Great people go through great hardships in life and M.C. Bhandare is a live example of it. He never let his hardships show on his face. Always happy and contended, he never made anyone feel that he is lacking things in life.
“Lovers of art, music, literature and Justice,” said Senior Advocate Muralidhar Chandrakant Bhandare about himself and his late wife, Justice Sunanda Bhandare. M.C. Bhandare is one of the leading legal luminaries of India. As a senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India, Bhandare is respected as a champion of the common man’s cause. He shows keen interest in issues related to human rights, particularly the empowerment of women, and protection of the rights of children and the physically handicapped.
With many landmark cases in his kitty, Bhandare got recognition as a labour lawyer when he fought for the essential needs of people living in Mumbai slums in the earlier days of his law practice. Born and brought up in the city of dreams, Mumbai, it was during the days of the Indian freedom struggle that the aspiration of becoming a lawyer arose in Bhandare’s heart. His modesty can be measured easily when this senior lawyer confesses that he did not know anything about the legal profession before entering law college.
Recollecting childhood memories, Bhandare says that he had a colourful time with brothers and sisters. Going to school with them every day and playing with them was the golden time of his childhood. Born on December 10, 1928, Bhandare calls himself a child of Independence. This date coincidently became the International Human Rights Day in the year 1948. His whole family had been living in Mumbai since 1860. Bhandare feels very closely for the hardships of people. He says that he always wanted to serve the people and the society.
The freedom struggle became a stepping stone for Bhandare as he was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. “I have seen the Quit India Movement, it all started in Mumbai. I was very much a part of it,” said Bhandare. The Independence inculcated a strong feeling of freedom within him and he decided to be self-dependent. Bhandare, who served as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association for two terms, has seen many hardships in life. While doing his graduation, his father lost his money and he started taking tuitions to make a living.
Bhandare studied Physics in his graduation from Siddharth College. He enrolled in Government Law College, Mumbai, in 1942. Filled with nostalgia and good memories, Bhandare says that he spent a great time at college with prominent personalities like Jay Prakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia and Ashok Mehta; though senior to him, Bhandare shared a very close and friendly bond with them. Highly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, he says that he was fortunate enough to attend several of Mahatma Gandhi’s prayer meetings in Mumbai where his father used to take him.
Bhandare went on to become the first Vice President of the National Union of Students while in the Law College, which was inaugurated in 1951. He worked very hard and marched many protests against regular fee hikes. Recalling an unusual incident, Bhandare said, “In 1952, I travelled to Kashmir and addressed a meeting with Sheikh Abdullah in a women’s college where 100 women came on bicycles.” This is one unforgettable experience for Bhandare as he was not made aware that the meeting was kept in a women’s college.
After completing his law studies in 1951, Bhandare had to register himself as a lawyer, for which the fee was ` 750 and he didn’t have the money. His enrollment was postponed by one year due to poverty. He took tuitions, collected money and registered himself on August 25, 1952. Remembering the struggle period of his life, Bhandare said. “I used to walk to my destination very often as there was no money even to travel by bus.” Great people got through great hardships in life and M.C. Bhandare is a live example of it. He never let his hardships show on his face. Always happy and contended, he never made anyone feel that he is lacking things in life.
Talking about the coincidences that take place in one’s life, Bhandare says that the people with whom he shared his college days are now top lawyers. Fali Nariman, Anil Divan, Ashok Desai and Soli Sorabjee were his mates in the Government Law College. “We were a common group, we played cricket, participated in debates and even had a parliament in college,” said the nostalgic Bhandare. “We were extremely fortunate to have Chief Justice Chandrachud and Nani Palkhivala, the all time great lawyers of India, with us.”
It is astounding that Bhandare, who even served as the Governor of Orissa, did not have any idea about different courts. He had not studied the Cr.PC and hence had no idea which court to go to for practice.
The sense of difference between small causes court, city civil court and the high court came slowly. Sure about working in the Bombay High Court, Bhandare started sitting in the HC library. Slowly and steadily, Bhandare achieved great heights in his professional life and worked in the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. Telling about how lucky the lawyers were at that time to have great judges, Bhandare said, “They would weigh the farthings of the poor in the weight of gold with the scales of justice.”
Not just his professional but Bhandare’s personal life is equally interesting. Another coincidence happened in the court corridors and Bhandare met his future father-in-law Justice H.R. Gokhale by sheer chance. He was one of the leading labour lawyers at that time; Bhandare worked with him and developed a very strong bond of friendship with H.R. Gokhale. When Bhandare met Sunanda she was only 10 years old. Remembering the first meeting, Bhandare said, “When I went to their house, this little laughing and giggling 10 year old girl opened the door for me.”
They both fell in love when Sunanda was 15 and got married in the year 1961 when she reached 18 and Bhandare was 32. With a little pun, Bhandare says that he has been accused of being a cradle-snatcher.
Deeply attached to his wife, Bhandare recalled many beautiful moments and said they shared everything in life. “When I bought a second hand car, Sunanda learnt how to drive. Together, we went to many parts of the country with me driving half the way and she the other half,” recalled the loving husband. Bhandare even started a foundation in the memory of the late Justice Sunanda Bhandare that works mainly for women’s empowerment.
Sunanda Bhandare started her law studies after both their children were born and reached great heights in her career. She became a Judge in the Delhi High Court in the year 1988. Bhandare also says that Sunanda would have become the first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court if she were alive. At the age of 86, it is regular exercise that is keeping M.C. Bhandare fit. He plays golf every day and says that it is both relaxing as well as a good workout.
With fond memories of his wife, Bhandare now wants to focus on the fourth career in his life and serve the people and society. With both his children and grandchildren doing extremely well in their respective careers, Bhandare says that he has nothing but complete joy in life.
The journey of M.C. Bhandare is highly inspirational for those who want to achieve their dreams.
We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin; LexisNexis. The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in hardbound is priced at `5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C 27 Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001. firstname.lastname@example.org