Former Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, Justice (retd) Shri S Parbat Rao, is national president of Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad (ABAP). Recently, he was in Kolkata to participate in the condolence meeting of the late Kalidas Basu and also to inaugurate Kalidas Basu Memorial Legal Aid Centre, to be run by West Bengal unit of the Parishad. Krishanu Mitra spoke to him on the activities of the Adhivakta Parishad. Excerpts:
What are the major activities of Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad?
Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad is a countrywide movement initiated by nationalist lawyers to promote judicial awareness among general public and also to facilitate social justice through legal aid and activism. Since its inception in 1992, the Parishad has been working towards the objective of resurrecting Indian values and ingraining idealism in the hearts of advocates for improving efficacy and standards of the Bar and the Judiciary.
How many branches does the Parishad have today?
The Parishad has branches in all state capitals. We have units in all High Courts and also in some District as well as Lower Courts. Though, in many states the name of the state unit is different. In West Bengal the unit is known as Nationalist Lawyers’ Forum while in Kerala, it is called Bharatheeya Abhibhashaka Parishad. In Kerala, we have units in all District and Local Courts.
Of late the Nationalist Lawyers’ Forum has been in news. What was the matter?
Yes. The West Bengal unit successfully pursued a few Public Interest Litigations (PILs). The Patuli – Baishnavghata KMDA case and the anti-cow slaughter case are some of them. The Forum’s members are also pursuing a similar PIL on minority reservation in the state. Then there was an incident in Kolkata in October last year when a US-based Christian missionary preacher organised a three-day jamboree aimed at mass conversion. They aimed at converting some 5 lakh Hindus and one lakh Muslims to Christianity, which was successfully countered.
Any similar instance reported in other states?
There are so many incidents. Our members have successfully fought the case against the attempts to break Ram Sethu. Then we are also fighting the Ayodhya Ram temple case.
There have been the talks of Judicial Reforms. What is the Parishad’s stand on it?
Judicial Reforms figure very high in our agenda. You can recall the recent court observation when the Hon’ble Supreme Court said that no government wants a strong judiciary. We share this view. We feel that to initiate any judicial reform three very important points have to be looked at. These are, first, the filling up of vacancies of judges. Second, to facilitate a system where more lawyers can join the fold, as the shortfall on this part is huge. Third, to reform the present Criminal Justice System.
Would you like to elaborate these three points?
Definitely. First, the vacancies in the Judiciary should be filled up on priority basis. In developed countries there are 100 judges on every 10 lakh population. In any given situation we need at least 50-60 judges on per 10 lakh people, whereas we are having just 30-35 at the moment. Even the courts have observed this. In states like Gujarat this situation is alarming, because the lawyers are not interested to be judges. The reason is simple; one earns less as a judge than being a lawyer. And this situation is more acute in the lower courts.
Second, along with the judges the shortfall of lawyers is also huge. Though at this moment we have some 13 Judicial Science Institutes in the country that too has not been enough. This problem has been aggravated because a major chunk of the newly qualified young lawyers are absorbed by the big Corporates and the MNCs, who otherwise would have joined the system. Here again it is all economics. You need to invest time and energy to establish yourself as an independent consultant, whereas the Corporates offer handsome remunerations to the new recruits. Here we feel the establishment of ‘Juridical Services Commission’ is a step in the right direction.
Third, the present Criminal Justice System needs immediate overhaul. You will find a large number of accused being acquitted. The system is not delivering in a manner it should have been. You need an overhaul with the investigating police also. Even in the recent Godhra verdict one can see that there were 63 acquittals out of 94. Only 31 convictions are there. By whichever perspective one looks at it, when after nine years of investigation we have such a high rate of acquittals, it does points to the fact that something is at fault. The investigating agencies should be under independent authorities. Much like the Election Commission or the CAG.
Since you come from Andhra Pradesh especially from the Telengana region, what is the situation there?
Though I am not a political person but as a resident of Hyderabad I can say that the situation is very fluid at this moment. The Telengana issue is very much alive and the people’s representatives cutting across party line are divided on pro and anti-Telengana line.