Nagpur: Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde said on Saturday that high legal costs block access to justice, and added that lawyers might have to see their role as mediators and not only as “professional men paid to argue”. He also stated that “we need to introduce pre- litigation mediation”. Justice Bobde, who hails from Nagpur and who was elevated to the top judicial post in the country recently, was felicitated by former CJI RM Lodha at a function organised by the High Court Bar Association.
“There are many things which we need to improve, one is access to justice….after my taking oath, one question frequently journalists asked me was what are you going to do about the fees which lawyers charge,” Justice Bobde said. “I told them frankly we have nothing to do about what they charge….The President of India also mentioned in Jodhpur… that the cost of justice has become prohibitive. “Obviously, no one has grievance about someone making lot of money. But please understand that when it happens in courts, it somehow blocks access to justice and that is a serious defect,” the CJI said.
“The lawyers might have to shake off their old traditional approach and not simply be viewed as providers of legal services or professional men paid to argue for their clients,” he said.
“I don’t know how it will turn out, but we need to introduce pre-litigation mediation….I don’t believe it will in anyway reduce earnings at the bar,” he said. Justice Bobde also stressed the need for lawyers to look after their mental health
“Let me draw your attention to an issue which I think is of immense importance. In my career on both sides of the bench, I have witnessed continuing rise in the demand and pressures that law as a profession and career imposes on its practitioners,” he said. “Such demanding lifestyles often have grave consequences on the health of an individual….very little attention is being paid to mental health,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there is enormous social stigma, shame and fear attached to mental health….as people who use our minds so often, (our) psychological well-being is as crucial as physical health,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, former CJI Lodha praised Justice Bobde’s reaction on the death of four accused in the Hyderabad rape-murder case in an alleged police encounter. Citing Justice Bobde’s comment that “justice cannot be instant, justice loses its character if it becomes revenge”, he said, “We are proud of you CJI as your words are seen as balm when the character of justice is impaired.”