New Delhi: Against the backdrop of over three crore cases pending in courts across India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday urged the lawyers and the judiciary to work together to provide speedy justice to the people.

He also said that the government is aware of its responsibilities in working with the judiciary and other stakeholders to build a "strong and effective" justice delivery system.

"It is of critical importance that the bench and the bar work together in ensuring the rule of law in our country and in furthering our Constitutional objectives.

"Unless this happens, we cannot succeed substantially in providing speedy and affordable justice to millions of our countrymen, especially those who belong to the poor and weaker sections of our society," he said.

The Prime Minister was addressing the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Bar Council of India here in the presence of Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar.

Singh said several challenges have to be overcome and many bottlenecks have to be removed before the objective is achieved.

"An obvious area of concern is the large number of cases pending in courts especially in trial courts. I would urge the whole of the legal fraternity to pool their knowledge, wisdom and experience to find ways and means to tackle this problem," he said.

Referring to the expanding Indian economy and its integration with the global economy, Singh urged the legal fraternity to brace itself to face new challenges in the form of cases with international dimensions.

"Our legal luminaries require a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of an interdependent and global economy. The emergence of a multilateral legal and judicial architecture, having a bearing on the domestic laws of the country and vice versa, necessitates an in-depth understanding of the principles of public and private international laws," he said.

He said with globalization, there are new types of cases that lawyers have to deal with in the area of conflict resolution.

"I would urge all members of the Bar to equip themselves with the expertise necessary to handle all these new types of cases in emerging areas," the Prime Minister said.

Highest standards of probity needed: Law Minister

Asking lawyers to maintain highest standards of ethics and probity, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said concerns expressed on falling standards of the legal profession cannot be brushed aside and require remedial action.

He also asked the lawyers to be vigilant against oppressive interpretation and application of law and use it to promote the concept of justice for all.

"Concerns have been voiced about the falling ethical and professional standards. These concerns cannot be brushed aside and deserve our thoughtful consideration...It is necessary to question ourselves whether the profession as we recognise it today stands exiled from its earlier position as custodian of the social conscience," Kumar said.

Falling standards of legal profession a major concern: CJI

Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir expressed concern over the falling standards of the legal profession and said the weaknesses in it need to be rectified.

"Look at the standards that we have set for ourselves. How far have we been able to maintain them? How far have we been able to maintain during the fifty years these standards, these values? There are many reasons for the falling standards," the CJI said at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Bar Council of India (BCI).

"Lawyers are sometimes not fully and adequately ready during matters of the court and these are weaknesses that need to be rectified. Etiquettes and manners can make a world of difference," he said.

Kabir said there was need to adopt the model of primary health centres to reach the doorstep of villagers for providing them with justice and asked the BCI and State Bar Councils to increase awareness among the rural masses.

"There is need to work towards setting up legal aid centres in the rural and outlying areas on the lines of primary health centres. These centres would not only increase awareness among the people, but would also provide them with means for dispute resolution through mediation and lokadalats," he said.

Need to recognize diversity of bar:Attorney General

Speaking on the occasion, Attorney General G E Vahanvati said there was a need to do away with distinction made between lawyers of the trial court and higher courts in designating them as senior advocates.

"We have to recognise the diversity of the Bar. Though the Advocates Act provides for designation of senior advocates, this distinction appears to be reserved only for those who practice in the higher judiciary. Section 16 of the the Act which provides for designation of senior advocates does not make any such distinction.

"Why is it then that it has not been thought necessary to acknowledge the contribution of outstanding lawyers of the district courts who are equally good if not better and equally thorough and equally respected as those given the distinction of senior advocates," Vahanvati said.


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