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Legal Profession Feudalistic; Unwelcoming Of Women, Marginalised Communities: CJI Chandrachud Speaks About His Harvard Law Thesis & More

Padmakshi Sharma
11 Jan 2023 3:45 PM GMT
Legal Profession Feudalistic; Unwelcoming Of Women, Marginalised Communities: CJI Chandrachud Speaks About His Harvard Law Thesis & More

On 11th January 2023, the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession presented Chief Justice DY Chandrachud with the Award for Global Leadership in recognition of his lifetime of service to the legal profession in India and around the world. The program included a conversation between Chief Justice Chandrachud and Professor David B. Wilkins who is the faculty director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School.

Prof Wilkins started the conversation by bringing up CJI Chandrachud's thesis which he had written as a student of Harvard Law School. The thesis was on minority rights in India and the complex issues it raised for all parts of society. While pointing out that rights of minorities had been something that CJI Chandrachud had been vocal about even now, Prof Wilkins requested him to speak a few words on the issue of minorities.

CJI Chandrachud recalled that he studied at the Campus Law Centre of Delhi University, a law school which had a strong commitment to public law and later studied constitutional law at Harvard Law School. While remarking that the issue arose owing to notions of merit, CJI Chandrachud stated–

"The thesis begins with an analysis of philosophical approaches to affirmative action. One question which is raised is how do we think about merit? Because everytime we think of affirmative action, we think of whether it affects merit. We need to review our notions of merit. When we speak of affirmative action, we shouldn't look at it as exclusion of merit but something which fosters merit by bringing in people who have potential to discharge roles in every conceivable manner but have been excluded."

The conversation also sparked a discussion on technology and how it may reshape legal profession. CJI DY Chandrachud drew a link between technological advancements and access to justice. He started the conversation by stating–

"The real challenge is to use technology to bring a digital transformation and that involves transformation of thinking as well."

CJI Chandrachud highlighted that there existed a a positive correlation between technology and access to justice and the same could be noted in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he also underlined that it was important to realise the digital divide.

"We must ensure that noone is left behind," said the Chief Justice. Recalling the positive effects of technological advancements as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, he added–

"In traditional sense, litigants from across country have been able to participate in our proceedings. Lawyers from different backgrounds appear with ease. Supreme Court is not just for Delhi but for India. More women have also started appearing as courts are virtual."

CJI Chandrachud also spoke about the recent launch of the eSCR (Electronic Supreme Court Records). The e-SCR Project is an initiative to provide the digital version of the Supreme Court's judgments in the manner as they are reported in the official law report - 'Supreme Court Reports'. He stated that the court had made a repository of 34000 judgements to be used free of cost. He added–

"We're heading towards livestreaming. We have paperless courts, digitised court records etc. AI can be used to deploy machine learning and make judgments available in Indian languages. Technology gives us an opportunity to replace the colonial model of justice which was that citizens must reach out to justice and replace it with a model where justice services across the country."

Highlighting the role played by law schools, CJI Chandrachud stated that there was no better place than a law school to implement ideas. He said–

"Law schools present a huge learning curve to live out of their experiences and look at a much wider world and community outside. Unfortunately, legal profession has been feudalistic. It hasn't been welcoming of women, marginalized communities. Law schools, by democratising access to legal education will play a vital role in changing that...I've been asked why we don't have more women judges. Unless we change the foundational values of legal profession, we will not be able to move to an inclusive legal profession. Students today are from diverse backgrounds. I see that in my own judicial clerks."

Also read - 'Avoid Tendency To Glorify Over-Work; Mental Health Important For Lawyers' : CJI DY Chandrachud

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