1. 800. 973.1177
Attorneys in India [by Payal Popat] This week, we take a break from the usual U.S. court system to focus on the international scene. Indian attorney Payal Popat reviews that country’s legal system, which offers some fascinating comparisons and contrasts to the U.S. courts. Look for even more international articles this summer, as LawCrossing explores the ever-growing possibilities of U.S. attorneys practicing overseas.
Most people in India still view the legal
the ﬁeld of law are common problems.
play crucial roles in upholding the principles
• Special Leave to Appeal Thus, an appeal shall go to the Supreme
profession as one where integrity and ethics The Judicial System in India
Court from any judgment, decree, or ﬁnal order of a state judiciary court whether in
of liberty and justice. The judicial system as we know it today was introduced by the Brit-
Unlike the U.S., India has a parliamentary
civil, criminal, or other proceedings and if the
ish during their four-century-long rule over
form of government that is regulated by Rule
High Court certiﬁes that the case involves a
the country. It replaced the age-old feudal
of Law as set forth in the Constitution. The
substantial question of law.
system of having landlords and royalty decid-
judicial system attempts to provide social, The State Judiciary
ing disputes. In the early days of British rule,
economic, and political justice to all citizens.
the legal profession was not given attention
However, like the U.S., there is a division of
and was not well organized. A Supreme Court
power between the union (federal) and state.
The State Judiciary consists of a High Court
was established only in the late eighteenth
“The judiciary was an arm of the social revo-
and a system of lower courts. There is a High
century. For a long time, “the natives” were
lution, upholding the equality that Indians had
Court in each state of India. The High Court
not allowed to be “barristers,” as lawyers
stands at the head of the judiciary in the states. Every High Court consists of a Chief
were called then. Only British barristers were eligible for practice.
The Union Judiciary
Justice and such other judges as the Presi-
Post-independence, The Indian Bar Commit-
The Union Judiciary consists of a single Su-
are various kinds of district courts subordi-
tee was established under the Chairman-
preme Court located in New Delhi, the capital
nate to the High Court.
ship of Justice S. R. Das. It recommended a
of the country. It is the ﬁnal interpreter and
common role for Advocates, who would be
guardian of the Indian Constitution. The
authorized to practice in all Courts across
Supreme Court is also the guardian of Funda-
the country. Finally, in 1961, the present
mental Rights and has often been called upon
Tribunals are administrative bodies set up
Advocates Bill was passed. Today, lawyers as
to safeguard minority rights. It consists of
solely for the purpose of discharging quasi-
a group play an important role in administra-
a Chief Justice and other judges. The total
judicial functions pertaining to administra-
tion of justice. Advocacy is viewed as career
number of judges at present is 26, including
tive, industrial, tax, employment, foreign
taken up by people who want to serve society.
the Chief Justice. Judges of The Supreme
exchange, and other areas of law.
Lord Macmillan, once said, “No other profes-
Court and the Chief Justice are appointed by
sion touches human life at so many aspects
the President of India.
dent may appoint from time to time. There
as the legal profession does.” The appellate jurisdiction of The Supreme
Poverty is widespread in India, especially
Lawyers are considered to be guardians of
Court can be divided into four major catego-
in its rural heartland. Over the years, the
the two pillars of democracy: liberty and
traditional legal system has failed the poor, and they have lost conﬁdence in the judi-
justice. However, the high morals that once regulated this profession are slowly being
• Constitutional Matters
eroded. An overall fall in social standards is to a great extent responsible for the current
of society easy access to justice, the Legal • Civil Matters
defects in the system. Delayed justice, huge backlogs, and non-availability of experts in
ciary. In order to allow this deprived section Service Authority Act has been created. The courts, or legal aid clinics, set up under this
• Criminal Matters
act, in local parlance, are called Lok Adalats.
continued on back
1.800. 973. 1177
Under the Act, legal literacy and training
should be something that people feel proud
camps for paralegals have also been set up.
Equality before law is meaningless unless all inequalities are made equal. The Lok Adalats
have signiﬁcantly contributed towards providing quick, fair, and free justice to many.
The Indian legal system is somewhat different than its U.S. counterpart. The most
signiﬁcant difference is there is no jury system. Verdicts are handed down by a quali-
In India, lawyers have a special standing in
ﬁed judge. Also, in India, lawyers are required
society. They get respect from everyone they
to wear a uniform consisting of a white and
come into contact with. This includes clients,
black dress. When they plead a case in court,
witnesses, opponents, colleagues, the public
a black overcoat is a must. In contrast, in the
in general, and most important, the courts.
U.S., there is no such uniform system. Fur-
Advocacy is not a business, but a profes-
ther, in comparison, the Indian legal system
sion. The public looks upon advocates as
is slow and opaque. The rich and inﬂuen-
the guardians of order, justice, and liberty.
tial more often than not can get away with
Lawyers are ofﬁcers of the court and have a
murder-literally. Delayed justice, which is
sworn duty towards it. They assist the court in
very common in India, is no justice. However,
arriving at a correct judgment. The Honor-
as with other governmental systems in the
able Justice P. N. Sapru has stated that the
country, the legal system is slowly becoming
justiﬁcation for the existence of counsel is
more transparent. Finally, there are a few
that each side to the controversy should have
upstanding professionals that provide hope
the capacity to present its case before an
for the future.
impartial tribunal in the best and most effective manner possible. Lawyers are a bridge between the public and the court. The law is called upon to balance conﬂicting interests in society. The Flip Side There are two sides to every coin, and the profession of law is no exception. Often enough, the client is interested only in winning the case, the court is interested in disposal of the same as quickly as possible, and the lawyer is interested only in making money. The legal profession is considered a profession of great honor. Its goal is the greater public good, rather than private gain. It is not a moneymaking occupation. Thus, the attorneys should adhere to the code of professional ethics and avoid professional misconduct. The Supreme Court has observed that the legal profession partners with the judiciary in the administration of justice. Thus, the standing of lawyers in the society is based upon how the lawyers function, and it