Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Have a Happy New Year

The New Year 2010 is ready to unfold in a matter of hours. I have just arrived in Delhi after a brief holiday in Kochi where the weather is as warm as toast. Here in Delhi, the temperatures have dipped. People feel the chill in their cold and kids as well as senior citizens are falling ill. Hospitals and doctors will work overtime even as the exchange of New Year greetings continue with fervour.

Needless to say, our cell phones will become the cradle to exchange New Year greetings with our near and dear ones.

I thank you all for encouraging my first endeavor in blogging and sharing my thoughts with you. Your comments and feedback have opened new vistas of growth in terms of writing. For me, your comments have been so motivating that I can't really express it.

So, here is my wish for you: Have a very Happy New Year in 2010. As Mark Twain said, " Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What is a Legal Notice?

Thanks Mridula for sharing your query: "What is the difference between sending a legal notice and filing a court case. And if I send a legal notice to someone (no I am not sending one but who knows in future) am I obliged to fight a court case too?"

Scenario 1
You have a great dinner party at a restaurant called Golden Dragon and you find yourself and everyonelse throwing up, hospitalized due to food poisoning and of course, you are livid. You can send a legal notice through a lawyer.

Purpose of Legal Notice: An Example
The purpose of the legal notice is to inform Golden Dragon about the disputed issue that has caused you tremendous difficulty and measure it with a specific compensation that you seek to settle the dispute. In this case, lets call it chronic food poisoning. Your legal notice will state facts and ask Golden Dragon for an apology (if you want) and the amount of compensation. Once Golden Dragon receives the legal notice, they can respond to it with their statement. If the dispute is not settled to your satisfaction, your lawyer can file a case in court by producing a copy of the legal notice, the reply to it and your filing for compensation.

Purpose is to Inform the Other Party
To answer your question, a legal notice is your first step to inform the other party about a dispute that has arisen through a chronological statement of facts. This enables the other party to agree, disagree or respond to your allegations in writing. It also gives both parties an opportunity to understand the dispute, the laws in question and see if an amicable settlement can be reached without the matter reaching the courts.

And yes, to answer the second part of your question, once you have filed a case in court as per procedure, you have to fight it till the end. You can settle it in between if both parties agree to resolve the issue but if you file a suit and you don't fight it, that is tantamount to wasting the precious time of the court and misusing the procedures of law.

Feel free to share your thoughts and queries.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Religious Liberty in India

Much has been written and debated about the reasons why India follows the unique system of letting different people from different religions follow their own religion's personal laws. Delving into the right and wrong of it is not something I wish to get into.

My Perspective on Religious Liberty

As a lawyer, my role is to understand the law, debate its scope and how it will benefit and protect my clients. If there are provisions that hamper or cause difficulties to my clients, that is what I need to worker harder at so that the difficulty is overcome legally.

I do not wish to draw any comparisons between the US and India because they have extremely different cultural connotations. From the ancient period till the modern struggle for Independence, the Indian society has undergone considerable cultural, religious and social invasions and thereby, the overall synthesis has evolved to take in the best of every religion.

Secularism cannot and should not be confused with being Neutral

Take the example of the oldest Jewish synagogue in the world, which is not in Israel but in Kerala. The Kerala State safeguards this Synagogue as well as the well being of its Jewish community. Permitting the Jews to practice their beliefs does not jeopardise the state. It causes no confusion to anyone because only their marriage and inheritance related issues fall under their personal laws. The same applies to nearly every religious group in India.

No other country has ever demonstrated real respect for religion and beliefs in its laws as does the Constitution of India. Much is talked about religious freedom in the UK and US but the truth is that its mostly talk and hardly beneficial in reality.

Religious Liberty

Religious liberty in India is enshrined specifically in the Indian Constitution, which is the Supreme Law of the Land. The provisions are detailed in the Chapter pertaining to Fundamental Rights. It entitles persons in India with the "freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion."

Just to cite an example, consider a provision in the chapter of Fundamental Rights. It permits Sikhs to carry the sacred kirpan (a small sword) in public places and states this to be a "fundamental right" for the Sikhs. While honoring the belief of Sikhs, the law is clear that this provision does not extend to others.

Further, religious liberty also means that every religious denomination or any sect in India will have the right manage its own affairs in the matters of religion and establish as well as maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes. However, this right is not absolute as the Constitution permits reasonable restrictions to be imposed. The State has the authority to pass laws for establishing social welfare and reforms as well as to restrict any religious activity if it is not in accordance with law.

True, India has a peculiar melange of secular and religious elements in the provisions of the Constitution, based on the premise that being secular does not mean being indifferent to the beliefs of people who profess specific religions.

Remember, the Constitution draws clear boundaries on the extent of religious freedom that can be exercised by individuals and communities in contemporary India. The reason India stands tall and proud despite centuries of invasions is not because of its laws, but because of its adherence to respecting the beliefs of every individual.

As Indians, we are proud of who we are and the difficult paths that we have crossed to reach here and we know that there is so much more we need to do to reach greater heights, even when we feel the laws may work against us.

The law has far to go but in each step, the focus has always been on how to benefit and protect the individual.

Why Does India have Different Laws for Different Religions?

My post on Happy Divorce brought forth a lot of interesting comments from my wonderful readers. It has evoked considerable response and I am thankful to those who read it and shared their thoughts on the topic.

A nice question from SG prompted me to write about this issue which may be something that a lot of us maybe wondering about.

His comment read: "Very nice post. Once divorce was a rare occurance in India. Looks like it is not so nowadays. Since I have lived in USA forever, I have a question you may want to answer. India is one country and all are Indians. Then why do they have different laws for different religions? In USA, there is only one marriage act whether you are a Christian, Jew, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh. We cannot escape saying different religions have different laws. That is a no no in this country. Mormon religion allows poligamy. However, if a Mormon U.S. citizen commits poligamy he will be arrested and put in jail. Does not matter if his religion allows it."

I understand what you mean because it is something that has been a cause of debate even within the country. The Preamble to the Constitution of India and the very provisions of the Indian Constitution gives utmost importance to a broad interpretation and application of the word 'secular.' That is the rationale for different personal laws being due weightage in a court of law.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Introduction to the Love of my Life - Jyotiraditya

My blogger friend Ramesh suggested that I should introduce the little guy in my profile pic. I've taken this feedback seriously and so you are reading this post about my son, Jyotiraditya.

The First Word is...
Well, to begin with, I'd like to introduce the little guy. I owe it to the little guy. His first word was 'Acha' meaning 'Father' and I can never stop loving him a million times more just for that single timeless milestone in his phase of development.

When I was going to become a father, I was so sure that I'd be lousy at it. I hated kids. I didn't know which planet they were from, always creating trouble and making a mess here and there. Even before my son was born, I was cribbing that i will be a terrible parent because I don't know the first thing about expressing love to a kid.

Respect Your Kid
Looking back now, every one who remembers me then makes endless fun of me. Adi is my life, the very purpose for which I live and find joy in everything I do. treat my kid with a lot of respect. I listen to his opinions and tell him to see the other side and the funny thing is that he is open to it and does see the other side if I suggest it.

Be Best Friends
What I love is that he and I are best friends. He talks with me when he is happy, angry, upset or anything. When I sit down to pray, I tell him to join me. I would like him to join me but if he doesn't, I will not insist or force it. The moment you force such beliefs on to children, they will resent you for it and never totally open themselves to its real essence.

Cuddle Up
He talks to me about his day and won't go to sleep if I am not there to cuddle him. He calls out for me in his sleep and I hold him tight so that he knows that I am always there for him. He is a big part of my heart but maybe I'm sounding very cheesy like a crazy dad.

You are just a 'keeper' which means you don't 'own' your kid

As parents, I've thought seriously about my role in my son's life. Yes, it's limited. Here is my perspective. We are meant to safeguard the treasures that we are blessed with.  A gardener who looks after flowers spends a lifetime nurturing them but he doesn't keep them for himself. Those flowers are meant to travel to distant places, gather new experiences and add color and joy to those they visit. The same applies with our kids whom we proudly display as 'ours' to the whole world and we mistakenly believe we own them.

Don't Stifle a Kid with Endless Rules
Too many parents stifle their kids with rules about everything. Rules are fine to a reasonable extent but kids are kids. Give them space to learn and to make mistakes. Don't play with the boys who aren't from well-to-do families. Don't do this, don't do that. Just like laws stifle us, as ordinary people, a lot of these senseless rules that parents follow stifle a child's development and stunts his/her perception.

Stay Connected to Love, not Clout
I see a lot of parents who flaunt their wealth and connections to get children what they want. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with that. But I don't ever intend to do that because that's what my father taught me. Despite his position, he has never used it to promote me or get me something that is beyond my reach. He has always taught me to work harder than every one else if I want to succeed at something. 

If my son asks for something that is either not right or not within my reach, I tell him that honestly. It's my father's legacy. Besides, I don't want to build false expectations in his mind. I don't want to be a perfect parent. I just want him to accept me with all my limitations too. And yes, if I start bribing my connections to get things done for him now, I am giving him the wrong signal that will become very dangerous for his own future when he grows older.

I want my son to achieve his dreams but with his own hard work and not because I have the clout to get it done for him. I am not too thrilled that he munches on Lays and Cheetos all day or that he loses his temper too fast (like me) and that he is very blunt about nearly everything but when it comes to the individual he wants to become in life, I will support him, help him reach decisions that are ultimately his and take pride in the fact that even when he's made his share of mistakes, he's learned to be confident to take them, no matter what.

That's what I want for my kid. Now, tell me your perspective.