Recently, CJI D.Y. Chandrachud, speaking at the felicitation programme of newly registered Advocates-on-Record (AORs) which was conducted on this Tuesday, said that AORs are crucial in every case which comes to the Supreme Court and sometimes more crucial than even the senior counsel. Essentially, because the AOR takes the responsibility of putting the name on pleading and have ultimately answerability to the Court.
“You are the first interface of your client and you are the only interface of the court with your client and therefore, I do believe that this institution of AOR is crucial to the sustenance of our Court,” CJI said.
Along with CJI D.Y. Chandrachud, the event was presided over by the Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and the Attorney General for India R. Venkataramani.
At the outset, Chandrachud shared a couple of stories capturing his first interface with the clients when he became a counsel. He started by telling one of the stories where his first client was a person from Nasik and the AOR was late Mr. VN Ganpule. He recalled how the same client used to say, “I am going to give you many more cases.”
CJI went on to say, “I did not realise what the import ‘many more case’ was but Mr. Ganpule was very astute and said that when a client says that he is going to give you many more cases, it means that there is not going to be any fees in this particular case.”
Sharing his second experience, he said it was when he appeared for a very important politician involving a case of withdrawal of prosecution under Section 321 of the CrPC. “One fine day I was staying in a very small flat, when the politician was at our door in the evening. The politician got a very nice sari which he presented to my mother…as it turned out there was no fee and only the saree!”
With this, he proceeded to say that, “I am sure that you will have good luck with your initial few clients” and congratulated freshly registered AORs for their achievements.
He highlighted that how times have changed since 1960s, when the institution of AORs was set-up. He further talked about the establishment of the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCORA) in order to represent the concerns of the lawyers practicing as AORs in Court. Thereafter, he praised SCORA for doing the same instrumentally through litigation and other ways. CJI illustrated SCORA’s achievements by telling that during the COVID-19 period it was SCORA that not only brought to the Court various difficulties faced by members of the bar but also a sense of collaboration between the bar and the administrative side of the Court.
However, he said that young AORs cannot rest content merely having the ability to file matters before the Court and have to look beyond that. This is merely a launching pad for you, he stated. “Don’t rest with what you have acquired, you will have to learn new skills. The skills of negotiator, the skills of mediators, the skills of councillors, the skills of strategist because the law is evolving and is no longer what it was…and if you have to survive this intensely competitive future that you are entering, you will have to constantly re-skill yourself.”
Moving forward, he spoke about how we are at the crossroads of technological changes all around us and we must learn to apply our existing knowledge in creative ways. On the similar lines, he went on to talk about the technological changes made by the Supreme Court recently.
“We have the finest technological resources now at our disposal and we are slowly opening up to it. We have eliminated the need to carry bulky files and case compilations to court the eSCR and now soon the digital SCR, makes decades of jurist prudence just a click of a button away. The paper books are now entirely digitized and the new mentioning system has significantly reduced the time taken by courts to go through the matters for a day.”
He further told that the Supreme Court is constantly devising ways to make Courts more accessible and tech friendly as well as people-friendly and thanked SCORA and SCBA for supporting the said efforts.
Quoting Socrates “the more I know the more I realize I know nothing”, he said, “Honestly every day of my work as a judge I learn that the more I know the more I realize so much more that there is to be learned both learning and unlearning and relearning are a part of our evolution as legal professionals. This learning is no longer dependent on formal institutions. With technology at our disposal, we are in a position to learn and also disseminate our learnings far and wide at the click of a button”
In this backdrop, CJI mentioned about the SCORA lecture series which reaches to only advocates but also any legal professional.
Taking about the changes introduced by the Court, following the suggestions of SCORA, he stated that the same has ensured convenience but the Court relies on the lawyers to transform this convenience into greater access to justice.
Imperatively, he also talked about the recent example where the Court was addressed by the lawyer with hearing impairment with help of the sign language interpreter. Smiling, he recalled that the interpreter was also translating other matters and not just the one in which she was appearing. “She knew how the other lawyers were addressing the Court. This, I later realised, was the first for the Supreme Court. It was heartening feature to know it was a first but I must say that it was sobering for me to see how long it took us as a system to make this happen in the history of our Court. This should have happened long back”.
At this, he emphasised that since institutions have the advantage of greater resources that individual does not have, they must shoulder greater responsibility as well. Our reform should not stop at institutions, it must also identify and persistently challenge our own biases. In choosing our causes we must ask ourselves if our choices enhance inclusiveness or undercut inclusivity this should be the litmus test for our professional decision making.
He concluded his address by saying
“….there’s an enormous field of challenge of potential of opportunity ahead for all of you you’re not just Advocates on record of any Court in the country but of the Supreme Court of the nation and as advocates on record in in the Supreme Court you have a special responsibility you have a special responsibility to bear the traditions of the Court understand the traditions of the Court understand what people before you have done.”
“Remember above all you’re officers of the court you are an extended arm of the court and we depend upon Advocates on record a great deal to do what is right and to show us the path to what is right.” (Live Law)