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Making law readily comprehensible to the average reader


Author: Sanjay Pinto

Publisher: Thomson Reuters, Legal

Pages: 555

Price: Rs 950

Years ago, when I was an insurance officer, I had never thought that one day I would switch to public relations and journalism. It was quite some switch – two totally different fields – but I had strong reasons for making that decision. Sanjay Pinto, the author of this book, did something quite similar, though in reverse. He switched from media to law. In 2012, a year after his twin children were born, he decided to quit NDTV 24×7 after serving the channel for more than 15 years and moved to the legal profession – a transition from the newsroom to the courtroom, as he calls it.

Sanjay had strong reasons, too. He was then seeking better “work-life balance”; he wished to spend more time with his family. Also, he had studied law after graduating in Politics and History and he wanted to be independent and try and change lives, with law providing him a better “bandwidth”. And so, his target audience changed – from viewers to family.

Many of us remember Sanjay as NDTV’s correspondent (later bureau chief/ resident editor/ also executive editor, NDTV Hindu) in Chennai, a familiar face on television for years. Now an advocate at the Madras High Court, he has made a mark over the past decade, winning cases for his clients. Sanjay researches well and he is an excellent debater (former national debating champion, after all), qualities that have stood him in good stead at the court. He specialises in media, criminal, constitutional, corporate, arbitration and consumer cases. His book, High and Law (his fourth), published by Thomson Reuters, Legal, is a solid body of work. The book has a foreword by Kiran Bedi, best known as the first woman in India to join the Indian Police Service.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, judge, Madras High Court, says in his message in the book: “Is there any purpose in law and judgments filling up heaps of papers without the common man being made aware of it?… It is an art to educate a common man on the nuances of law in plain and simple language. Sanjay Pinto while making his mark in the media, probably felt the pulse of a common man and that is the reason he is able to convey with a lot of ease, after donning the black gown as an advocate.”  Rebecca John, senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, says in her message: “Sanjay Pinto, through this book, brings the law closer to people. It highlights the challenges of everyday life and informs citizens of their rights and legal recourses.” These two messages succinctly describe the flavour of the book and its value.

In a book titled, Indlish: The Book for Every English-Speaking India, authored by Jyoti Sanyal and edited by Martin Cutts, Cutts, research director, Plain Language Commission, UK, had written this in his foreword: English should be clear, concise and fluent, and if it can also paint a picture, so much the better. Too often, though, it is obscure, verbose, muddled, and preachy… Busy readers do not want this. They want authors who have something to say and say it in a clear, direct, vivid style – to engage them quickly with the gist of the story, to get on and tell it in an interesting way, and then to stop without adding a sermon… Short sentences, vigorous expression, and a point of view: these are three of the essentials of a good writer, whether it is about sport or the price of fish….”

Sanjay Pinto seems to be able to do just that. As we know, simplifying law is not easy. You will not find superfluous commentary, jargon or voluminous cross references in the book, one of the reasons you will find it more engaging. Interestingly, the book was developed from Sanjay’s weekly legal column for Deccan Chronicle, possibly the longest-running such column in any newspaper in India – 300 columns to date, spread over more than eight years. Abridged versions of many of the 150 chapters in the book have appeared as columns in Deccan Chronicle between 2017 and 2022.

High and Law covers several aspects of law – from administrative, arbitration, banking, constitutional, consumer and criminal laws to disability, education, environment, gender, medical and media laws. It is a book journalists and journalism students must read, as also lawyers and law students. A copy must be made available in the libraries of journalism schools, colleges and institutes. It is, of course, a useful book to have at home and that is also why Rebecca John says he brings law closer to people.  

(Reviewed by Sashi Nair, editor, Vidura.)