Shri Girishbhai Patel, (senior lawyer and a dearly loved & respected human rights activist from Gujarat), was felicitated by concerned citizens of Gujarat, who stand with the deprived and marginalized sections of society in their struggles for basic human rights and for a just, egalitarian, democratic and secular social order. The function was held at Townhall in Ahmedabad on 10th May 09.
With a degree of law from Harvard, Girishbhai is not merely a law teacher or a practicing lawyer; he has struggled, indeed is struggling, within and outside the courtrooms for safeguarding and ensuring human rights of the exploited marginalized masses. During the Emergency he joined others in struggles for safeguarding democratic liberties. Under the aegis of Lok Adhikar Sangh, Girishbhai undertook multifarious activities in his endeavour for a just society. Whether as a member of the Gujarat Law Commission or as the Principal of the City Law College, Girishbhai has continuously empathized with the sufferings of the marginalized.
In the face of savage atrocities on minorities, Adivasis, Dalits, Women, Slum demolitions, Girishbhai stood, shoulder to shoulder, with the affected multitudes, whether in the precincts of High Court and Supreme Court or on the dusty streets in India. He has supposedly fought the maximum number of Public Interest Litigations, also known as Social Action Litigations.
Girishbhai’s activities are not confined to Courts. He knows well the potentialities and limitations of judicial activism. As a concerned citizen and social activist he uses various fora to express his views and develop public opinion. He protests injustice. He expresses his views, critical comments as a protest to the presently obtaining state of affairs.
During the last four decades he has written more than three hundred letters to Editors of different newspapers. His letters cover a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from Fundamental Rights, politics, political processes and institutions, secularism, economy, education, development, democracy, injustice to and suffering of women, Dalits, Adivasi, workers, displaced etc., and of course the judicial system – law, lawyers and judges. These letters provide us his ideological position on various issues related to public life. They are historical documents as well.
On the occassion of the function, 3 books were released. 1. Public Interest Litigation and the Poor in Gujarat, 2. Law, Society and Girishbhai, 3. Girishbhai (Mitro Ni Nazare Girishbhai - Girishbhai Na Vaktavyo). Those who are interested to procure them may please write to email@example.com
"There is no dearth of intellectuals or activists in Gujarat. But as a youth organization, we've experienced over last two decades that most of these people fail to support or stand by the people when they need the most. The test of a man's character and integrity is when he has nothing to gain, and in many cases, much to lose, yet he provides unflinching support to the needy. Shri Girishbhai Patel is such a rare man in our state today. We consider ourselves as privileged that he fought for us versus the state of Gujarat. His just taking up our case, his standing up for us in the High Court itself was so encouraging and inspiring that it didn't make any difference to us when we lost the case. We lost the battle, but we added a rich chapter in our lives, of learning from such a man, which made us feel like winners.
Every time we met him, they were not the meetings between a lawyer and client-they were always the classrooms in which we learned immensely precious lessons about life. All those who wish to be a role model for the young generation, should study this jewel of a human-being, who has never bothered for his image or popularity; who has followed certain values and sensitivity in his whole life consistently; who is an emblem of moral courage, commitment and compassion as well; who can listen as eloquently as he can speak and who stands for actions and not mere words."
As a lawyer, Girishbhai’s example stops us from treating this Institution of Judiciary as a vehicle for our own fulfillment or for that of a small group of people. Rather, he seeks to inspire an intellectual current that will transform the growth of law, nourishing it, sustaining it and pushing forth green shoots of social change.
Girishbhai is a teacher who loves to teach. He was highly respected and his lectures gave the most lucid exposition of the difficult subject of jurisprudence. His courses at IIM were so effective in radicalizing India’s brightest that they were discontinued by powers that be. His love of teaching is always on display when meeting with his clients. Irrespective of their educational level, he takes great pain to explain to them the fine points of law and the limitations of the legal remedy for their case. I doubt if any other lawyer spends so much time with his/her clients.
Nelson Mandela described Desmond Tutu as “sometimes strident, always tender, never afraid and seldom without humour”. The words exactly fit exactly how I see Girishbhai.
Professor at London School of Economics
If one hears Girishbhai’s argument in the Public Interest Litigations in the High Court of Gujarat, many a times one feels as if a sociologist is taking a class to explain the most basic concepts of human rights and trying to articulate the viewpoint of the ‘have-nots’. His arguments in various PILs expose the nature of the capitalist state and also the judiciary.
Environmental and Human Rights Activist.
When the (High) Court once questioned Girishbhai as to why he came with so many PILs to the Court, his reply was “My only purpose is to disturb the sleep of the Court so that judges may not sleep thinking that everything is fine in this country”.
The acerbic wit, the biting humour, the measured use of words to reveal insights that goes to the core of the matter; and above all, not a distant and detached observer but someone who is in the thick of it, being present with the people at the sites and times of their struggles.
Human Rights Activist
His fight for justice has made him take so- called ‘radical’ positions on many an occasion in the courts of law, although he was always at his best in following the established judicial procedures and etiquette, commanding high respect for his legal perfection on the one hand, and the forcefulness of his arguments on the other. A Judge in himself, although he never worked to become one, his own position and judgement of the legal issues, their limitations and the wider real regime, brought in a reflection of great confidence, commitment and courage in whatever he pleaded for.
"The very feeling that injustice has happened to you, is in itself, enough ground for you to seek justice! Eventhough there may not be any laws existing to protect you, your case may be controversial, it may be unheard of in history, you may feel lonely in this battle - but it's your responsibility to seek justice, and law will find its own course for granting you justice - herein lies the premise of law & justice!", he told us once, explaining his conviction in the pursuit of justice.
Girishbhai has never represented any case in court in favour of Industrialists, Government, Landlords, Owners, Established forces and he has never fought any case against Dalits, Adivasi women, or any under-privileged communities, infact has always fought for them. Right from the beginning of his career as a lawyer, he has stood by these values. No wonder, for us, his agreeing to represent our case "because they have dared to swim against the tide", not only boosted our morale, it also turned out to be one of the most inspiring shifts in the history of Oasis. To avail his services is an entitlement in itself - he pulls us closer to our conscience! What an enviable privilege and what an experience of lifetime!! Thank you, on behalf of Gujarat, Girishbhai!!
(Courtesy : Girishbhai Patel Sanman Samiti )