Editorial Simplified: Ensuring Access to Justice| GS – II

Relevance :  GS Paper  II

Theme of the Article

The Supreme Court must set up more Benches, and disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers must go back to the judiciary.

Aim of the Justice System

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.

Article 130 of the Constitution

  • The Central government had proposed that the Supreme Court should sit in other places in the country under Article 130 of the Constitution.
  • Article 130 of the Constitution says that the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may,with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.

Should Supreme Court sit in other places as well?

  • It is feared that the authority of the Supreme Court would get diluted. However, this notion is fallacious.
  • Many High Courts in this country have different Benches for meting out justice.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.

Negative Consequences of Supreme Court sitting only in Delhi

  • 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 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 lawyers

  • The fault in actually denying access to justice to citizens is the fault of unethical lawyers.
  • Lawyers are the middle-men between judges and the litigating public, they act like dishonest brokers.
  • Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases take huge money as a percentage of compensation amount awarded towards victim compensation. Such a practice is frustrating the whole purpose of victim compensation.
  • More than 70% of the delays in the disposal of cases are attributable to lawyers, a major reason being sometimes unjust pleas for adjournments.
  • Unfortunately the disciplinary powers available to Bar Councils both in Delhi and in States are more often than not ineffective. Some are politically motivated and some States do not have disciplinary committees at all.

The way forward

  • 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.