26 Sep 2023 3:02 AM GMT
Supreme Court Judge, Justice Dipankar Datta while speaking at the International Lawyers’ Conference 2023, inter-alia, talked about access to equal opportunities. He also asserted that it is the responsibility of the legal fraternity to ensure that the legal profession remains inclusive and sustainable for all. He stated:“It is astounding how the spectrum of opportunities and...
Supreme Court Judge, Justice Dipankar Datta while speaking at the International Lawyers’ Conference 2023, inter-alia, talked about access to equal opportunities. He also asserted that it is the responsibility of the legal fraternity to ensure that the legal profession remains inclusive and sustainable for all.
“It is astounding how the spectrum of opportunities and their accompanying problems vary from court to court and city to city. The Indian legal professional is not alone in this dilemma, I am all but certain that these issues do not exist in isolation for India but form a part of a larger social reality, affecting the world in their respective ways. Exclusion, within the legal profession, exists in spheres of gender, caste, ethnicity, sexual orientation, financial capabilities, disabilities and several other intersecting ones.”
The theme of the conference was Equal Opportunity in Building a Sustainable Legal Profession: Way Forward and the same hosted by the Bar Council of India.
Justice Datta stressed the importance of the Bar as well as the Bench in achieving justice and how people having a legal grievance repose their trust and confidence in the judiciary. He elaborated the same by saying that the legal profession is considered one of the most important components of the justice delivery system.
“The rich and the poor, the influential and the insignificant, strong and the disabled all turn to the members of the legal profession in a time of crises to suitability guide and assist them to achieve enforcement of their rights.”
Talking about equal opportunity, Justice Datta said that the same is not just a moral imperative but it is a legal one as well. Equal opportunity in building a sustainable legal profession is thus a necessity rather than an aspirational goal. The way forward to the same is, in-alia, inclusivity. He went on to say how India has seen the process of transformative constitutionalism, also called the rights revolution, whereby the Supreme Court has steadily turned human needs into human rights.
Imperatively, he illustrated the same by telling about the 108th constitutional amendment bill which reserves one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies to be reserved for women. Calling this a water-shed moment he said that this is a step forward in untying the long-tied shackle of gender discrimination and justice.
He said that we as members of the legal fraternity too should introspect within and bring necessary changes to undo the longstanding prejudices against our daughters. To make this profession more inclusive, judges, advocates and other stakeholders should endeavour to leave this profession in a better shape and more representative than what we found in our times.
“When it comes to the equal representation of women, the legal profession, in its entirety, has been underrepresented.”
Moving forward, he talked about the second point towards access to equal opportunity, i.e., to eliminate bias. The first step, he said, is to acknowledge that bias exists within the profession. It can take many forms, from implicit biases to overt biases in workplaces. “To this end, SC has released a handbook for combating gender stereotypes.”
Thirdly, is to provide adequate support for work-life balance. “The legal profession is notorious for its demanding hours. To attract and retain diverse talent, appropriate support for work-life balance ought to be provided including flexible schedules and leave policies. Unless thought of and provided, lawyers burning themselves out quite early, a phenomenon that many of us have witnessed, will continue.”
He further emphasised that rigour of this profession demands that the mental health of the advocates should be addressed and in this sphere bar council have a significant role to play to advance the interest of the bar.
Fourthly, is legal education and outreach. In this, he talked about how legal education institutions play a crucial role in shaping the future and that they should prioritise diversity and inclusivity in their curriculum and promote outreach programs to encourage underrepresented groups to pursue legal careers.
By the end of his address, he talked about the importance of hard work. He stated that this is specifically for the younger generation. The single most important step for a young professional and there is no substitute. The legal profession is fiercely competitive and one can excel by utter dedication and hard-work. One needs to have grit, and perseverance and must be prepared to sacrifice anything. He calls this as GPS. One must not miss the opportunity and must have alacrity to grab any opportunity that comes our way. He advised that in formative years, one must only focus on the bird’s eye, as Arjun in Mahabharat did. “Do not look here and there, you could find your peers galloping ahead, let them be ahead of you but remain focus on your job, accept the way your career progresses and create your own identity.”
He lamented about the decreasing trend of service element and the increasing trend of commercialisation of legal profession which is worrisome. At this, he averred that it is the duty of the Bar Council to ensure the ethical standards of the legal profession.
“Let us be the architect of change within the legal profession. Let us build a sustainable and inclusive legal profession that stands as a beacon of justice for generations to come. The road ahead may be challenging but the destination I worth every effort.”
Video of the event can be watched here.
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