• Rs 50 crore or 100 crore, money will come and go but you cannot buy peace with it
• If you want peace for the departed souls of your parents, stay together and stop fighting
• You don’t leave this world without getting an equal treatment
• Family is the most important unit in everyone’s life
• If you have lots of money, why do you have to pay it to the lawyers for fighting cases
One would not expect the Supreme Court to be a place for such discourse. But Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph would not care much about conventions when it comes to bringing warring families together.
With smooth talks and a smiling face, this judge would be tough, soft, considerate, rigid, accommodative and stern -- all at the same time.
Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the most-senior judges in the apex court, has been heading a bench, which incidentally has several cases of family feud lined up before it. Duel between parents and children; between siblings; and between couples, form a part of his cause-list every day.
Sifting between case papers, Justice Joseph has one common lesson for them all: ‘Don’t waste your will, money and energy in courts… at the end of all this, nobody wins.”
According to the judge, it is not wise to pay huge amounts of money to the lawyers only because the litigants happen to be rich and are the ones fighting with their own for more money.
“I now see a trend in this court. If your parents have left enough money for you, you give it to the lawyers,” Justice Joseph would lament.
Out of many such cases, two would amplify how this SC judge is resolute to resolve family disputes by making members of the family come together – with a strict instruction that lawyers will not be a part of the process. “Try not to even speak to your lawyers when you all are together,” Justice Joseph would tell such litigants.
One of these battles had a mother and her three daughters fighting for control over a major biopharmaceutical company. A vortex of litigation included orders passed by the Company Law Board and the high court concerned.
When the fight reached Justice Joseph’s bench, the judge first inquired whether all four were present in the courtroom on that day. The next thing he did was to call them to the front.
“If you want, we can decide this case completely on merits… based on the records before us and the law. But we want you to stop fighting. There cannot be anything more unfortunate than daughters fighting with their mother for money or authority. Even the God comes after the mother but here you are fighting with her,” Justice Joseph told the daughters.
He then said that if the daughters had any respect for their deceased father and wanted his soul to rest in peace, they should stop fighting immediately.
“When was the last time mother and daughters sat together and talked? We suggest you do it now. We will provide you a room here in the court complex. Let the mother and daughters spend some time there,” he said.
They were then asked to sit and talk in court room number 15, which is currently not functional as a court.
After a few hours when the mother and three daughters came back, they seemed at ease and expressed their willingness to spend one more day with each other. Justice Joseph cautioned the daughters against using any strong words against their mother and on an assurance by them that they will take care of their mother, the court adjourned the matter for a day.
Next day, the mother told the judge that her dream of bringing the family together once again may become a reality. She said if all of them stayed together for a longer period, away from the hostilities and other worldly affairs, she would get her daughters back in her life.
Justice Joseph, conveying his best wishes, gave them 15 more days of companionship, and said even the grandchildren could join them.
“This court expects the parties to take atmosphere now created forward and see that even without assistance of anybody else, they are able to settle their inter se disputes amicably by keeping away all those external forces, which, according to them, are standing in the way of the family being together and one,” said the bench, while also directing them not to pursue any civil or criminal case filed against each other in the meantime.
In the second case, an industrialist’s family from Bengaluru was involved in a dispute with brothers and sisters fighting over share in the father’s property. A will prepared by the father in 1972 turned out to be the bone of contention and the siblings kept contesting for more than four decades.
As the two men and their three sisters showed up in the court, Justice Joseph reminded them that it was 43 years that they had been fighting each other, thereby losing so many moments that were worth much more than money could ever buy.
“Even if you get Rs 100 crore, you will not get peace. Peace will come only when the departed souls of your parents see you all together. Don’t you feel ashamed that your father gave each one of you so much but you are still fighting? Money will come and go but you will never get your family back,” Justice Joseph addressed them.
He wondered why it had become a trend that whenever somebody got a lot of money in legacy, they would hire top lawyers and pay them a substantial part of it.
When told that the siblings were in court along with their children, Justice Joseph shot back: “Good that you have got your children also in the court. They can now learn how to fight with the family members. They will also learn the tricks and each one of you will get the same treatment. You don’t leave this world without paying back.”
As the siblings cut a sorry figure, the judge asked them to sit together in the same court room number 15 and talk to each other. “Try to rejuvenate your bond… remember about the times when you all used to play together in the same house. This is what you want your children to learn and not how to blame each other in courts,” Justice Joseph told them.
When he suggests the family members to spend time with each other to know and respect each other’s sentiments, Justice Joseph would usually end it with a very popular line from a TV show: “And your time starts now.”