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Responsibility of the lawyers

There can be no denying of the fact that in a democratic polity, lawyers have a very crucial role to play. More so in a country like India where historically and politically, the contribution of lawyers in the freedom struggle and in the framing of India's Constitution has been exemplary and possibly without parallel in any other part of the world. Lawyers are indispensable part of the judicial process and play a seminal role in the dispensation of justice.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 00:57 IST

There can be no denying of the fact that in a democratic polity, lawyers have a very crucial role to play. More so in a country like India where historically and politically, the contribution of lawyers in the freedom struggle and in the framing of India's Constitution has been exemplary and possibly without parallel in any other part of the world. Lawyers are indispensable part of the judicial process and play a seminal role in the dispensation of justice.

Recently, at a seminar organized by Sapru Law Institute at Allahabad, Justice Raja Ravendran of the Supreme Court of India expressed his views about the sad and unfortunate state of the legal profession in the country and felt that the legal fraternity no longer appears to enjoy the traditional respect it once used to in the society as it has not adhered to the age-old values and noble traditions in the mad rush for commercial gains and professional success. He was of the view that that the legal profession must take immediate steps to raise the standards of law practice  and restore the values and traditions which sets apart this profession from all other professions.

While Justice Ravendran's view are  still correct and are shared by most of the people, but to say that the legal profession is a no longer a noble profession or that it no longer enjoys the traditional respect of society is not fully right. True, the legal profession today is losing its credibility and is becoming very disorganized and non-professional, unlike other professions, yet, however, there is a strong inner desire amongst the majority of lawyers across the country to restore their image and to resurrect the traditional dignity attached to the legal profession.

There was a time when joining the legal profession used to scare away a lot of young men  and women because of the unusually long hours of hard work it entailed.

Once, Lord Thurlow, the Lord Chancellor of England, was approached by a lady for his advice as to whether he son should join the legal profession. His reply was 'Madam, can your son work like a horse and live like a hermit'. The hard work and long hours of work which is symptomatic of the legal profession was fully realized by Lord Reading when he thought at the time of his joining the Bar that law practice was nothing but a bed of roses, but soon thereafter, once he started law practice, he found that it was a either all roses and no bed or all bed and no roses. Thus to imagine that dispensation of justice is possible without lawyers is as absurd as proposition as to expect snow fall in Allahabad or to expect silence in disotheque.

It is not difficult to appreciate the main reasons behind the steep decline in the image  and the reputation of the legal profession. Perhaps  the singlemost important reason is the unchecked and unregulated entry of lawyers in the profession.

No filtration system of any kind exists nor is  there any Bar entrance examination or  admission test to limit or  to restrict the admission of   law graduates intending to join the Bar. No efforts have been made by the Bar Council  of India or any of the State  Bar Councils in this regard. No standard-setting activities are undertaken  by the Bar  Councils nor are any continuing  education programme or workshops organised  by them on a regular or sustained  basis.

All is not lost however. The legal profession is not in a state of decay although the downward trend of falling standards of law practice is a continuous one. Lawyers as a class of professionals have to put their own house in order. It has to be a class act.

The Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils would have to play their statutory role as responsible governing and controlling bodies to raise the entry standard and to maintain certain minimum standards of law practice. Mahatma Gandhi once said, that 'a true lawyer is one who puts truth and service above-all'. That, above, all, is the need of the hour.
(The writer is an advocate of Allahabad High Court)