(Warning: spoilers ahead.)
There always has been, and always will be, a difference between the lawyers we know in person and the lawyers we see on screen. In real life, lawyers suffer from a reputation for pedantry and unimaginitiveness. On screen, fireworks usually abound in courtroom dramas, and depictions walk the line between telling an interesting story and representing the law accurately. When it all comes together, seeing the law function can be beautiful, as in the case of 12 Angry Men (1957) or the Marathi movie Court (2014). When it doesn’t work, you get something like Kyonki Main Jhoot Nahi Bolta (Apologies for even bringing it up).
So where does Subhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB 2 fit in? Does it deserve to have the LLB in its title?
We are introduced to Jagdishwar Mishra or Jolly (Akshay Kumar), who wants to make money to bribe his way into getting a law chamber of his own. Jolly’s father is a retired clerk who worked in a big-shot lawyer’s office. Jolly now assists the same lawyer, but he isn’t treated with any respect. He is more like a replacement clerk for his father despite having a law degree. To fulfil his father’s dream of having a law chamber in the place, Jolly is willing to do whatever it takes to put the money together.
A desperate Jolly lies to potential client Hina (Sayani Gupta), taking an advance from her by telling her that her case will be fought by his senior. When this happens, a lot of people must have had their worst thoughts about lawyers confirmed. The truth is that lawyers do have a code of conduct that recommends some ethical standards. While these aren’t enforceable, not following them can lead to being expelled from the Bar Council and debarred from practice.
This nearly happens to Jolly later in the movie when he is accused of presenting false evidence and assaulting his fellow lawyer. In addition, being a somewhat competent lawyer himself, Jolly would probably be aware that what he did qualifies as cheating under Section 415 of the Indian Penal Code. Lying to someone, defrauding them, or dishonestly making them give you any property is cheating, and is punishable with imprisonment for a year.
Only much louder
The story takes a very histrionic turn. Jolly is fired, Hina commits suicide and Jolly’s father finds out. In true Bollywood tradition, Jolly has an awakening and a hero is born. He pursues Hina’s case, where it turns out her husband was killed in a fake police encounter and she was fighting to get justice for him.
Police encounters in real life become complicated very, very quickly. There is a provision in the law that allows the police to use force, even to the extent of causing death of the other person, in certain situations. But it only applies when the other person is trying to resist arrest or tries to escape. Interestingly, this is the defence that the corrupt and powerful police lawyer, Mathur (Annu Kapoor), uses when he is defending his client, the encounter specialist Inspector Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra). That is something that the makers of the movie got right.
While there are no rules or laws for dealing with police encounters, the Supreme Court, in a case called PUCL vs. State of Maharashtra has given guidelines which need to be followed in investigating a police encounter. This includes are 16 guidelines in total, including conducting an independent enquiry of the encounter, filing an FIR and video-graphing the post mortem. We don’t see any of these guidelines in the movie. Either the filmmakers avoided too much detail, or they wanted the absence of guidelines being followed to indicate the corrupt and self-serving system that Jolly is up against.
Next, we move on to the courtroom battle. This is where is the movie gets just a little befuddled with the law. Jolly decides to file a public interest litigation in order to prove that Hina’s husband, Iqbal Qasim (Manav Kaul), was killed in a fake police encounter. The problem here is that for a PIL to be valid, you need to show that a significant number of people have been affected by the wrong that you are looking to redress. While it is mentioned that Suryaveer Singh has committed 25 encounters before, Jolly focuses on only one case. This would have made it highly unlikely, in real life, for his PIL to be accepted. The Supreme Court has in the past issued detailed guidelines for what the court should verify before admitting a PIL and the issues for which a PIL can be filed. These are sacrificed, perhaps understandably, in the interest of the story moving on to the court.
The courtroom battle is somewhat disappointing. Mathur, the all-powerful legal shark, is definitely no Denny Crane. Instead he relies on baser tactics such as contract killing, threats and forging evidence in order to defeat Jolly. This was probably the reason why lawyers were upset with their depiction in the movie. The legal issues with Jolly LLB 2 crossed over from the screen to real life as a result, with lawyers taking the producers to court and the Bombay High Court ordering the removal of four scenes. This raises troubling questions of censorship, a great discussion about which can be found here.
Milord, what’s with the jig?
Back in the realm of fiction, Mathur convinces everyone that Jolly has coerced his key witness into lying. This gets Jolly into more trouble and upsets the judge as well, who points out how giving false evidence in court is a punishable crime. But can giving false evidence really land you in jail? The film gets this absolutely correct, because Section 193 in the Indian Penal Code contains punishment for giving false evidence, which can mean going to Jail for up to seven years.
The climax is less about the law and more about emotional drama. There is a scene in which both parties produce a sympathetic old man to curry favour with the judge. It should also be pointed that no judge anywhere in the world would behave the way Justice Tripathi (Saurabh Shukla) does in the movie. Most judges in India do not enter their chambers dancing to the song Gulabo.
Overall, Jolly LLB 2 does try to include a lot of legal content in the story, and some of it is accurate. But if you are looking for enlightening repartee in the courtroom sequences, you will be left disappointed. The real-life courtroom drama surrounding the movie left many embittered too.