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Lawyers Should Follow Bapu's Advice To Do Pro Bono Work : President Ram Nath Kovind

Mehal Jain
3 Oct 2021 3:24 AM GMT
Lawyers Should Follow Bapus Advice To Do Pro Bono Work : President Ram Nath Kovind
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Gandhiji preferred out-of-court settlements over litigation and followed this approach throughout his legal practice of two decades, he said.

"Senior lawyers should earmark a certain part of their time to provide pro bono services to the people from the weaker section", expressed President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday.He was speaking at the launch of NALSA's pan-India Awareness and Outreach Campaign at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi."Gandhiji had a flourishing practice but he did a lot of pro bono work to help the poor. He said, 'A...

"Senior lawyers should earmark a certain part of their time to provide pro bono services to the people from the weaker section", expressed President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday.

He was speaking at the launch of NALSA's pan-India Awareness and Outreach Campaign at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

"Gandhiji had a flourishing practice but he did a lot of pro bono work to help the poor. He said, 'A true lawyer is one who places truth and service in first place and emoluments of the profession in next place only'. The labourers in South Africa looked up to Gandhiji to take up their cause with the authorities and in the courts. He helped them without charging any fee. After coming back to India and watching lawyers earning at the cost of poor litigants, he said that 'the best legal talent must be available to the poorest at reasonable rates'. I feel that this advice of Bapu should be followed by the legal fraternity, especially designated senior advocates in the Supreme Court and the High Court. They should earmark a certain part of their time to provide pro bono services to the people from the weaker section", he said.

The President reminisced that in suggesting this, he had in mind eminent lawyers like Ashoke Sen, former Union law minister, who inspired him to provide pro bono services- "I wish more and more lawyers follow his passion for the pursuit of justice for everyone."

The President voiced that he expects legal services authorities to make special efforts to disseminate awareness about rights among citizens of socially and economically backward sections, noting that the lack of awareness hampers the implementation of welfare policies formulated by the State as the actual beneficiaries remain unaware of their entitlements. He suggested that law colleges should adopt villages for providing legal services, and that project reports of the rural conditions should be part of the curriculum.

Noting that there are 11,000 women lawyers amongst the panel advocates at the district level and about 17,000 female paralegals out of the total of 44,000, the President remarked, "I have been told that NALSA is making efforts to be more inclusive in engaging advocates and paralegal volunteers. Our aim is to graduate from women development to women-led development as a country. Therefore, increasing the number of women in national legal services institutions is as important as reaching out to the largest number of women beneficiaries"

The President narrated an anecdote from the days of Mahatma Gandhi's practice in South Africa- "In his first major case, he suggested a compromise out of court. The parties agreed on an arbitrator who heard the case and decided in favour of Gandhiji's client. This resulted in a heavy financial burden on the other party. Gandhiji convinced his own client to permit the losing party to make payment in easy instalments over a very extended period. And this happened 125 years ago in South Africa. Consequently, both the parties felt relieved by that settlement. Prior to the settlement, the cost of litigation was harming both parties. That experience reinforced Gandhiji's opinion that out-of-court settlements were preferable to litigation. He followed this approach throughout his legal practice of two decades."

The President expressed that our freedom struggle was led by many great lawyers who also strived to make our society more progressive. They envisioned a society based on justice, equality, liberty and fraternity which have been enshrined in our Constitution. "A lot of work remains to be done to reach the destination identified by our founding fathers", he said.

"This noble initiative of taking justice to the doorsteps of people is much needed. Instead of thinking of themselves as generous providers of legal aid, members of legal service institutions should operate from the mindset of dutiful providers. Since our independence, we started moving forward from the idea of judicial aristocracy to judicial democracy. NALSA has been playing an important role since its system became operational 25 years ago. I have been informed that during the previous 2 years, more than 1 crore 11 lakh pending pre-litigation cases have been disposed of by Lok Adalats. Such disposal reduces the burden on the judicial system. The structure of legal services institutions provides support to our judicial architecture and strengthens it at national, state, district and sub-division levels. This support and strength are critical in serving a large number of vulnerable people. I am pleased to note that NALSA's action plan includes awareness related material in vernacular languages. Vernacular languages make justice more accessible to ordinary people. I appreciate the recent initiative by NALSA of providing a legal services mobile application. I am also happy to note that legal services institutions responded to the COVID crisis with remarkable dedication. They helped people, especially women, senior citizens, daily wage earners and migrant labourers", expressed the President.


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