There are numerous tales where Birbal was consulted for helping the Emperor Akbar to decide difficult cases so that justice could be done. Birbal was considered to be the wisest man in the kingdom. Due to this he earned the respect of many and the jealousy of some too.
Once, Birbal committed an error. It was documented that Birbal had made a mistake. So as per the law of the land, he had to be punished. The Emperor Akbar was pained to see Birbal standing in court as an ‘accused’ waiting for punishment to be pronounced. In his heart of hearts, Akbar wanted to pardon Birbal for he felt that for the so many times that Birbal had brought honour to the kingdom and its people one small error should be pardoned. But the Ministers who were jealous of Birbal were waiting to hear the punishment, like hawks waiting for their prey.
Akbar’s throat went dry. With great difficulty he started to speak, hoping that Birbal would find a way out of this mess. In a choked voice he said, “Birbal, no one is above the Law. You have made a mistake, so you will have to be punished. But for all your service to me, I give you the right to choose the person who shall decide your punishment. After that you shall have to honour it.”
Birbal looked around. The senior ministers looked up expectantly thinking that Birbal would trust them to do justice. After thinking for a few minutes Birbal said, “Can you call the gardener? I would be happy to have him decide my punishment.” There was a suppressed laughter in Akbar’s court. What did the gardener know? And how stupid of Birbal to submit to his whims!
Well the gardener was called and told of Birbal’s wish. He was so overwhelmed with the thought of having been given such a huge responsibility that he said, “I cannot decide this alone. Let me consult my fellow gardeners. Give me at least two days to decide.”
Eventually he asked for more time and after a week the entire gardener community of the city filed into Akbar’s court. Most of them were in tears. The gardener said, “Birbal! Oh Birbal! You are very dear to us. Don’t take this personally. We all have to abide by the law. We have been discussing this matter for a week. We have spent sleepless nights mulling over the problem. With great difficulty we have decided that; we have decided that … please forgive us Birbalji! We hold you in very high esteem, but this is a Dharam-sankat for us. We have decided that you must … that you must … you must pay five hundred gold pieces!!!” The gardener broke down and wept profusely.
Birbal smiled. Akbar heaved a huge sigh of relief. Just five hundred gold coins! That was no big deal for a person of Birbal’s stature. Birbal had done it again! He knew that each person can think only up to his perspective or restricted viewpoint and not beyond. For a gardener, who was a simpleton; who spent his day looking after the flowers and the trees, money was not something he would think about too much. For someone who lived so close to nature, and found contentment in the simple things of life; for someone who perhaps seldom thought about money and its worth; for someone whose needs were limited; five hundred gold coins was a humongous amount of wealth. But for Birbal, it was a pittance!
The presence of mind of Birbal had done it again!