The Bar Association of India (BAI), a voluntary organisation of lawyers, has expressed concern that the limited functioning of courts had imposed grave restrictions on the meaningful exercise of legal and fundamental rights of citizens.
“Even more worryingly, it seems the pandemic has led to an expansion of the powers of the State, a trend discernible globally, especially powers of the police and other law enforcement agencies, opening the scope of the misuse of power and impacting the most poor and disempowered,” the BAI said in a resolution released on Saturday.
The BAI noted that the prevailing economic distress had compounded the situation and severely impacted the financial capacity of citizens to avail legal remedies.
The need of the hour is that a special Access to Justice and Legal Aid package be devised and implemented, it said.
Such a package, the BAI said, should allot legal aid cases to lawyers undergoing financial distress due to the pandemic and would serve to ease their financial situation without compromising their dignity and the independence of the legal profession.
“The pandemic has also seen the increased adoption of technology and internet to provide access to justice and to provide legal services, and the challenges presented by it has highlighted the need for encouraging and adopting vigorously non adversarial means of dispute resolution, like mediation, in civil and commercial disputes which has been a focus area for the Bar Association of India”, the resolution stressed.
The BAI added that it would shortly come up with its recommendations for reform and capacity building of the legal profession to meet these new challenges.
It also announced the results of the election of the office-bearers of its Executive Committee for 2020 – 2022.
Advocates Prashant Kumar and former ASG Amarjit Singh Chandhiok were elected as President and President-Elect respectively and Senior advocates Gopal Subramanium, Shyam Divan, Mohan V Katarki, Jaideep Gupta, Pinky Anand, S.S. Naganand, Arvind P. Datar, Chander Uday Singh, Krishnan Venugopal, Apurba Kumar Sharma, among others, as Vice Presidents.
Dr. Anindita Pujari was elected as Hony. General Secretary for the second term.