Special column by Ved Prakash Sharma, Co-Chairman, Bar Council of India
In seventy-five years of Independence, how much justice we have been able to do to the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters and to their dreams, is a matter of introspection, soul searching, and heart-searching.
My dear friend and colleague in the Bar, Mr. BK Pal, asked me this morning to write a few words about lawyers and the judiciary in the wake of Independence day celebrations.
Having spent a fairly long time in the legal profession, I deem it relevant to write something about the Independence of the Bar and the Judiciary, which are so important to strengthen the Rule of Law which is the bedrock of our constitutional system.
As students of law, and, as custodians of fundamental rights and civil liberties which every lawyer is expected to be, we have been taught about the significance of Independence of the Bar, and, the independence of the Judiciary.
In reality, I have noted a constant fall in the standard and level of commitment of the Bar and Bench, both, in the matter of upholding the prestige and dignity of these two great institutions on which hinges the hopes of millions of justice seekers.
Do we have a Bar that is independent? Yes, it looks independent and powerful in the matter of declaring strikes and suspension of work and charging hefty fes, particularly at the level of HCs and SCs, so much so, that an ordinary litigant cannot even dare to enter the chambers of this elite section of the Bar. We belong to a noble profession. We are supposed to be noble because our profession enables us not only to make private gains in the matter of earnings but, also to do public service. Unfortunately, a good section of our fraternity is increasingly falling prey to the greed of making more and more money, subserving the interest, not of the society in general, but, of their political masters, pursuing cast and communal agendas, and placate judges.
Are all lawyers practicing at the taluka, tehsil, and district levels getting a better deal to empower them to discharge the pious function of participating in the justice dispensation? Why are they kept deprived of basic facilities like libraries, chambers, and better working conditions? 75% of lawyers in the country work in the district and small town courts. Likewise, 75% of total litigation in our country is pending in trial courts. How do we expect these lawyers to do justice to their professional duties? What is the meaning of independence of the Bar for the overwhelming majority of lawyers in our country?
Can we say that the judiciary is independent? How can we ?, when we find that judges of district judiciary think that they can’t get a better deal in service and brighten their elevation prospects unless they have a godfather among High Court judges, and when we find HC judges on a search for a god father among SC judges to pave their way as SC judges, and HC/ SC judges on the lookout for a godfather in the political establishment to find a suitable post retirement assignment !!
We have at least three dozen statutory bodies where, as per the mandate of law, The chairperson or member of such bodies is to be a retired SC/HC Chief Justice or judge. Can we have independence of the judiciary, given the above scenario ?
For the Rule of Law to prevail, we do need to have independence of the Bar and Judiciary, both, but, I am afraid, we are moving forward in the opposite direction which is neither good for the Bar, the Bench, nor the Rule of Law to uphold which, we keep on giving lectures, sermons, without realizing the situation on the ground.
(Adv. Ved Prakash Sharma got elected to the Bar Council of India in 2018 and became its Co-chairman in 2019, in which position he presently continues.)