Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Reforming the Judiciary, Reforming the Legal Profession

For those of you interested in judicial reforms the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Judicial Reforms is holding the Second National Convention on the Judiciary and the Poor at ILI in Delhi on Saturday, Feb. 23rd.

Also, in today's Hindu N.R. Madhava Menon has a piece where he argues that when we discuss judicial reforms we should spend more time considering the reforms of the bar and legal profession that are also necessary. He makes ten proposals about changes he views are needed. The first two are:

(a) Legal education should be liberated from the dominant control of the Bar Councils and entrusted to legal academics with freedom to innovate, experiment and compete globally. The National Knowledge Commission has made some recommendations in this regard which deserve attention of the Bar, the judiciary and the government.
(b) There should be compulsory apprenticeship, Bar examination and screening on acceptable parameters before a law graduate, Indian or foreign, can be licensed to practise in Indian courts. Those who want to practise as non-litigating lawyers should have a different roll for enrolment and a separate entry examination, perhaps under a special professional body within the Bar Council.

I know less about his other eight proposals, but in my experience these first two strike me as quite accurate and important. He suggests that the legal profession is unlikely to reform itself. I am curious where he thinks the source of this reform will come from though. Is there need for Parliamentary intervention? Judicial? Or is it just about creating enough media exposure that then the bar will begin to reform?

Also, if someone who knows more can lay out in greater detail how the power structure of the bar in India works I would appreciate it and I know some other readers are also curious. What power does it exactly have? How does it maintain this power? How are decisions made? It seems like this could be a topic for a good ethnography, especially in comparison to the bar in other South Asian countries like Pakistan. I think some of my American lawyer friends were surprised and proud of how vigorously the bar opposed Musharaff in Pakistan. I think that the Indian bar also has some of the same features that would allow it to potentially play a similar role as in Pakistan (although my understanding is that they largely did not respond vigorously to the Emergency). I wonder if the Pakistani bar's ability to respond though was tied to certain institutional and cultural features that also handicap the legal system in other ways.
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