Move away from the practice of oral arguments to facilitate speedy justice: Shyam Divan

Move away from the practice of oral arguments to facilitate speedy justice: Shyam Divan

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court Advocates-on-record Association (SCAORA) organized a National Conference yesterday on two subjects – Technology, Training and Infrastructure: Keys to Speedy Justice and The Changing Face of Legal Education in India.

The program was inaugurated by President of India Ram Nath Kovind and presided over by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The function commenced with CJI Misra releasing the SCAORA e-Journal and presenting the first copy to President Kovind.

President of the SCAORA Advocate Shivaji Jadhav felicitated the dignitaries on the dais and delivered the welcome address.

In his special address, President Kovind identified some of the impediments to speedy justice, noting that there is a “culture of seeking adjournments” among lawyers which contributes to the pendency of cases.

“It is true that our judges are overburdened by the sheer number of cases. As I understand, there is a backlog of 3.3 crore cases in various courts of the country…

…There are many reasons for such delays. There are infrastructural gaps and considerable vacancies in the Courts…There is a culture of seeking adjournment as a norm rather than an exception. New thinking is gradually taking place on frequent adjournments.”

President Kovind said that the judiciary is making sincere efforts to curb the practice of seeking adjournment by lawyers. He expressed hope that the Bar will co-operate with the efforts in that direction.

The efforts made by the Government of India, as the biggest litigant, to help in reducing the number of pending cases, was also appreciated by President Kovind.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in his Presidential address, touched upon every theme of the session – technology, training, and infrastructure.

CJI Misra also opined,

“Young lawyers are technically sound and should be allowed to argue in courts. Old lawyers should leave room for young lawyers.”

Misra J. highlighted the importance of technology in legal discourse, observing that technology can enhance the quality of work carried out in courts and help in speedy disposal of cases. He also spoke about filling the existing gaps in infrastructure as a pressing need for ensuring speedy justice.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, who was the Guest of Honour at the Conference, also delivered a brief address with a request to fellow lawyers not to go on strikes.

The session on Technology, Training and Infrastructure: Keys to Speedy Justice saw talks delivered by Justice Madan Lokur, Justice AM Khanwilkar, and Senior Advocates Shyam Divan and CU Singh.

Justice Madan Lokur, who is also the Chairman of the E-committee of the Supreme Court, gave a low-down of the achievements of the E-Courts program. The program has achieved computerization of over 16,000 district Courts and 17 High Courts and has introduced services like e-filing and e-summons, he stated.

Calling the achievements of the e-Courts program a “game-changer”, Justice Lokur said that services like delivery of e-summons, availability of orders and judgments, ability to monitor case status online and service of e-filing will help in reducing pendency and ensuring speedy justice.

On the subject of technology as a key factor for speedy justice, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan took a slightly different approach and asserted that our legal system depends on the written word. He advocated for stronger written submissions, rather than making oral arguments, as a means for speedy dispensation of justice.

“If you want to tackle the process of speedy justice, you have to move away from the practice of oral arguments and have to be better with written submissions and be better at thinking on paper and make the briefs strong.”

Noting that the dependence on technology could clog the system further, Divan emphasized on the need for reliance on the “written word”.

“Much of what we do through oral arguments, we must do through the written word… we have to make stronger and persuasive briefs and shorter and tighter written submissions. We have to be more precise and succinct in our written submissions if we, as lawyers, want to help in reducing pendency.”

Senior Advocate CU Singh suggested that lawyers should reach out to Bar Associations and Law Schools to deliver training lectures for budding lawyers and help in the training process.

The Session on The Changing Face of Legal Education in India was chaired by Justice Kurian Joseph and saw talks by Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Indu Malhotra, ASG Tushar Mehta and Senior Advocates Meenakshi Arora and Jaideep Gupta.

Meenakshi Arora spoke on the need for education in niche areas of practice in law as well as the need for lawyers and judges to keep abreast with the changing and evolving fields of law like Patent Law, Competition Law, and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

This thought was echoed by Justice Indu Malhotra, who added that having exercises like Moot Courts, ADR and internships for students helps in their training.

Jaideep Gupta stated that there is a need for advocacy training, which is not addressed by Moot Courts alone. He also highlighted the need for clinical training to impart advocacy skills.

Tushar Mehta advocated the need for including comparative law and foreign constitutional laws in our legal education curriculum for a wider understanding and perspective of the socio-legal scenario in the country. Mehta addressed the need for tweaking the system of Moot Courts to ensure that law students understand the courtroom conduct required of a lawyer and the audience in court.

The last address in this session was delivered by Justice DY Chandrachud, who began his talk by highlighting the lack of diversity in candidates who take the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). Justice Chandrachud called for the reformation of CLAT so as to make it more accessible and inclusive for all.

He also touched upon various pressing issues like the need for better law teachers, inclusivity and transparency by lawyers while recruiting to chambers, a secure environment for women lawyers, and for the encouragement of law students to pursue non-conventional careers.

The program concluded with the Valedictory Session, which was presided over by CJI Misra. This session saw addresses by Justice Kurian Joseph, ASG Pinky Anand, and members of the SCAORA Prashant Kumar, Shivaji Jadhav, and Vivek Narayan Sharma.

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