Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir on Saturday expressed concern over the falling standards of the legal profession and said the weaknesses in it needs to be rectified.
“Look at the standards that we have set for ourselves. How far have we been able to maintain them? How far have we been able to maintain during the fifty years these standards, these values? There are many reasons for the falling standards,” the CJI said at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Bar Council of India (BCI).
“Lawyers are sometimes not fully and adequately ready during matters of the court and these are weaknesses that need to be rectified. Etiquettes and manners can make a world of difference,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Attorney General G E Vahanvati said there was a need to do away with distinction made between lawyers of the trial court and higher courts in designating them as senior advocates.
“We have to recognise the diversity of the Bar. Though the Advocates Act provides for designation of senior advocates, this distinction appears to be reserved only for those who practice in the higher judiciary. Section 16 of the the Act which provides for designation of senior advocates does not make any such distinction.
“Why is it then that it has not been thought necessary to acknowledge the contribution of outstanding lawyers of the district courts who are equally good if not better and equally thorough and equally respected as those given the distinction of senior advocates,” Mr. Vahanvati said.
The CJI also spoke about the arrears of cases and stressed the need for adopting the alternative dispute resolution mechanism, like lokadalats and mediation for settling the disputes.
“Today dockets of the court are quite difficult to manage. Maybe there are various reasons for it. One is rising population, then the number of cases are increasing. This is bound to happen,” he said.
Justice Kabir said there was need to adopt the model of primary health centres to reach the doorstep of villagers for providing them with justice and asked the BCI and State Bar Councils to increase awareness among the rural masses.
“There is need to work towards setting up legal aid centres in the rural and outlying areas on the lines of primary health centres. These centres would not only increase awareness among the people, but would also provide them with means for dispute resolution through mediation and lokadalats,” he said.
Further, he appreciated the introduction of mobile vans to dispense legal aid to the poor at their doorstep.
“These are things that the BCI must indulge in,” the CJI said and called lawyers to brace itself for the changes coming up with the introduction of Internet and globalisation.
He also welcomed the student exchange programmes with foreign universities proposed by BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, as absolutely necessary.
“Try to learn from others who also want to learn from us” he said.