There is an absence of equal access and diversity in legal profession, Justice DY Chandrachud [Video]
The legal profession will continue to be skewed in the absence of equal access and opportunity for men and women, said Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court at a conference held on Saturday.
“We need to understand the fundamental problems. There is an absence of equal access, and unless we generate equal and secure access for men and women, our profession is going to be deeply skewed.”
Watch a video clip of Justice Chandrachud’s speech:
Justice DY Chandrachud made this point while delivering a talk on the subject of Changing Face of Legal Education in India at a conference held by the Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association (SCAORA).
Addressing the issues affecting the inflow of law aspirants at the entry level, the sitting Apex Court judge noted that the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) was largely “exclusionary”.
“At the entry level, you have CLAT for admission to National Law Schools. We have a very flawed idea of meritocracy and the test is largely exclusionary in nature. It is attacked on two premises – argument of equality and argument of efficiency.”
Justice Chandrachud cited the study conducted on CLAT by Professor Shamnad Basheer and quoted figures that indicate that this test is class-based, language-based, region-based and religion-based.
Pointing out that the only method to submit the application form for this exam is through the online platform, Justice Chandrachud said that this Test was effectively accessible only to 16% of the Indian population that has internet access.
Highlighting the regional imbalance, Justice Chandrachud also underscored the absence of students from certain specific regions like some North-Eastern States, Chhattisgarh or the troubled State of Jammu and Kashmir. The test puts candidates from a rural orientation at a disadvantage, Justice Chandrachud remarked.
“Justice is not confined to the urban areas, it is predominantly rural.”
Justice Chandrachud also cited figures from Basheer’s study which showed that in 2018, about 80% applicants were from urban areas, 97% came from an English medium education background, and 86% were Hindus.
“This gives the pattern of what we are inducting in the National law Schools.”
Justice Chandrachud stressed that there is a lack of diversity in the National Law Schools and that the legal profession faces the absence of equal access. He, however, appreciated the ‘Increasing Diversity Increasing Awareness’, (IDIA) initiative, which provides assistance and mentoring to students from underprivileged and marginalized sections of the society.
“The lack of diversity in the National Law Schools is very pronounced. A notable endeavour which has taken place recently is the IDIA initiative which is increasing diversity, increasing awareness.”
Another issue that Justice Chandrachud touched upon was the underwhelming number of law graduates entering litigation compared to those choosing careers at law firms. This, Justice Chandrachud said, was simply because of a demand-supply factor. He added that the legal profession perhaps is unable to meet the aspirations of young lawyers.
The recruitments made at lawyers’ chambers are not open and merit based, Justice Chandrachud opined and said that this transparency is vital to diversify the profession.
“Lets face it… are the recruitments truly open and is it merit-based or is it an old boys’ club of the people who are connected getting in the slots at the chambers? Unless we have an open and transparent system where young lawyers can gain access to the top chambers without being connected we will not be able to diversify.”
Speaking on the subject of women safety in the legal profession, Justice Chandrachud said that there is a dire need for secure working conditions for women lawyers.
“Are we allowing our young women secure conditions to work in the legal profession? If we are not, then these young women who are going to contribute tomorrow to the legal profession, in terms of becoming outstanding lawyers, outstanding judges, thought leaders of our country, they will not come into the profession, there will be other avenues that they will go for.”
Justice Chandrachud also spoke about the need for encouraging law students to pursue non-traditional careers and about the need for good law teachers. However, the focus of his address remained on access and diversity. Justice Chandrachud ended his address by saying,
“As we move forward, we need to think about the legal profession which is far less feudalistic, far more attuned to the reality of emerging India and far more consistent with the values that the constitution tells us to espouse.”
Justice Chandrachud’s speech was a hit on Social Media too as several readers commended him on his candid speech.