to be hauled in a truck that constituted the stolen 5 Cr.”

Theft on such a large scale obviously had a lot of attention at that time but what Mr. Hundal told us next was simply mind-blowing. He told us “there were 12 people in total who were tried in Ludhiana for this theft. I was chosen to defend these 12 people. Not after very long all 12 were acquitted and were free to go”

The feeling of sharing the room with a personality who has fought such high-class cases that we had only heard of while growing up is a different feeling altogether. The energy of Mr. Hundal during the interview didn’t seem like that of a man who is in his 70s but that of a man much younger. In his presence, you are pretty much inclined to hold the highest level of admiration for him and his very humble character.

Moving on we decided to roll a few light and general questions toward him which we are sure a number of aspiring lawyers would want to ask. 

What makes someone a good lawyer?

“To be a good lawyer one must be a good human being and it is extremely difficult for someone to be a good human being.” These were the words said by Mr. Hundal; the delicacy with which he delivered those words really moved us. He added that “A person must know how to differentiate and select the merits from de-merits. A good lawyer must eventually know how to present the merits of his case and reveal the demerits of his opponent’s case to the judge. ”He also stressed the importance of hard work along with all of this, without which he says that no one can actually become a good professional. 

Who was your role model?

To this question, one would obviously assume that the answer would be the name of some person with some kind of achievement or a distinctive personality. But Mr. Hundal surprised us all with his answer. “Books,” he said. The answer came to him almost instantly. “I belonged to a middle-class farmer’s family. My grandfather was 5th pass and my father was 10th pass. I had no one to guide me in my family and the only thing I looked up to were books. They were my guides.” 

How did you feel when you had to argue in court for the first time and how did it go?

Mr. Hundal’s eyes lit up as we formed the question for him. It was as if he had taken a dip in a pool of nostalgia. Here Mr. Hundal recalls the first time he had fought a proper case. It was in 1973 when Rajiv Gandhi was going to land at Amritsar airport to start a TV station to compete with that of Pakistan. BJP and Akali Dal supporters had gathered to stage a protest against Rajiv Gandhi to cater to some political agenda. 

“The story goes that someone had tossed a rubber snake in the crowd to create panic” explained Mr. Hundal. “Many people got injured and 73 people were held in custody and challaned for creating such chaos. I was a public prosecutor at that time and was arguing against the BJP and Akali Dal supporters and trying to prove them guilty. I gave it my best”. 

This was the occasion when Mr. Hundal came into the eyes of the Akali Dal and they soon asked Mr. Hundal to leave the post of the public prosecutor and start representing them. He says “ this is when my career took off”

What is it about being a lawyer that gives you the satisfaction or the sense of purpose that people look for in life? 

To answer this Mr. Hundal explained the importance of honesty of purpose in the life of a lawyer. He tells us a story about his early days of advocacy. His son who was around 5 years old at that time had a fever but Mr. Hundal had to rush to the court for a small bail application. He had promised his wife that he would be back right after the application which would not take long. But it so happened that after the application the trial started in the court which continued till the evening and the thought of his son slipped out of his mind. 

“So you see the honesty of purpose is essential for every lawyer”, said Mr. Hundal. “It gives life meaning and creates the necessary drive to succeed. Even at the age of 80 I have not forgotten the honesty of purpose. Just a few days ago I had a case a little early in the day and I simply took my breakfast along with me in the car to reach the meeting in time.” 

Tell us about an unpleasant situation in the courtroom and how you tackled it. 14:23

Mr. Hundal took a moment to gather himself and said “Normally the judges are experienced persons, normally they are sympathetic but the behavior of a person differs from man to man. It is very rare to encounter a haughty judge. If an advocate repeats an argument they can easily flare up”

This is true. Judges are usually known to be calm and composed and they make decisions that don’t need to be and shouldn’t be challenged. But here we have Mr. Hundal explaining how he convinced a judge to change his decision on a particular matter using his impeccable wit and play of words.

On encountering an unacceptable judgment and a flared-up judge Mr. Hundal replied in one simple line to the judge “My Lord I can not do that in which you are holding the court, as I am not the judge”. Mr. Hundal explained how this one line went straight to the judge’s heart and he calmed down.

Are there any practical ways to curb corruption? 

It seemed as though Mr. Hundal was waiting for this question to be floated to him or that he had already been made to think about this question a couple of times in the past. His voice went down an octave as things became a little emotional and he said “religion plays an important part in making a man, a man. I have studied Gyani honors which is honors in Punjabi. It is a tough course. There is a couplet that I studied which I remember till date.” 

He then recites a beautiful couplet –38:15

With the mood uplifted we decided to end the heartwarming interview with a question that a lot of people who know Mr. Hundal personally would want to know.

Mr. Hundal, despite his age, shows a lot of energy inside the court as well as outside it. His voice carries across the courtroom with acoustic depth and power that not even much younger souls can match. 

What is the secret behind your energetic personality which seems to be unaffected by your age (80 years old)?

Once again Mr. Hundal replies in a single word- “Books”.

Looking at our confused faces he explained further – “The books have been my guiding light in all spheres of life. With knowledge, they also gave me the energy and the practicality to lead a healthy life. Such was the impact on my lifestyle that even at this age the doctors can not find a single blocked artery in my body. I refused my knee surgery and simply started exercising to make the pain go away, and it soon did.”

With the usual formalities of thanking Mr. Hundal to grace us with his presence and divulging his precious time to us, we concluded our interview. He later invited all of us for tea and he humored us just a little bit more before we took our leave.

Mr. Hundal left a deep impact on all of us and showed us how a person of such great stature can remain so humble and driven throughout life. He truly is a remarkable human being!