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Delhi Bar Council Library Inauguration

Cite as : (1975) 2 SCC (Jour) 1

Text of the speech delivered by Justice H.R.Khanna, Judge, Supreme Court of India, who was the Chief Guest at the inauguration of the Delhi Bar Council Library on October 16, 1975 by the President of India.

I deem it a great privilege to have been asked to be present at this function relating to the inauguration of the Delhi Bar Council Library. The invitation had for me a special interest because it gave me an opportunity to renew my acquaintance with these familiar surroundings with which I have been so intimately connected for a long period covering a span of over 17 years both in my capacity as District and Sessions Judge of Delhi and as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. There is indeed something nostalgic about my relationship with the members of the Delhi Bar.

The importance of a library for the members of the Bar can never be exaggerated. With the increase in the price of law books, a good many of even the senior lawyers find it difficult to purchase them. One can, therefore, well imagine the difficulty faced by the young and junior lawyers with limited pecuniary resources in acquiring these costly books. At the same time we have to realise that the future belongs to the young and junior lawyers and, if we want it to be bright and of good cheer, we must ensure that the young and junior lawyers of today are well equipped for the discharge of their duty and responsibility not only for today but also for tomorrow. Books are the indispensable companions of all of us in the world of law. Without them we cannot function in the same way as artisans cannot function without their tools or scientists without their laboratories or surgeons without their surgical instruments. To books we turn not only to find the statute law on the subject, the way it has been construed by the higher courts, but also to know and get acquainted with the deeper meaning and the philosophy of law, the underlying principles and values which sustain the rule of law. Let no one live under the illusion that we complete the study of law with the obtaining of a law degree. That is only the beginning and the start, the first step in our initiation in the fraternity of law. Each case which we handle sheds a fresh light on some aspect of law and the complexity of human affairs. A lawyer of today has to be a man of many parts. He must be well read in law and literature, in humanities and sciences, in economics and sociology. He must study closely the working of human mind and psychology. He must keep abreast of the latest trends in jurisprudence and legal thinking. His vision has to extend to a wide horizon and he must take note of the popular urges arising out of the iniquities of the past and the needs of the present. At the same time he must get in tune with the resonance of that melody distant, faint and perhaps subterranean, which heralds and ultimately gives shape to the clarion call of the future. And with all that he must also think of earning something for his livelihood for unless he does that all his idealism and aspiration would turn into frustration and despondency and give rise to dangerous thoughts.

It is in the fitness of things that this library has been set up in the precincts of the District Courts. If an evaluation were to be made of the importance of the role of the different functionaries who play their part in the administration of justice, the top position would necessarily have to be assigned to the trial court judge and the trial court lawyer. A trial court judge is the key man in our judicial system, the most important and influential participant in the dispensation of justice. It is mostly with the trial judge rather than the appellate judge that the members of the general public come in contact, whether as parties or as witnesses. The image of the Judiciary for the common man is projected by the trial court judge and this in turn depends upon their intellectual, moral and personal qualities. We must at the outset dispel the notion that because of the existence of the appellate court, the mistakes committed by the trial court are not very material and can be set right in appeal. This notion about the provisional nature of the trial court decisions being subject to correction, or what has been called the 'upper-court myth', ignores the realities of the situation. Misconception also needs to be removed that as ours is a Government of laws and not of men, the personality of the trial judge makes no difference. A trial judge's ability, efficiency, tact, or the lack of them, can make all the difference regarding the fate of cases handled by him. It has to be borne in mind that the work in a court of law is not purely mechanical. The cases do not always proceed on set lines. There is no limit to the variety of new situations which can arise in human relationship in the complex society of today. No codes and no judge-made precedents can provide guidance not can any fixed formula furnish solutions in those situations. It is in such like situations for which there are no guidelines or precedents that the personal qualities and worth of a judge make themselves manifest. It is when the colours do not match, when the references in the index fail, when there is no decisive precedent that the serious business of the judge, in the words of Cardozo, begins. Errors committed by the trial judge who is not of the right calibre but who in the very nature of things has to give rulings and make orders under the pressure of trial and without opportunity for elaborate arguments can sometimes be so crucial that they change the entire course of the trial and thus result in irreparable miscarriage of justice. Improvement of the conditions in which the trial courts function must, therefore, have a high priority in any scheme of judicial reform. It is also plain that no trial judge can function efficiently and effectively without the proper guidance and assistance from the counsel appearing before him. It can indeed be said that the quality of judgements and the orders of a trial judge as also the procedure adopted by him is an index and true reflection of the industry and acumen of the counsel appearing before him. To enable the members of the Bar in the trial courts to play their rightful role and discharge the onerous responsibility which is thrown upon them, it is essential that easy access to the books on the subject must be afforded to them. Let it not be said of any young lawyer that even though he wished to study the relevant books on the subject, he could not do so because of the non-availability of or lack of access to such books. I am sure that the library which is being inaugurated today would go a long way towards achieving that objective and desideratum.

To repeat, what I said elsewhere, one wonders sometimes if our brethren of the Bar have been banished from the Eden in which they roamed once upon a time carefree and unafraid. Perhaps this is so and the reason for that has been the changing situation. We have the confusion caused by accumulated precedents. There is then the problem of law's delays and the backlog of arrears. Again, there is the question of unequal fight, irrespective of the merits of a case, between the party with ample resources and the indigent in dire need of, but without, adequate legal aid. The feeling is there that the cost of fighting a case, whatever might be the justice of the matter, is too exorbitant which most citizens can ill-afford to bear. This must necessarily make the average citizen sceptical of the judicial process. If our legal system is to prove effective and retain the faith and confidence of the average man, it must find an answer to the above mentioned problems. As in life so in law things are not static. Stagnation is the one thing we in the world of law must be wary of. Law, if it is to satisfy human needs and to meet the problems of life, must adapt itself to cope with new situations. It should in no case alienate itself from the facts of life. All this highlights the necessity of judicial reform and calls for a new philosophy of law and a new juristic method to bring order out of chaos. One feels tempted in the above context to refer to the words of Lord Brougham in the British Parliament. Said the noble Lord:

It was the boast of Augustus that he found Rome of brick and left it of marble. But how much nobler will be our sovereign's boast when he shall have it to say that he found law dear and left it cheap; found it a sealed book, left it a living letter; found it the patrimony of the rich, left it the inheritance of the poor; found it the two-edged sword of craft and oppression, left it the staff of honesty and the shield of innocence.

The above words spoken more than a century ago have, if anything, much greater relevance today.

Once again I thank the office-bearers of the Bar Council for affording me an opportunity of being present at this function.

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