Legal aid to poor does not mean poor legal aid: Justice Lalit

New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) Legal aid to the poor does not mean poor legal aid and the members of the Bar, the leaders at the Bar, those who are established senior advocates, must render pro bono services, said Justice U.U. Lalit of the Supreme Court while delivering the Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer Memorial Lecture on the theme ‘Constitutionalism, Rule of Law & Access to Justice.
 
Legal aid to poor does not mean poor legal aid: Justice Lalit

New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) Legal aid to the poor does not mean poor legal aid and the members of the Bar, the leaders at the Bar, those who are established senior advocates, must render pro bono services, said Justice U.U. Lalit of the Supreme Court while delivering the Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer Memorial Lecture on the theme ‘Constitutionalism, Rule of Law & Access to Justice.

The lecture was also marked by the presentation of award to Jindal Global Law School for being ranked 70th globally and first in India for the third time in a row.

The Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) of O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) has once again retained the No.1 position in India while its global ranking this year improved to 70th, a jump of six places from 2021, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject (Law) 2022 released recently.

"Do we really have legal aid programmes which satisfy what Justice Iyer had thought of? Day in and day out what we find is an empty ritualistic kind of approach which is exhibited by those who are given the charge and briefs to appear in legal aid issues. We as judges, who man the process, we are only facilitators, we can lay down laws, we can engage the services.

"The final dispensation of legal aid in court is only through lawyers. What we find is, in India, court based litigation legal aid is just about 5 per cent of all the matters. If 60 per cent of our population is below the poverty line, that percentage doesn't match with reality. Where have the 55 other per cent people gone," Justice Lalit asked.

Highlighting and bringing forth the significant role of legal education and law schools in the context of India, Dr. C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University, said, "Legal education bears the foundation for building the new generation of lawyers who are going to shape the future of legal education and legal profession. We simply cannot address the challenges of access to justice and also focus on dispute resolution mechanisms that can instil faith among the people on protecting the rule of law unless and until we are able to train law students who end up becoming law graduates and become lawyers and judges and that's why we need to focus on legal education.

"The third aspect why we need to focus on legal education is that law as we know is a dynamic social institution, it requires constant evolution, re-examination, reinterpretation and examine its impact on life itself. The journey of law is not about logic but experience. It means that we need to constantly evolve when it comes to legal interpretation.

"One of the ways by which this has happened is the work of academic scholars, researchers and those who are involved in publishing serious articles and have an impact with their work. Unfortunately, a good part of Indian legal academia, has not contributed sufficiently towards advancing this aspect of legal education. At best, the leading Indian law schools are reasonably good when it comes to teaching, but largely mediocre when it comes to research. At worst, they do both teaching and research in a mediocre manner.

"There are numerous data banks that will talk about the fact that there are 1,700 law schools in India, nearly 13 national law schools, all of them having huge challenges when it comes to ensuring academic excellence. Paying tribute to Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar said, "This lecture is a tribute to an extraordinary man who till his death remained committed to the idea of the rule of law and also to be deeply sensitised about access to justice."

Presenting the QS World University Rankings award to Jindal Global Law School, Dr. Ashwin Fernandes, Regional Director, Middle East, Africa and South Asia, QS Quacquarelli Symonds, said, "Today we are here to celebrate a great milestone by the Jindal Global Law School of the O.P. Jindal Global University, which has been ranked 70th amongst the best law schools in the world. Not just that, it is ranked No.1 in India and to add on it jumped six places from its global position of 76th to 70th this year, as well as ranked 6th in the BRICs economies and 12th across the whole of Asia."

On receiving the award, Dr. C. Raj Kumar said, "I want to thank our Founding Chancellor and benefactor Mr. Naveen Jindal for not only making a contribution to build this university philanthropically but also committing himself to ensure there is academic freedom, autonomy, independence which are so critical for development of the institution."

Giving the vote of thanks, Professor Dabiru Sridhar Patnaik, Registrar, O.P. Jindal Global University, said, "Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer has been a great friend and a mentor to the University and supported the initiative since the very beginning. In a short span of time, O.P. Jindal Global University has achieved many milestones and there are many more to come. And we will continue to provide world class education benchmarking with the best in the world faculty, education, research, collaboration."

--IANS

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