Ensuring access to justice

The justice system in any democracy is set up, under the Constitution to serve the public without “fear or favour, affection or ill-will” as far as judges are concerned. Yet the protagonists, as far as India is concerned, in operating the system have stopped that very access — judges through lack of prescience, and many lawyers through their dishonesty in many forms.


Background –

At an informal meeting, all of the then sitting judges of the Supreme Court advised the then Chief Justice of India to decide against the request of the then Central government to sit in other places in the country under Article 130 of the Constitution. But it was decided to not do it because it was felt that the authority of the Supreme Court would get diluted.

Shortfalls in having only one bench of Supreme Court –

  • First, the Supreme Court sitting only in Delhi has resulted in excellent lawyers from other High Courts not appearing before the Supreme Court, possibly because it casts too large a monetary burden on their clients, many of whom are impoverished.
  • Second, all lawyers, whatever their calibre or competence, who happen to be in Delhi now appear in the Supreme Court. Some of the good lawyers who were able to leave lucrative practices in the High Courts have settled down in Delhi, but they have established a monopoly, and, as a result, charge unconscionable fees even from charitable concerns.
  • The third fallout of the failure to act under Article 130 is that the Supreme Court in Delhi has been flooded with work and been reduced to a District Court instead of a Court of Final Appeal and Constitutional Court as envisaged under the Constitution.

Unethical concerns –

  • Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases do not charge any fees for their services and render services free of cost. They generally obtain a blank cheque from the victim which is filled in after credit of the compensation to the bank account of the victim. Victims who open bank accounts for the purpose of victim compensation are being duped by some of the lawyers who link their or their assistant’s mobile number to the account so that they can have access to all the information of the transactions in the bank account.
  • In some cases, as soon as an award of victim compensation is made by any Legal Services Authority (LSA), a statutory body to render free legal services to the impoverished all over India, the lawyer gets in touch with the victim and somehow convinces him/her to file a writ petition before the High Court to show that without such writ petition the compensation will not be disbursed by the State LSA (SLSA). Ultimately when the amount of compensation is finally disbursed by the SLSA, the lawyer takes credit and shows that it was because of his noble initiative that the victim got the relief, and in exchange claims a hefty share in the compensation.

The way forward –

To hound out the corrupt lawyers from the system at all levels is important so that justice may be truly rendered to the public.

  • First, the Supreme Court should reconsider setting up Benches in different States in keeping with the recommendations of the Law Commissions (125th Report and 229th Report).
  • Second, the Bar Council of India should exercise its powers under the Advocates Act, 1961 more effectively. If not, the disciplinary jurisdiction must be returned to the judiciary as was the position prior to the Advocates Act, 1961 by repealing the 1961 Act.
  • Third, lawyers should be made irrelevant by referring more cases to trained mediators, as the Supreme Court has done in the Ayodhya dispute.

SourceThe Hindu

Also Read: Seeking the next frontier (ASAT)

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