As per the recent reports released by various international organizations, India’s laggard social development has been outpaced by her neighbours like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Bangladesh. These reports surprisingly were released in the same year when the former Chief Justice of India (CJI) T.S. Thakur broke down at a meeting in the presence of the Prime Minister, lamenting the government’s inaction for increasing the number of judges, and said, “You cannot shift the entire burden on the judiciary.”
The judiciary is pivotal for a nation’s development, and lawyers are the guardians of democracy. India has achieved prominent success in the development of its economy, but now it is high time that it shifts its focus to the development of its social capital.
At the 37th Bhimsen Sachar Memorial Lecture on ‘Independent Judiciary: Bastion of Democracy’, former CJI Thakur remarked, “You can’t talk of democracy if you don’t have an independent judiciary.” The Indian judiciary had a backlog of 2.8 crore pending civil and criminal cases between July 2015 and June 2016. A major reason for this whopping amount of unsolved litigation is a shortage of judges.
The Supreme Court released two reports last year which underscore the need for around 15,000 more judges to normalize the situation and ease the current burden on the judiciary. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of pending cases, followed by West Bengal, Bihar, and Gujarat.
“Justice is one critical component of citizenship which cannot be neglected. Overworked judges, overburdened court staff, a chronic shortage of court space, and unending wait for justice does not complement the policies of the State,” said the reports.
Earlier this year, the Bar Council of India started a verification drive to identify the number of genuine and fake lawyers practicing in courts. Much to the dismay of the already burdened system, about 30-40 % of the practicing lawyers are bogus. This move will certainly improve the quality of the profession, but it has also created a need for more lawyers in India.
Lawyers are an alternative solution to the over-burdened courts of the country, and can provide respite by helping the plaintiff and defendant get legal advice and settle the issue out-of-court. Settling issues out-of-court is not only less time-consuming but also less expensive as compared to fighting the case in court. It cuts down the fee to be paid to the attorney, court, witnesses, etc. and saves one from unending trial dates. It also gives the involved parties more power to influence the outcome, as here they participate more actively.
Even Abraham Lincoln urged, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”
Democracy is rooted in law, and lawyers are people learned in that discipline. They dominate in a democracy because the domains of politics and law are strongly intertwined – the former requires effective legislation, and the latter is learned in that. America is a leading example where more than half of its senators have practiced law. Its former President Barack Obama himself was a Harvard Law graduate.
His cabinet had quite a few former lawyers as well.
On the other hand, a group of engineers governed China. Former President Hu Jintao – a hydraulic engineer himself – had a cabinet with many engineers. Observers see these differing patterns as a result of different visions and ideologies of both the countries. Engineers build and create, and China’s focus during Jintao’s regime was infrastructural development. Lawyers, on the other hand, are promoters and guardians of individual rights. One can see legalization of LGBTQ marriages by the Obama government as a result of that.
The World Bank has predicted that India will become the fastest growing economy in the world if it manages to maintain its annual growth rate at 7 %. However, this foretold success should deceive nobody. Economic development does not ensure overall development of the country.
According to a report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (2017), barely 1 % of Indians own 53 % of India’s wealth. Development in its true sense encompasses economic growth along with social and political progress.
India is the financially dominant power in the Indian sub-continent, but is a laggard in terms of social development. It ranks 143rd out of 180 countries by the Global Burden of Disease report (2015), 97 out of 118 countries in the Global Hunger Index (2016), and 98 out of 148 countries in the Global Social Index (2016).
In the Human Development Index (2015), India ranked 130 and falls below South Asian countries like Iran, Maldives, and Sri Lanka.
India has made tremendous success in the development of the economy and the Information and Communication sectors. It outsources the most number of engineers. In fact, India has more engineering colleges than law colleges. The mass production of engineers has contributed to the rising unemployment, or disguised unemployment, among the educated, as they have to take up jobs outside their field. We outsource the best in the field. Outsourcing undoubtedly enhances the country’s GDP but also degrades the quality of human capital.
Improvement of social capital requires the inclusion of more people in the field of social science. Lawyers are social scientists who can help in the development of society. They have historically played leading roles in bringing much-needed change to society.
Most of the Nationalist leaders of the freedom struggle were lawyers. Advocate and environmentalist M.C. Mehta is an epitome of how valuable lawyers are to the nation. Often known as ‘One Man Enviro-legal Brigade’, he has won several landmark cases, one of them being the banning of polluting industries in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal in the year 1996. His unending efforts helped include the ‘Right to a healthy environment’ in the Constitution’s Right to Life (Article 21).
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