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Seventh World Law Conference
at Washington, D.C. on
October 15, 1975. on
October 15, 1975

by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer

Cite as : (1976) 1 SCC (Jour) 1

Judges, lawyers and jurists have gathered here from distant continents and divergent cultures for this World Meet, and I, from the Supreme Court of India, have come like you all, inspired by the call for a cosmos regulated by Law as against a chaos abandoned to unlaw. The deep commitment to the dynamic rule of law as the delivery system of human justice is the fundamental faith that binds us, the inner republic of the Bench and the Bar, together as a global legal fraternity.

Our militant interest is truly a trinity of commitments—faith in the people, the billions of our disadvantaged brothers and sisters who are the rightful and equal claimants to the good things of the earth and the pursuit of happiness, hope that a tidal swell of humanist change will reshape the internal and international social and economic order to make life for the humbler societies and weaker nations rich with rising opportunities and, most importantly, promise that the New Order and Just Society can and will be organised, in the coming age of enlightenment, not through the brutal methodology of blood letting but the humane technology of the legal process. This jural transformation, at once radical and spiritual, is the inspirational force which propels this conference on the Law and the World. 'All men are created equal', 'equal justice under the law', 'World Peace through Law' are no longer romantic chant nor hortative rhetoric but an invitation to pragmatic juridical programming, the destination of a new jurisprudence, the launching of a Promethean struggle against social injustice, economic exploitation and the arrogance of power, national and global. This fighting creed belongs not so much to the politicians as to men and women of the law.

Rule of Law

If such be the sweep and sense of the Rule of Law, if such be the content and quality of this action-oriented profession of lawyers, it has a future; otherwise, all this massive assemblage will flit as a glittering week when glowing words and great men gathered in a Washington of illusion. Should this Law Conference merely beat its luminous wings in the void or be the vehicle of a viable message of a better deal to humanity, liberating it from the prison bars of the past and the present? My insistent prayer to you is to translate into law-in-action the broad spectrum of aspirations still flickering in the bosoms of billions across the continents for whom the right to life, fair treatment and freedom from want, economic and cultural, are a disenchanting promise of unreality. Today—not tomorrow—is their cry. The indignant mood of womankind for gender justice, the bugle for battle by the suppressed and exploited nations, and groups and the toiling masses' demand for their rights and the unspoken look of hunger of the have-nots inhabiting this harsh world—how do we solve them through legal mechanics? Law and Development, Justice and Jurisprudence, Humanism and the Robes can no longer remain distant neighbours but must interact in an integral Yoga and evolve a new Dharma.

Law is the art of establishing durable peace among nations and humans by investing them with great rights and activist operational means, and lawyers are organisers, who resolve disputes and dissolve inequity through Law. We glibly speak of peace through law. Remember, not the peace of the grave is our goal nor law as State apparatus to dehumanize the millions. The rule of law is a positive tryst with human destiny, not a deceptive doctrine of repression. Much of old law still colonial in profile breeds disorder when it stands foursquare between the new humanity and its hunger for real justice and smears the corpus juris with a cannibal touch. As lawyers, we are evangelists of equity and good conscience in human affairs.

Viewed in this vistaramic perspective, the Legal Profession has a humanist gospel to spread, a public defender's role to play. Lawyer Power at the service of the peoples of our planet divinises our profession of the Bench and the Bar and both are hatched from the law school and the law teacher is at the core of it all. This heavy accountability and solemn duty must be discharged by the Bar with fearless freedom to defend the innocent and fight for the other man's right, uninhibited by external pressure or built-in bias. Such a cadre of crusaders for social justice, such a task force of new frontiersmen will come up against powerful vested interests, be barricaded by hierarchical systems and may have to battle against forces which stand for the riches of the few at the expense of the blood, sweat and tears of the many.

If the rule of law is the weapon of the Proprietariat against the Proletariat, if court justice is simple upholding of the status quo ante and freeze of protestant movements against ancient wrongs, the legal profession will die a natural death, and the judges may be judged by history. The lawyer must function without any fear and in full freedom because he has to fight the Establishment, lead the campaign for human rights and protect, through varied forms of free legal services, public interest litigation and Poverty Law mechanism, the poor against the rich, the weak against the strong. This needs guts and ideals.

Our pledge, as the legal profession, must be to resist interference from Government and Big Business often subtle and sometimes crude. Our motto, as technicians and architects of the Process of Justice, must be refusal to be overawed by Absolutism or to be purchased by Money Power or be gullibly victimised by artful instrumentalities, foreign or indigenous, overt or covert, fair on the face but subversive of the soul in fact. Our undertaking this afternoon is not elitist debate of academic issues and condescending speechification to support noble causes. Let us be serious and practical.

Speaking intra-and inter-nationally, our peril is twofold—from without, by non-democratic tyrannies where they exist; from within, by unwitting surrender to those invisible agencies who buy lawyers at fancy prices. We will go the way the dinosaurs have gone if we succumb to military regimes' threats, or if we advocate the cause of a dying system against the emergent order, influenced by tempting offers. Moral courage, intellectual integrity and burning commitment are the best armour for the organised Bar. We will survive—and must—if our concern, conviction and care, in legal terms, are for the vast neglected and traditionally maltreated majorities of humanity and of aggrieved minorities and weak dissentrents, and our down-to-earth operations and bold social engineering are directed towards equal justice through law.

We have no alibi for forsaking the people and so should advocate, through our (monopoly) expertise of law, social justice, remembering the collective good of man and rejecting Caesar, that is the Establishment. Our threat is not merely from authoritarian rule but from other minatory forces which sometimes strive to overthrow or undermine Governments which work for social justice to its people.

Let us identify enemies and oppose them. A Lawyer, after all, is intrepid and intelligent and, above all, a social technologist. Here is a challenge to our probity and fire as a profession and capability as a midwife of the Big Change struggling to be born. Such is the new testament of the legal profession, and the readiness for martyrdom is our profession's sole force against the methods of despotism and the vicious ways of anti-social bossism. I confidently expect the three sister world associations to stand by the lawyer who stands for Right against Might. Freedom in the performance of our professional duties is axiomatic. Indeed, independence of the judiciary and fearlessness of advocacy, when we come to reflect on it, are conceptually close cousins. We too have a cause and shall bear the Cross.

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