On this November 19, Saturday, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud stated that senior attorneys should pay their subordinates adequate remuneration and avoid treating them like “slave laborers.”
“We have treated the young people in our profession like slaves for far too long. As a result of the way we were raised, he said, this is the “ancient ragging philosophy” at Delhi University.
“Those were extremely different times. However, a lot of lawyers who had the potential to succeed also failed to do so because they lacked the necessary finances.
In addition, he said that the legal industry is a “old boys’ club” where only a select few people inside a network are granted possibilities.
It’s a club for old boys. It is not based on merit. Are juniors given a respectable wage? All of this needs to change, and it’s our responsibility as seniors, he added.
At a gathering held by the Bar Council of India, the CJI was speaking to the audience.
To illustrate how this field is seen in terms of financial security, he also related a discussion he had with a friend while a student at Delhi University’s Faculty of Law.
His buddy had said, “Why don’t you obtain a gas agency or a retail oil dealership so that you would have the means to maintain yourself,” after he had stated that he would make a living by practicing law.
“This thought has never left me, because in so many ways, it reflects the truth about our profession,” the CJI said.
He highlighted the stark disparity in the profession and said, “While you have top-notch lawyers in the Supreme Court who would have seven or eight video-conferencing screens open so they could move from court to court with a flick of the mouse, yet you have lawyers, who had to virtually live from hand to mouth during the pandemic, when the courts were shut and the registrar’s court was not functioning.”
“The president [of the Supreme Court Bar Association] told us that [the registrar’s court] is what sustained the lives and livelihoods of the juniors because they would get somewhere between Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 to appear. This would enable them to sustain a family, “he added.
The registrar’s court, he said, deals with “very small procedural issues, like substitution of legal heirs, placing a matter before the chamber court “and “all the small things for which juniors run to that court”.
Nearly a week ago, media had asked former Chief Justice of India, Uday Umesh Lalit, for “advice to young lawyers who are overworked and underpaid”.
“Have patience and confidence in yourself”: Ex-CJI UU Lalit’s advice to young lawyers who are overworked and underpaid. pic.twitter.com/ZGREFJbrhB
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) November 13, 2022
Acknowledging that it was a common grievance among young lawyers, he had asked them to “have patience, confidence, and belief in themselves” and they will be able to “turn the tide”.
The issue of paying junior advocates fairly also came up before a constitution bench hearing a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the All-India Bar Examination in September.
The Delhi high court had also appealed to senior lawyers to pay a “dignified stipend” to their juniors so that it is enough for them to overcome financial stress.