Research Foundation for Governance
कार्यम सर्व हिताय

Articles > Enough Exploitation

Of the three pillars of a democratic Government (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), Judiciary plays a very prominent role in India. Decisions of the Supreme Court have tremendous impact on the way India is governed. Disillusioned by the Executive and the Legislature, Indian public is left with only the Judiciary to look to for fairness in governance.

Our judges, with the help of judicial activism, have often changed the direction of how things work in our country. However, the profession of justice-delivery has a lot to live up to and therefore, how and from where we appoint our judges becomes crucial.

I have been fortunate to be part of this profession and to look at it from very close quarters. As far as the High Court is concerned, it is mainly through the profession of litigation, that judges come to be appointed. The judges of the Supreme Court are those who attain seniority at the High Court level.

Consequently, it becomes imperative that only the finest and the most committed individuals are encouraged to enter the profession of litigation. Through my experience of working as an advocate at the Gujarat High Court, I have come to realise that litigation is one of the most demanding professions – in terms of time commitment, intellectual alertness required as well as the impact it creates in the lives of the citizens of the country.

At present, when a new-comer joins the profession, he/she is required to work under an established lawyer as a “junior” lawyer. These junior-lawyers are paid extremely meagerly around Rs. 2000-5000 per month as stipend (at the High-Court level). On the other hand, many established lawyers, in fact, charge around Rs. 2-5 lacs per appearance! Ironically, the juniors, who work very hard get very little recognition or respect.

It is believed that the new-comer does not possess the required skills to fight cases independently. It is also considered difficult for him/her to attract clients or cases to work on. It requires great courage to enter litigation without help or supportive background, since the present system entails uncertainty of future and sometimes, compromising on ethics to work as a lawyer. There are very few who are ready to embrace such bravery. In the end, either children of established lawyers/judges or those who did not succeed in obtaining a more lucrative job elsewhere, join litigation.

The reality is, that many struggling lawyers have to resort to means such as commissions for getting cases for senior lawyers, helping clients liaison with appropriate agencies, or sometimes even unethical ways to secure their living. Many lawyers also rely on alternative ways of income generation as well, such the stock-markets! The desire to further the cause of justice for the clients remains a far-fetched dream – it is merely seen as an end in itself.

What remains, ultimately, in the hands of such lawyers, struggling for survival is the fate – the fate of the millions crying for ‘justice’; the fate of equity and fairness and the fate of the judicial systems of our country.

Sadly, the common perception about underpaying the juniors remains unchanged. Many successful lawyers still feel that it is their privilege to ‘train/provide a learning’ to the junior lawyers. Some say, the existing juniors are lucky. According to them, years ago, it was the other way round – the juniors used to offer an honorarium to the senior for the training imparted!

Nevertheless, there are no fixed standards, rules or guidelines laid down regarding the training to be imparted to the junior-lawyers. Even the working conditions for most junior lawyers remain appalling. Apart from having meager pay, the hours and conditions in which they have to work sometimes, calls for serious consideration. At some of the offices, they are not even allowed to touch the case-files or literally expected to do a peon’s work (e.g., lifting the files, escort the lawyers from one court to another etc.).

On the other hand, the corporate world is ready to welcome these young graduates with open arms and handsome pay-packages. This creates a very serious imbalance against the profession of litigation. Young law graduates, in spite of being extremely interested in arguing law, get compelled to sacrifice their dreams and take up other jobs in order to ensure a secure life for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the talents of the graduates of five-year law schools, who show their liking towards arguing law by participating and excelling at national and international level Moot-Court competitions gets confined only to the corporate law offices.

The current system has created a clique of lawyers, judges and other stakeholders, who have developed serious vested interests in the way justice is being imparted. Churning out of promising and idealistic advocates has almost become negligible – and this can prove to be a very dangerous phenomenon for the governance of our country as well as for the millions of citizens of India, whose only hope rests with the Judiciary.

There is a saying in Gujarati, 'jo kuvama hoy to havada ma aave' (if there is enough water in the well, only then can a barrel fetch it). If good students do not join litigation, ultimately the pool to select good judges becomes extremely limited, which impacts the entire country very adversely.

In the interest of all those Indians crying for justice and also in order to mature the justice-delivery system in India, it is crucial that the practice of litigation becomes attractive for the well-educated bright youngsters of our country. For that, proper incentives such as better pay, better working-conditions, structured process of training and ultimately, more respect by the senior lawyers and judges should be provided. It becomes an onus for the litigating fraternity to create young role-models who can encourage a large pool of youngsters whose talents do not remain restricted only within the boundaries of Moot-Court competitions.


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