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Kinship in Professional Relations: A Study of North Indian District Lawyers

  • Charles Morrison (a1)

The development of the modern Indian legal system provides, as Marc Galanter notes, a remarkable instance of the total displacement of a major intellectual and institutional complex in a highly developed civilization with one largely of foreign origin or at least inspiration and the replacement of the savants and practitioners of the older system by a new elite. The bulk of this modern elite, the second largest body of legal practitioners in the world, comprises the district lawyers or vakils. This paper describes some aspects of social organization among the vakils of Ambala City, a small district headquarters town in the North Indian state of Haryana.

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1 Galanter, Marc, ‘The Study of the Indian Legal Profession’, Law and Society Review (1968) 3:214–15.

2 Accepted for publication, January 1970. Social anthropological research in India during 1967–8 was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Institute of Indian Studies. Writing was supported by Wenner Gren Foundation and University of Rochester grants. The author is indebted to Professor Marc Galanter of the University of Chicago and Professor Robert S. Merrill of the University of Rochester for comments on earlier versions of this paper. A version of this paper was presented at a conference on occupational cultures in South Asia at the University of Chicago in May 1970.

3 Rudolph, Lloyd I. and Rudolph, Susanne Hoeber, The Modernity of Tradition: Political Developments in India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967) pp. 1 and 5. (Cited in a review by Gould, Harold A., American Anthropologist [1969] 71: 538.) For a discussion of implications of the introduction of western legal thought to India see the Rudolphs' Barristers and Brahmans in India: Legal Cultures and Social Change’, Comparative Studies in Society and History (1965) 8: 2449;McCormack, William C., ‘Caste and the British Administration of Hindu Law’, Journal of Asian and African Studies (1966) 1; and Derrett, J. D. M., ‘The Administration of Hindu Law by the British’, Comparative Studies in Society and History (19611962) 4: 1052.

4 Galanter (1968: 207).

5 Abel-Smith, Brian and Stevens, Robert (with the assistance of Rosalind Brooke), Lawyers and the Courts: A Sociological Study of the English Legal System, 1750–1965 (London: Heinemann, 1967).

6 Galanter (1968: 203–7). There are several studies of lawyers in America, e.g., Carlin, Jerome E., Lawyers on Their Own: A Study of Individual Practitioners in Chicago (New Brimswick: Rutgers University Press, 1962);Smigel, Erwin O., The Wall Street Lawyer (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1964); and Wood, A. L., ‘Informal Relations in the Practice of Criminal Law’, American Journal of Sociology (1956) 62: 4855.

7 Morrison, Charles, ‘Social Organization at the District Courts: Colleague Relationships among Indian Lawyers’, Law and Society Review (1968) 3: 257.

8 For another account of lawyers' daily life and district law practice, see Rowe, Peter, ‘Indian Lawyers and Political Modernization: Observations in Four District Towns’, Law and Society Review (1968) 3: 225. See also Soni, Brahm Dev, ‘Lawyers of Dehra Dun: A Study of the Sociology of (the) Legal Profession’, unpublished thesis at Agra University, 1956. A useful fictional account of contemporary district lawyers is Nagarajan, Krishnaswami, Chronicles of Kedaram (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1961).

9 Morrison (1968: 257).

10 Cf. P. Rowe (1968: 228).

11 Morrison, Charles, ‘Lawyers and Litigants in a North Indian District: Notes on Informal Aspects of the Legal System’, paper presented at the conference on the Comparative Study of the Legal Profession with Special Reference to India,University of Chicago,August 1967. For accounts of Indian marriage networks and their regions see Rowe, William L., ‘The Marriage Network and Structural Change in a North Indian Community’, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology (1960) 16: 299311; and particularly Mayer, Adrian C., Caste and Kinship in Central India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960).

12 The Division to which Ambala District belonged between 1947 and 1966 was one of three divisions comprising the state of Punjab. After boundaries had been reorganized to accommodate political demands of linguistic regionalism in 1966, this Division became coterminous with the new state of Haryana.

13 Galanter (1968: 208).

14 See also Gadbois, George H., ‘Indian Supreme Court Judges: A Portrait’, Law and Society Review (1968) 3: 317–36.

15 Mayer (1960: 214 and 218–9).

16 Morrison (196g); see also Rowe, P. (1968: 225).

17 Rowe, P. (1968: 227); see also the case of K discussed below.

18 The third partnership involved a husband and wife and is not discussed here.

19 Mayer, (1960: 219–20).

20 I have elsewhere described the election dispute in which the lawyer here identified as B was involved as outgoing president of the bar association (Morrison, , 1968: 263).

21 See Morrison, Charles, ‘Local Groups in a North Indian City’ in Jacobson, D. and Keiser, L., eds., Urban Social Systems (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, in press).

22 For further details of K, see Morrison, (1968: 263–6), where he is identified as A.

23 Cf., Rowe, (1968: 226).

24 According to Bottomore, the existence of distinct cultural areas provides no serious obstacle to free movement for Indian intellectuals. Cf. Bottomore, T. B., ‘Cohesion and Division in Indian Elites’, in Mason, P., ed., India and Ceylon: Unity and Diversity (London: Oxford University Press, 1967) p. 252.

25 This ethnic division of the bar has been discussed in Morrison (1968).

26 Jones, Kenneth W., ‘The Bengali Elite in Post-annexation Punjab: An Example of Interregional Influence in Nineteenth-Century India’, in Kopf, David, ed., Bengal Regional Identity (East Lansing: Michigan State University Asian Studies Center, 1969) pp. 133–50.

27 Marriott, McKim, ‘Multiple Reference in Indian Caste Systems’, in Silverberg, James, ed., Social Mobility in the Caste System in India (The Hague: Mouton, 1968) p. 114.

28 R is identified as C in Morrison, (1968: 264).

29 For an account of an early lawyer family in Punjab see Tandon, Prakash, Punjabi Century 1857–1947 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968).

30 A high percentage of district lawyers come from castes that are dominant in the commercial life of the region and many law incomes go into joint family purses shared by merchant kin.

31 District lawyers frequently explain that they were originally drawn to the profession because, in comparison with government service, the law is ‘independent’. In light of the almost universal struggle to enter government service, this explanation must be viewed with skepticism.

32 Distant agnatic links were reported between a number of lawyers; in occupational relations these ties cease to have much significance after four or five generations. It should be remembered that common subcaste identity is typically spoken of as a kinship tie.

33 It appears that subtle manipulations of the traditional patrilineal patterns are not especially advantageous in this publicly interacting group of males. The genealogies of several lawyers are in part common knowledge. The situation here therefore contrasts with one described recently by Sylvia Vatuk in which Indian women, interacting in secluded urban residential neighborhoods in North India, manipulate the kinship terminology in order to make social distance conform to spatial reality. As had been noted above, spurious kin claims between lawyers and the judiciary are quickly challenged by competitor colleagues. Cf. Vatuk, Sylvia, ‘Reference, Address and Fictive Kinship in Urban North India’, Ethnology (1969) 8: 255–72.

34 Other studies of kinship and occupational activity in urban India include: Gould, Harold A., ‘Lucknow Rickshawalas: The Social Organization of an Occupational Category’, International Journal of Comparative Sociology (1965) 6: 2447; and Singer, Milton B., ‘The Indian Joint Family in Modern Industry’, in Singer, M. B. and Cohn, B. S., eds., Structure and Change in Indian Society (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1968). See also mimeographed papers from the conference on Occupational Cultures in Changing South Asia,University of Chicago,May 14–16, 1970, at which the present paper was circulated for discussion.

For a comparison by Max Weber of the role of specialists and professionals in ancient Asian and European legal systems, see the discussion of legal honoratiores and legal thought in Rheinstein, Max, ed., Max Weber on Law in Economy and Society (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966) pp. 198223. For lawyers in early India, see Rocher, Ludo, ‘“Lawyers” in Classical Hindu Law’, and Calkins, Philip B., ‘A Note on Lawyers in Muslim India’, both in Law and Society Review (1968) 3.

For relations among legal practitioners and between them and clients in England see: Harding, Alan, A Social History of English Law (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966);Megarry, R. E., Lawyer and Litigant in England (London: Stevens & Sons, 1964);Jackson, R. M., The Machinery of Justice in England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964); and Cecil, Henry, Brief to Counsel (London: Michael Joseph, 1958). See also note 38.

Recent studies of modern legal functionaries in the nonwestern world include: Murphy, J., ed., Legal Profession in Korea: The Judicial Scrivener and Others (Korea Law Studies, Series No. 2, 1967);Braibanti, Ralph, Research on the Bureaucracy of Pakistan (Durham: Duke University, 1966);Schmittener, Samuel, ‘A Sketch of the Development of the Legal Profession in India’, Law and Society Review (1968) 3: 337–82;Ziadeh, Farhat J., Lawyers, the Rule of Law, and Liberalism in Modern Egypt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969);Henderson, Dan Fenno, ‘Japanese Lawyers: Types and Roles in the Legal Profession’ (mimeo, 1967);Lev, Daniel S., ‘The Politics of Judicial Development in Indonesia’, Comparative Studies in Society and History (1965) 7: 173–99.

35 Galanter (1968: 216) citing Abel-Smith and Stevens (1967: 1).

36 The author is indebted to Professor Sylvia Thrupp for bringing this question and the relevant literature on pre-Reformation England to his attention.

37 Nash, Gary B., ‘The Philadelphia Bench and Bar, 1800–1861’, Comparative Studies in Society and History (1965) 7: 206–7. Some twentieth-century Wall Street law firms are known as specialists in private trust practice, and partners of these firms typically have marriage ties with the wealthy Old Establishment families of their clientele. Cf. Smigel (1964: passim).

38 E.g., Ives, Eric W., ‘Promotion in the Legal Profession of Yorkist and Early Tudor England’, Law Quarterly Review (1959) 75: 348–63;The Reputation of the Common Lawyers in English Society, 1450–1550’, University of Birmingham Historical Journal (1960) 7: 130–61;The Common Lawyer in Pre-Reformation England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Series (1968) 18: 145–73. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this paper, Ives', thesis, ‘Some Aspects of the Legal Profession in the Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries’ (University of London, 1955), was not available. For a reference to data in this thesis on interelationship among lawyers, see Ives, (1968: 161).

39 Ives, (1968: 148–9, 161–2).

40 Ives, (1968: 158–61).

41 Abel-Smith, and Stevens, (1967: 462).

42 For example, Roger Townshend (ancestor of ‘Turnip’ Townshend) of Raynham in Norfolk was followed into the profession by fourteen of his descendants between 1454 and 1579; the Townshend law dynasty lasted until 1621 (Ives, , 1968: 160). A majority of pre-Reformation lawyers were eldest sons (ibid. n. 2). Legal dynasties occur only at the upper levels in both cases. See Schmittener's discussion of this tendency among upper level Indian practitioners (1968: 375–6).

43 Ives, (1968: 161).

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