Poor quality of legal education worrying, says justice Ramana

By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Apr 05, 2021 01:00 AM IST

According to the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), the total number of pending cases in the subordinate judiciary (courts below the level of the high court) was 37.2 million at the end of January 2021.

Chief Justice of India (CJI)-designate NV Ramana said on Sunday that poor quality of legal education, along with other issues, was to be blamed for staggering pendency of cases across courts in the country.

Chief Justice of India (CJI)-designate NV Ramana.
Chief Justice of India (CJI)-designate NV Ramana.

“There are many substandard colleges in the country, which is a very worrying trend... One of the consequences of the poor quality of legal education in the country is the exploding pendency in the country. There are nearly 3.8 crore cases pending in all the courts in India despite the large number of advocates in the country,” said justice Ramana, as he addressed the convocation ceremony of Andhra Pradesh-based Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University.

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According to the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), the total number of pending cases in the subordinate judiciary (courts below the level of the high court) was 37.2 million at the end of January 2021. More than 4 million cases were pending in high courts at that time. As on March 1 this year, the Supreme Court had over 66,000 pending cases.

The issue was also flagged by government think-tank Niti Aayog. In its 2018 strategy paper, titled “New India @75”, the body underscored that at the current rate of disposal of cases by courts, it would take more than 324 years to clear the backlog. The total number of cases pending at the time was 29 million.

Delivering his address virtually, justice Ramana pointed out that although around 150,000 students graduate from law colleges every year, but less than 25% of them are actually ready for the profession.

“This is in no way a comment on the graduates themselves, who certainly possess the required attributes to be successful lawyers. Rather, it is a comment on the large number of substandard legal educational institutions in the country, which are colleges merely in name,” he said, adding that the judiciary was also making efforts to improve the situation.

Justice Ramana said that legal graduates should be made to understand from the very beginning about the true duty of a lawyer, which was to unite people. He also said they should get practical experience through association with lok adalats, legal aid centres, and arbitration and mediation centres during their studies.

“Lawyers can play an important role in reducing the pendency by advising their clients to settle their disputes at the pre-litigation stage itself. They should also give proper advice to their clients as to how to pursue their legal claims without abusing the process. They must keep in mind not only their duty to their clients, but also their duty to the courts, to society and to the law,” he emphasised.

Imploring graduates to act as “the conscience bearers of the nation”, justice Ramana said that they had a duty to render voice to the voiceless and make contributions to society.

He also lamented that the education system was currently not equipped to build the character of the students, or to develop social consciousness and responsibility.

“Students are often caught in the rat race. All of us should therefore make a collective effort to revamp the educational system to ensure that students can have the right outlook to their career and life outside,” said justice Ramana.

On March 24, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde designated the second most senior judge, justice Ramana, as his successor. Justice Bobde retires on April 23 and justice Ramana will become the 48th CJI the next day. He will serve till August 26, 2022.

Manan Kumar Mishra, senior advocate and Bar Council of India chairman, told HT: “The BCI is taking all possible steps and we now have an advisory committee to prescribe standards of legal education. This committee, incidentally, is headed by justice Ramana.”

Mishra added that BCI has also imposed a three-year moratorium in August 2019 for opening of new law colleges as a measure to stop mushrooming of institutions without adequate infrastructure and proper academics.

“You must have good law teachers too if you want good lawyers. Be it affiliation of law colleges or having competent teachers, universities have the first and foremost responsibility. BCI’s role is limited to giving approvals once universities grant affiliation. But we are still taking utmost steps to ensure improvement of quality of legal education,” said Mishra.

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