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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

longed for.”

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.

Legal Aid

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

Social Standing

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


Attorneys in India