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Sunday, March 1, 2020

On Balance: An Autobiography

Title: On Balance: An Autobiography
Author: Leila Seth

Leila Seth, in her autobiography On Balance: An Autobiography, starts with the story of how she took up legal studies because of the fact that it could be conveniently combined with taking care of her son and husband. She then delves into her life in field of litigation talking about the difficulty she faced as a woman barrister in Calcutta in trying to find a senior, of her lighter moments as the sole woman judge on the otherwise all-male bench of the Delhi High Court, and her general courtroom experiences. She also portrays her views regarding corruption, discrimination and delay in the legal system. Some judgments dealing with education and with inter-personal and constitutional law have been highlighted by Leila Seth. She also, in great detail, narrates and reminisces her experiences as a member of the 15th Law Commission of India. The spirit of the book deals with taking India forward in its judicial journey. 

The title of her book, “On balance”, fits Leila Seth, as depicted by herself in the book. It was her balanced and sensitive approach of life around her that helped her become the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court, and then the first woman chief justice of a high court, paving the way for other women chief justices. She was judicious on the bench, but however retained the humanity in her. Her devotion to gender justice was evident in her book dealing with every law governing women, regardless of religion.

Injustice, death and discord are given their due but dignified place in the book. Having twice declined the offer of becoming a judge of the Patna High Court, because Patna held no career opportunities for her husband Prem Seth, this dedicated professional has also proven that you can be a committed homemaker simultaneously. What separates this book from others is that Justice Seth understands straight away how difficult it is to balance the demands of a high-pressure career in law, and the constant sacrifices that Indian wives and mothers anticipate, keeping it real.

The law was, and remains still, a male bastion. She, with great humour and vivid memories, describes an incident where a group of people entered the High Court to "sight-see" the woman judge! Justice Seth describes early tribulations faced by her as a rare woman lawyer. 
“I was used to arguing and doing the best for my client and case and then ‘letting the damn judge decide’. I soon realised that I was now that damn judge; and that the tremendous responsibility stopped with me.” 
“On Balance- An Autobiography” was a beautiful read. It teaches us many life lessons penned in the most impacting and real way. For all of us, this inspiring book is definitely in the must read category!

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