Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir on Monday said the image of lawyers, who are depicted as “sharks” in cartoons, needs to be changed to that of a socially responsible citizen.

“Lawyers are shown as sharks in cartoons...that has to change. The lawyers have to show that we are socially responsible citizens,” the Chief Justice said in his address to faculty and students of Law department at Kashmir University in Srinagar.

“You should participate in legal aid work. There is a social commitment (for lawyers). Law is not something you do for only yourself but for the society as well,” he said.

Plenty of avenues for law graduates

Justice Kabir said there were plenty of avenues for law graduates in the changing world but they should also do their bit for the society.

The Chief Justice said among the avenues available to the law graduates are higher studies and the whole corporate world.

The advent of Internet has led to the specialisation of even law courses as the worldwideweb has helped in exchange of ideas, he said.

“The Information Technology Act was started with the intention of highlighting the authenticity of documents. The digital signatures were also included in it. The law had to be altered so as to use the technological advances which have brought professionalism in law,” he said.

The Chief Justice said he will take up on priority the empanelment of Kashmir University’s Law department students as research assistants and law clerks to the Supreme Court judges.

“But you will also have to be cooperative. You have to come to Delhi and stay there for at least one year,” he said responding to the suggestion of allowing the Kashmir University students the opportunity to work with Supreme Court judges.

Encouragement to fresh law graduates

Justice Kabir said a little bit of encouragement to the fresh law graduates can help them go a long way in their career.

He mentioned about a Kashmiri woman lawyer, practising in Supreme Court, saying “initially, she was shy but I encouraged her to argue the case and today she has an identity of her own.”

The Chief Justice said there has been a sea change in the enthusiasm as well as opportunities available to law students over the past 40 years.

Clinical education

“In 1969-70, legal education meant joining the course for either morning shift or evening shift and paying a fee of Rs 12 per month. Only enthusiastic few would do the hard work of studying in depth. Today the students want to know and participate in moot court (competition) in Washington, Geneva and elsewhere in the world. There is no reason why Kashmiri students cannot go there,” he said.

He said the law students today need clinical education whereby they can get to learn hands on from the legal practitioners.

Strengthening of judiciary

Supreme Court judge Justice T.S. Thakur, in his address, said there is a need to catch promising law graduates young in order to strengthen the judiciary.

“The whole effort is to catch the judges young. We would want the promising law graduates to join the judiciary before they get disinterested with the profession as there can be difficulties at the start of the career,” Justice Thakur said.

He said the lawyers are soldiers of rule of law. “In all civilised societies, it is the rule of law that sustains the society. We cannot be governed by arbitrary system. There is peace and progress only because of rule of law. It is the lawyers who maintain the rule of law.”

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