Our aim is to graduate from ”women development” to ”women-led development”: President


PTI, Oct 2, 2021, 4:15 PM IST

New Delhi: As a country, our aim is to graduate from ”women development” to ”women-led development”, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Saturday while stressing on the need to increase the number of women in legal services institutions.

Speaking at the launch of the six-week-long ”The Pan India Legal Awareness and Outreach Campaign” of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), Kovind said the legal services authority should make special efforts to help the marginalised sections of society.

The outreach programmes of NALSA are being organised as a part of ”Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” to commemorate 75 years of India”s Independence.

Kovind said there are about 11,000 women lawyers among over 47,000-panel advocates at the district level and about 17,000 women paralegal volunteers out of the total number of nearly 44,000.

The president said he has been told that NALSA is making efforts to be more inclusive in engagement of advocates and paralegal volunteers.

“As a country, our aim is to graduate from ”women development” to ”women-led development”. Therefore, increasing the number of women in National Legal Services Institutions is as important as reaching out to the largest possible number of women beneficiaries,” Kovind said.

Talking about Mahatma Gandhi, Kovind said that he did a lot of pro bono work to help the poor, and indentured labourers in South Africa looked up to him for taking up their cause with the authorities and in the courts whom he helped without charging any fees.

He said that senior advocates should earmark a certain part of their time for pro bono services to people from weaker sections.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said NALSA has been performing an exemplary role in bringing justice delivery to the doorsteps of people.

“NALSA and state legal authorities have developed a robust system of legal aid delivery and empowerment right at the grassroots level that each individual can be proud of. NALSA has been playing an exemplary role in justice delivery of the system by creating legal awareness,” he said.

He said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has focussed on access to justice and also ease of living which is access to business.

Chief Justice N V Ramana said since May this year, the Collegium has recommended more than 106 judges and 9 chief justices to various high courts.

“The government has cleared some and the law minister has informed me that the rest of it is going to come in one or two days” time. I thank the central government for clearing these vacancies and quick access to justice,” the CJI said.

The CJI said that for a healthy democracy a vibrant judiciary is essential.

Speaking about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the CJI said COVID-19 has created many problems in many institutions, including the judiciary where thousands of cases have accumulated in different forums, apart from large vacancies and non-working of courts and lack of virtual conferencing facilities in rural areas.

Kovind said India”s freedom struggle was led by many great lawyers who also strived to make the society more progressive. They envisioned a society based on Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

“These fundamental principles have been enshrined in our Constitution. Since Independence, we have made substantial progress in realizing our constitutional goals, but a lot of work remains to be done to reach the destinations identified by our founding fathers,” he said.

Kovind said Mahatma Gandhi is a symbol of service to humanity, including services to help the downtrodden get justice, and complemented NALSA for launching this awareness drive on Gandhi Jayanti.

He said that more than 125 years ago, Gandhi ji had set certain examples which are relevant to the entire legal fraternity even today.

“In his first major case in South Africa, Gandhi ji suggested the parties seek a compromise out of court. The parties agreed on an arbitrator who heard the case and decided in favour of Gandhi Ji’s client. This resulted in a heavy financial burden on the other party.  Gandhi ji convinced his own client to permit the losing party to make payments in easy instalments over a very extended period.

“Consequently both the parties felt relieved by that settlement. Prior to the settlement, the cost of litigation was harming both the parties. That experience reinforced Gandhi Ji’s opinion that out-of-court settlements were preferable to litigation,” the president said.

Talking about Gandhi ji, he said that Bapu followed this approach throughout his legal practice of two decades, before devoting himself full time to pursuit of political, social, and spiritual goals.

Gandhiji had a flourishing legal practice with a handsome income as a lawyer in South Africa. But he did a lot of pro bono work to help the poor, the president said.

Kovind said that after returning to India in 1915 and watching rich lawyers earning at the cost of poor litigants, Gandhiji wrote “the best legal talent must be available to the poorest at reasonable rates”.

The president said that this advice of Bapu should be followed by the legal fraternity, specially designated senior advocates in Supreme Court and high courts.

Such advocates should earmark a certain part of their time to provide pro bono services to people from the weaker sections, he said.

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