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Rashtrapati Bhavan : 22.10.2013

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the National Seminar on ‘Continuing Legal Education’ and ‘Children and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012’ today (October 22, 2013) at Guwahati. The seminar was organized by Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim on the occasion of closing of its Golden Jubilee Celebrations.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said historically, the focus of judicial reform has been the judiciary. The lawyer – a basic pillar of the judicial system has often been ignored. Legal education and continuing professional development must create a socially sensitive lawyer of conscience, for whom justice delayed is not a commercial opportunity but a blemish on one’s professional persona and a failure of the system of which one is an integral part. The ideal Indian lawyer must not only have excellent legal skills, but also embody social responsibility and strong professional ethics. The efficacy of the rule of law depends to a large extent on the integrity of lawyers who are the link between the citizen and the system of justice.

The President said the first generation of judicial reforms in our country established the National Law Schools and have demonstrated that India can have institutions that impart affordable but world class legal education. The second generation of reforms should now focus on Continuing Legal Education of lawyers, judges, judicial officers, bureaucrats and academics. There is need for Seminars, Conferences, lectures etc. to be organized in a systematic manner, first making Continuing Legal Education accessible for all and then perhaps, making it mandatory as is the practice in many countries of the world. Establishing a comprehensive system of Continuing Legal Education will enhance professionalism, accountability and public respect for lawyers. Training Schemes such as the Rajiv Gandhi Advocate’s Training Scheme should be expanded so that young lawyers who have recently joined the Bar can take advantage of the same. It would be also useful in this regard for the Bar Council of India to consider setting up a world class institution for Continuing Legal Education similar to the National Law Schools.

The President said we are currently debating and grappling with several issues related to juvenile justice including the question of age and treatment of juveniles who may have the mental capacity to judge their actions. The reformative approach of the juvenile justice law has come into question and there is demand for a law which has a deterrent effect, where the guilty are punished in accordance with the nature of the offence they commit, irrespective of their age. This debate is not exclusive to India and across the world thinking and understanding of juvenile justice is at a developmental stage. There is need for us in India to urgently grapple with and arrive at a consensus on the principles that should underline our Juvenile Justice system.

The President said the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, Act, 2012 (POCSO) is one of the most recent initiatives for protection of children from any form of sexual abuse. There was a felt need for such legislation as statistics revealed that sexual crimes against children were steadily increasing. This Act has now been in place for over a year and even in this short period, several implementation challenges have emerged. These need to be urgently addressed in order to make this legislation truly effective. There is also need for greater awareness of POCSO on the part of adults, parents, caregivers, teachers and people in positions of authority. Service providers at all levels also need to be sensitized and their capacities built. Bar Councils can richly contribute to strengthening implementation of this legislation and ensuring the operation of an effective, just, child sensitive Juvenile Justice system.

Dignitaries present on the occasion were Shri Janaki Ballav Patnaik, Governor of Assam, Shri Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre, Chief Justice of Guwahati High Court, Shri Nabam Tuki, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Shri Manan Kumar Misra, Chairman of Bar Council of India and Shri Gajanand Sahewalla, Chairman of Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

This release issued 1750 hrs.