US judge gets lesson in law at Bombay HC

Jan 24, 2012, 07:52 IST | Samarth Moray

The woman, who is holidaying in India, was made to delete photos she had taken of court proceedings using her phone camera

The woman, who is holidaying in India, was made to delete photos she had taken of court proceedings using her phone camera

They say ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Tell that to this holidaying circuit court judge from Illinois, US, who began taking pictures inside courtroom no. 10 of the Bombay High Court. The Honourable Judge Eileen Mary Brewer, based in Cook County, Illinois, was politely escorted out of the courtroom and told to delete the pictures she had taken on her phone. Judge Brewer and her two sons are in India on vacation.

Helping hand: Advocate Shreyas Rao (below) stopped the situation from
turning ugly for Judge Brewer in the high court. File Pic

The incident took place around Wednesday noon. Apparently, Judge Brewer walked into the courtroom of SJ Vazifdar to watch Indian judiciary live in action, while her sons waited outside.

Interestingly, Brewer had been made to deposit her camera at the security desk outside the high court, but was permitted to take her camera phone along, in accordance with security protocol.

She later came out and bumped into Advocate Shreyas Rao, who was passing by. The two struck up a conversation and Rao learnt who the lady was. "She was holding the phone and inadvertently clicked a picture of my hand. Just then, an associate burst out of the courtroom, looking for the tourist who was clicking photographs inside. I told the associate she was a judge and then urged the woman to delete the pictures she had taken to avoid trouble."

The associate then asked Judge Brewer for some form of identification. "I tried to make sure she was not mistreated, but when the associate saw her card and realised who she was, he backed off," added Rao.

Confirming the incident, an associate of Justice Vazifdar, who did not wish to be identified, said, "There was a foreign national clicking photographs inside the court and I led her out. She was not aware of the rules. It was a minor incident and no action was taken against her."

Photo finish
In an email reply to MiD DAY, Judge Brewer gave her version of events.
"I should not have snapped a photo of the courtroom with my iPhone. I had no inkling that judges here feared photos because of the many terrorist threats and attacks that have besieged your city. My intent was to show a photo of an Indian courtroom to my judicial colleagues. As I was speaking to Mr Rao, a gentleman approached me along with a number of uniformed men and told me that I had committed a high offence against the judge.

He demanded to see my phone and asked me to delete whatever was on it. I immediately complied. I also gave him my judicial badge and offered my passport. The police wanted to take me into custody but Mr Rao told them that he would be personally responsible for me and would not allow me to leave the premises. The police backed off after Mr Rao's spirited words. We waited until the judge examined my credentials, which were returned to me in a few minutes."

She added, "As you may know, photos are not permitted in most American courtrooms. Some judges, however, in high-profile cases, allow TV cameras to televise proceedings. I allow photos anytime in my courtroom and we always have court reporters recording every word we utter. While my encounter with the guards/police was quite unsettling, my conversation with Mr Rao redeemed any embarrassment and shame I felt in offending the high court judge."

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