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The Bar Association of India yesterday organized a felicitation ceremony for eminent members of the Bar on the occasion of Lawyers of India Day.
The guests for the evening were the Supreme Court’s Justice Madan B Lokur, Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Rajendra Menon, and Attorney General for India KK Venugopal. In their addresses, each of the guests spoke about the problems faced by the legal profession.
While AG Venugopal said that the legal profession is no longer the noble profession it once used to be, Justice Lokur observed that the state of legal education in India needs to be looked into. Justice Menon touched upon the lack of basic infrastructure plaguing the subordinate judiciary.
AG Venugopal touched upon the issue of lawyers calling strikes continually, terming this practice “the biggest disgrace” to the legal profession. He pointed out that strikes are prevalent among lawyers despite a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the same, unless observed in public interest.
Adding to this thought, Justice Menon said that a few members of the Bar are often deciding the course of justice.
“It’s high time people like us should think about it and take effective steps in overcoming this impediment in justice delivery system.”
Justice Lokur noted that the meaning of public interest vis-à-vis calling strikes by lawyers is lost, and that very often, strikes are called for personal reasons of lawyers.
“The entire Judicial system gets paralyzed when lawyers call strikes”, Justice Lokur said.
The need for more lawyers to participate towards providing legal aid as well as the need for better conditions and pay scales for lawyers working in rural areas were the other issues touched upon by the guests of the evening.
Justice Lokur pointed out that the low pay scales for lawyers in rural areas is an issue that needs to be considered seriously, while Justice Menon observed that there was a dire need for better infrastructure the in subordinate judiciary, as well as a need for more lawyers to provide legal aid.
AG Venugopal echoed these sentiments, expressing his disappointment at the fact that not many lawyers are engaging in legal aid and pro bono work. He also stated that lawyers working in rural areas often struggle to make ends meet. He said,
“In India, I find that we lawyers, most of us, do not have a real commitment. We’re not willing to do pro bono and legal aid work.
… One charge against lawyers is that they charge high fees but lawyers in rural areas find it difficult to make ends meet.”
Touching upon the state of legal education in India, Justice Lokur said that attention needs to be drawn towards the training given to young lawyers considering there is a large influx of law graduates entering the field every year.
“We need to ask ourselves, have we taken any steps in the direction to improve the quality of legal education? After the students come out of law schools and become young lawyers, do we spend the time to nurture them to become good lawyers?”
The “mushroom growth” in the number of law colleges in India and the huge inflow of lawyers in the profession is also going to impact litigation, Justice Lokur added.
Justice Lokur also addressed the topic of judicial reforms, saying that whenever this issue is brought up or the “crisis” the judiciary is facing is talked about, the conversation is immediately steered to point out the pendency numbers. He, however, added that not every case labelled as a pending case actually qualifies to be one.
“A case which is filed half an hour ago, it will be included as a pending case on the internet. Is this pendency? I don’t think so. There is no clear definition of pendency.”
Judges are also burdened with a large number of administrative duties, Justice Lokur said, underlining these duties take up a lot of time. Unless such issues are discussed, there can be no judicial reforms, Justice Lokur opined.
Justice Lokur also spoke about the use of technology in the justice delivery system and ended his address with his thoughts on Alternative Dispute Resolution,
“I believe the time has come where we need to act, rather than talk about this.”
The President of the Bar Association of India Lalit Bhasin also delivered the Welcome address stating that December 3 is chosen as the day to observe the Lawyers of India Day as it coincides with the birth anniversary of the First President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad.