Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde said on Saturday that high legal costs block access to justice for common people. He added that lawyers might have to see their role as mediators and not only as "professional men paid to argue". The CJI called for the need to introduce pre-litigation mediation. Justice Bobde was addressing lawyers at a function organised by the High Court Bar Association in Nagpur.
"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 a grievance about someone making a lot of money. But please understand that when it happens in courts, it somehow blocks access to justice and that is a serious defect," CJI Bobde 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," CJI Bobde said. He added that the introduction of pre-litigation mediation will not reduce earnings at the bar. CJI Bobde hails from Nagpur and was elevated to the top judicial post in the country in November after his predecessor Justice Ranjan Gogoi retired.
CJI Bobde also highlighted the issue of the demanding nature of judicial work and the consequences it has on the mental health of people in the profession. He called for greater attention on the same. "Unfortunately, there is an 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," Justice Bobde said. Speaking on the occasion, former CJI RM Lodha praised CJI Bobde's reaction to the police encounter of four accused in the Hyderabad rape-murder case. 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 a balm when the character of justice is impaired."
(With PTI inputs)