[op-ed snap]Ensuring access to justice

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basic knowledge of the issues in Judiciary

Mains level : The news-card analyses the issues relating to the single bench of Supreme Court and lawyers fooling people and how to correct this malpractice.


CONTEXT

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).

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.
  • The reason judges decided against it was because we felt that the authority of the Supreme Court would get diluted.

Problem with this reasoning

  • Many High Courts in this country have different Benches for meting out justice without ‘justice’ being ‘diluted’.
  • For example, the Bombay High Court has four Benches — in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji (Goa) — and the quality of its decisions or status have certainly not been diluted thereby.

The logic behind the number of benches

  • The number of Benches depends on the size of the State,
  • the idea being to facilitate easier access to justice.

Consequences of single Bench

1.Quality Of Lawyers

  • 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 — sometimes even when they do not appear at the hearing.
  • This is also true of litigating lawyers at all levels of the judicial system.

2.Reducing to District Court Level

  • 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.

Lawyers fooling people

  • 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.
  • Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases thus take huge money as a percentage of compensation amount awarded towards victim compensation.
  • This is illegal, being a champertous agreement.
  • Incidentally, according to a study carried out by a research organisation, Vidhi, in the Delhi High Court, more than 70% of the delays in the disposal of cases are attributable to lawyers, a major reason being sometimes unjust pleas for adjournments.

Way Forward

  • To hound out the corrupt lawyers from the system at all levels 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.

 

Judiciary Institutional Issues
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