‘Bench and Bar should work together in ensuring rule of law’

Expressing concern over the huge pendency of cases in trial courts, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Saturday urged the legal fraternity to pool their expertise and devise ways of solving the problem.

He was inaugurating the golden jubilee celebrations of the Bar Council of India at Vigyan Bhavan here.

Dr. Singh said the Bench and the Bar should work together in ensuring the rule of law and in furthering the constitutional objectives. “Unless this happens, we cannot succeed substantially in providing speedy and affordable justice to millions of our country men, especially those who belong to the poor and weaker sections. There are many challenges to be overcome and many bottlenecks to be removed before this objective of ours becomes a reality.”

Pointing out that lawyers, apart from their duty to clients, performed a public duty as officers of the court in furtherance of the cause of justice, he said: “They should always keep in view the larger objective of advancement of public morality, truth and justice in their wider connotation. It is for this reason that the practice of law has a public utility flavour and an inbuilt element of public service. This exalted status enjoins upon lawyers to scrupulously abide by the Code of Conduct prescribed by the Bar Council.”

Lauding the BCI for working to promote the highest standards in legal education, “comparable to the best in the world”, Dr Singh said: “Clearly, the work of the Bar Council of India and that of the State Bar Councils have an implication for the public at large. This is because the effectiveness of the Bar Councils in performing their duties and functions is a factor in determining the strength and quality of our justice delivery system.”

In his presidential address, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir emphasised the importance of ethics and etiquette in the legal fraternity. Pointing out that Bar Council Rules focussed on the standard of professional conduct and etiquette, he said the BCI jubilee was the right occasion to ponder “how we have been able to maintain ourselves.”

Expressing concern that lawyers were not fully or adequately read, the CJI said this weakness needed to be rectified.

Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar exhorted the legal fraternity to set the highest standards and lend a helping hand to the disadvantaged and the deprived. “Lawyers must keep pace with the process of globalisation, he said listing IT, IPR, regulatory mechanisms, international trade, etc, among the features on the new horizons of law.

Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati said lawyers were the backbone of the judicial system. Maintaining that Section 16 of the Advocates Act did not distinguish between those practising in lower and higher courts, he said hard working lawyers from lower courts could also be designated as senior advocates. “Why not acknowledge the outstanding lawyers who are equally good, if not better?” he asked to a thunderous applause from the audience. Calling for introspection, he said it was important to distinguish between acceptability and respectability.

In his welcome address, BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra highlighted the problems faced by lawyers including securing insurance cover, stipend for young students and legal aid.

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