I had no doubt about the soundness of my advice, but I
doubted very much my fitness for doing full justice to
the case. I felt it would be a most hazardous undertaking
to argue such a difficult case before the Supreme Court,
and I appeared before the Bench in fear and trembling.
As soon as I referred to the error in the accounts,
one of the judges said:
'Is not this sharp practice, Mr. Gandhi?'
I boiled within to hear this charge. It was
intolerable to be accused of sharp practice when there
was not the slightest warrant for it.
'With a judge prejudiced from the start like this,
there is little chance of success in this difficult
case,' I said to myself. But I composed my thoughts and
'I am surprised that your Lordship should suspect
sharp practice without hearing me out.'
'No question of a charge,' said the judge. 'It is a
'The suggestion here seems to me to amount to a
charge. I would ask your Lordship to hear me out and then
arraign me if there is any occasion for it.'
'I am sorry to have interrupted you,' replied the
judge. 'Pray do go on with your explanation of the
I had enough material in support of my explanation.
Thanks to the judge having raised this question, I was
able to rivet the Court's attention on my argument from
the very start. I felt much encouraged and took the
opportunity of entering into a detailed explanation. The
Court gave me a patient hearing, and I was able to
convince the judges that the discrepancy was due entirely
to inadvertence. They therefore did not feel disposed to
cancel the whole award, which had involved considerable
The opposing counsel seemed to feel secure in the
belief that not much argument would be needed after the
error had been admitted. But the judges continued to
interrupt him, as they were convinced that the error was
a slip which could be easily rectified. The counsel
laboured hard to attack the award, but the judge who had
originally started with the suspicion had now come round
definitely to my side.
'Supposing Mr. Gandhi had not admitted the error, what
would you have done?' he asked.
'It was impossible for us to secure the services of a
more competent and honest expert accountant than the one
appointed by us.'
'The Court must presume that you know your case best.
If you cannot point out anything beyond the slip which
any expert accountant is liable to commit, the Court will
be loath to compel the parties to go in for fresh
litigation and fresh expenses because of a patent
mistake. We may not order a fresh hearing when such an
error can be easily corrected continued the judge.
And so the counsel's objection was overruled. The
Court either confirmed the award, with the error
rectified, or ordered the arbitrator to rectify the
error, I forget which.
I was delighted. So were my client and senior counsel;
and I was confirmed in my conviction that it was not
impossible to practise law without compromising truth.
Let the reader, however, remember that even
truthfulness in the practice of the profession cannot
cure it of the fundamental defect that vitiates it.