President Pratibha Devisingh Patil has called for affordable legal service to ensure that right for judicial opportunity is not compromised due to high costs.
Delivering the inaugural address at the two-day national conference of All India Federation of Women Lawyers here on Monday, Ms. Patil said that the cost of access to justice due to high court fees and lawyers’ fees was impinging on the decision to opt for legal remedy. “Access to justice, in fact, can be described as the cornerstone of a responsive judicial system,” she said.
Stating that care must be taken to ensure that costs did not constitute a barrier to seek justice, Ms. Patil noted that Article 39A of the Constitution calls for free and legal aid to those who cannot access justice due to economic or other disabilities. “Access to quick, inclusive, and quality justice is the key to achieve this objective,” Ms. Patil said.
She called for training to judicial officers and law enforcement authorities to sensitize them so as to ensure speedy justice while dealing with cases of violence, harassment, or discrimination against women. Ms. Patil said that the message should register in the society that those violating the dignity and rights of women will be dealt with immediately so that it acted as a deterrent.
Exhorting to raise the level of legal literacy in the country, the President said that enacting legislation was not enough. “Information needs to be disseminated about laws, their applicability and the forums to be approached for the redressal of the infringement of rights,” Ms. Patil said.
She said that the legal systems have to cope with the impact of 21st century changes, particularly information technology, which could be used for delivering justice in a quick and transparent manner.
The President urged the lawyers to be discreet about the use of litigation to resolve disputes and to resort to mediation when warranted. “This will enhance the name and reputation of the lawyer as a peacemaker,” Ms. Patil said.