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Judge Tahaliyani Has A Sense Of Humour

Mumbai court Special Judge M L Tahaliyani kept the courtroom in splits with his witty one-liners and often scathing remarks to those who were out of line, reports Mirror. Madan Laxmandas Tahaliyani  has a knack
PTI May 03, 2010 12:06 IST
Mumbai court Special Judge M L Tahaliyani kept the courtroom in splits with his witty one-liners and often scathing remarks to those who were out of line, reports Mirror.

Madan Laxmandas Tahaliyani  has a knack for one-liners.

Sample this – defence lawyer K P Pawar is arguing that Qasab is a ‘poor, rural, illiterate boy'. The lawyer is quoting extensively from some famous plays to prove his point.

After hearing patiently to Pawar's long-winding argument peppered with some purple prose, Judge Madan Laxmandas Tahaliyani loses patience and says: “Haa suddha naatak aahe ki vaastavik aahe?” (Is this [the arguments] too a play or is this for real)..  Everyone in the court bursts out laughing.

 While Judge Tahaliyani, as this little piece from the court proceedings demonstrates, is not averse to infusing some humour into court proceedings, his focus has always been on speeding up the trial while making sure every speck of evidence is taken into account and analysed.

For each of the 271 working days that he presided over the trial, not once did Special Judge Madan Laxmandas Tahaliyani let anything come in the way of his endeavour to bring the trial to a close as quickly as possible.  

Not surprisingly then, for close to nine hours on Sunday - the day before the D-Day - the judge scoured through his magnum opus at the special court, housed inside the Arthur Road jail premises, to cross-check the facts and to make sure the several hundred pages of the verdict were all comma perfect.

Having first taken to the dais 23 years back when he took charge as a magistrate at the Bandra Metropolitan Court in 1987, Tahaliyani has garnered excellent legal acumen by dealing with a number of criminal cases before being entrusted with a trial that the entire world is watching.  

Appointed as an assistant sessions judge in 1997, Tahaliyani soon became an additional sessions judge at the City Civil and Sessions Court. He was later made a special judge to deal with CBI cases.

Originally from Maharashtra's Gondia district, Tahaliyani studied law in Nagpur. He did a short stint as registrar (inspection) at the Bombay High Court before being appointed last January as the 26/11 trial judge. While the importance of the trial he is currently presiding over is enormous, Tahaliyani has handled a slew of high-profile trials in the past, including that of music baron Gulshan Kumar's murder.

 Employing a blend of professionalism and wit, the judge has held together the 26/11 trial with a rare dignity. While he would crack the whip when somebody ran afoul, he would also lighten up a hard day's work with his hilarious one-liners.Here's another example: One day as the court was in session Qasab began rubbing his eyes vigorously. The judge asked him what the matter was.  

Qasab complained that some dust accumulated on the wooden bars of his dock was flying into his eyes. “Achcha, toh ab tumhe yahaan hum five-star jaise facility denge? Kisike aankhon main dhool nahi jaa raha hai, sirf yeh janaab ke aankhon main jaa raha hai. Baith jaao ab.” (So, now you want us to provide five-star comforts here. Nobody else is complaining of dust, but you have a problem. Please sit down)

Bespectacled and of slight build, the judge belies his appearance by admonishing lawyers, policemen and his staff if they fail to follow his instructions.  

Witnesses who speak vaguely or fumble during their testimonies – especially policemen – invite his wrath in an instant. So does Qasab if he doesn't behave himself.  

From being reprimanded for laughing and making faces during the proceedings to being pulled up and given an earful for making ridiculous complaints, Qasab has been at the receiving end of Tahaliyani's disciplining lessons.

In fact, except during recording Qasab's ‘plea of guilt' and his final statement, Tahaliyani never allowed Qasab to take the trial for granted and shut him up just when he would begin to cut loose.  

“Chalo, ab baith jaao. Baat karne ka chance mila, toh shuru ho jaate ho,” the judge would frequently tell him. But Tahaliyani also showed his considerateness towards the accused by routinely enquiring about his health and allowing him to take medication or rest when required. Suggesting routine medicines to his staff for minor ailments is as much a pleasure for the judge as is his joy of gardening in his spare time.

Tahaliyani is as much a stickler for discipline as for hygiene and tidiness. He refuses to pardon frivolous arguments or any loud banter in the courtroom, just as he ensures the air fresheners and the dusting mops are put to work.

Even his chamber in the courtroom is always spic and span. The deafening silence in his chamber, broken only by the hum of air-conditioners, seems like an appropriate setting to study, assess, analyse the humungous body of evidence and decide on the fate of arguably the most hated person living in India today.