“I will earn through the spoken word,” so said Kavi Tejpal Singh Tulsi to his parents tearing up his admit card for the upcoming civil services exams. Tulsi’s action was the result of Chief Justice of Punjab, Justice R.S. Narula’s comment that student participants at the finals of the Punjab University Moot Court were better than lawyers in his court. Tulsi had won the competition. This was 1970.
Tulsi’s father, Sardar Gurucharan Singh Tulsi, who was the Assistant Advocate General of Punjab, on observing his intellect as a child and then as a grown up, was keen that he appear for the civil services. At his behest, Tulsi junior had filled up the forms. But destiny had other plans.
Tulsi had won the moot court competition for six consecutive times much to the chagrin of fellow mooters who wanted him to be debarred from participating in moot courts. His clarity of thought besides his will to excel when translated into words found him becoming Secretary of the Moot Court Society in the law department of Punjab University while he was in college.
Even though he was topper in moots in law college, his rookie years were no less difficult. “The initial years were full of hardships,” says this seasoned lawyer of today. But they were perhaps the greatest learning years. Tulsi further adds: “Our senior was making us work very hard. He would give us Rs. 50/- every week. We were given Rs. 32/- as lawyers for a case.”
Although he had a lot on his hands, the workaholic in him drove him to start a law journal titled Chandigarh Short Notes as he felt that Indian textbooks and digests were not well marshalled. With an intention to improve the quality to match the standard of Corpus Juris and the American Journal, Tulsi’s enthusiasm found him in the roles of the editor as well as the salesman. Paucity of funds made him borrow the files to read up the days’s judgments. “I used to go to the District Court and borrow the files (from 4 pm to 10 pm) and make notes, since I could not buy the judgments,” says this well-determined lawyer. His reading of all the day’s judgments notched up his confidence further.
As if he did not have enough on his hands, in 1973, Tulsi joined Punjab University as a part-time lecturer. To be thorough on a variety of subjects, he would ask the Head of Department to give him a new subject to teach each year.
The year 1987 marked a turning point in Tulsi’s career graph when Governor Siddharth Shankar Ray entrusted him with prosecuting the Punjab terrorists. Ray, according to Tulsi, said: “I am fed up with allegations of fake encounters. You have to prosecute and hang them.” Reminiscing the days when K.P.S Gill and Ray were snuffing out Khalistani terrorists, Tulsi says, “I lived life dangerously. I was given Y Security which is the highest level of security. After that the rest was as if I was in auto mode.” His teaming up with K.P.S. Gill saw Tulsi gravitate towards criminal law.
The year 1990 was yet another watershed year. It marked his move to Delhi. While Tulsi was on a trip to the national capital, he had dropped by at Dr. Subramamium Swamy’s, the Law Minister in the Chandrashekhar Government on a courtesy call.
Swamy on meeting him announced “You are my Additional Solicitor General!” and thus the hitherto Chandigarh-based lawyer’s Delhi innings started. Tulsi was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in February 2015.
If one were to believe Tulsi, his marriage to Suman was something that just happened to him. Soon after he completed his law his father just told him “we have fixed you up.” When he opened his mouth to protest, his father said. “You should thank your stars that she hasn’t seen you!” Says Tulsi, his face breaking up with laughter, “My case was that of married in haste and repent in pleasure.” Tulsi married Suman in 1973 and they were blessed with two daughters. While elder daughter, Kavita, is married to an endocrinologist in Houston, the younger daughter, Japna, is married to a wildlife tiger specialist, Joseph Vattakaven, and resides in India.
Tulsi, says Suman, inspite of his packed schedule has not lost his joie de vivre. In fact, he is more a theatre goer, keen on new release, than her. He is also quite the legal mystery buff. And his favourites are Jeffrey Archer, john Grisham and Sydney Sheldon. The ace lawyer is also a hot shot with the lens. His love for photography since his days in college when he was Secretary of the Photo Society has him carrying his camera wherever he is on holiday. The walls of his Nizamuddin bungalow bear testimony to the man’s talent.
For the busy life that he leads, he enjoys meeting new people and trying new things. Always a risk taker, Tulsi’s life boasts of as much variety in his career as in his hobbies. Not one to plan but follow the path shown, life alone will tell of the new heights that he may touch in future. Maybe, Kavi Tejpal Singh Tulsi will go back to writing as he used to as a young lawyer. And this time round not just lawyer but others will also get to read his work.
We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). 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