Advocate's Day: Remembering eminent Lawyer and First President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad; throwing light on Role played by Advocates in Society

 Advocate's day is celebrated in our country by the lawyer community today (3rd day of December every year) to mark the birth anniversary of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the First President of India and a very eminent lawyer.


Dr. Rajendra Prasad: Indian Independence Activist, Lawyer, Scholar, First Indian President

Rajendra Prasad (3 December 1884 – 28 February 1963) was an Indian independence activist, lawyer, scholar and subsequently, the first President of India, in office from 1950 to 1962. He was an Indian political leader and lawyer by profession. Prasad joined the Indian National Congress during the Indian Independence Movement and became a major leader from the region of Bihar.


A supporter of Mahatma Gandhi, Prasad was imprisoned by British authorities during the Salt Satyagraha of 1931 and the Quit India movement of 1942. After the 1946 elections, Prasad served as Minister of Food and Agriculture in the central government. Upon independence in 1947, Prasad was elected as President of the Constituent Assembly of India, which prepared the Constitution of India and served as its provisional parliament.


When India became a republic in 1950, Prasad was elected its first president by the Constituent Assembly. As president, Prasad established a tradition of non-partisanship and independence for the office-bearer, and retired from Congress party politics. Although a ceremonial head of state, Prasad encouraged the development of education in India and advised the Nehru government on several occasions.


In 1957, Prasad was re-elected to the presidency, becoming the only president to serve two full terms. Prasad stayed in office for the longest term of around 12 years. Post the completion of his tenure, he quit the Congress and set up new guidelines for parliamentarians which are still followed.


Prasad played a major role in forming the Bihari Students Conference in 1906. In 1916, he joined the High Court of Bihar and Odisha. In 1917, he was appointed as one of the first members of the Senate and Syndicate of the Patna University. He also practised law at Bhagalpur, the famous silk town in Bihar.


As President of India, he duly acted as required by the Constitution, independent of any political party. He travelled the world extensively as an ambassador of India, building diplomatic rapport with foreign nations. He was re-elected for two consecutive terms in 1952 and 1957, and is the only President of India to achieve this feat. The Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan were open to public for about a month for the first time during his tenure, and since then it has been a big attraction for people in Delhi and other parts of the country.[21]


Prasad acted independently of politics, following the expected role of the president as required the constitution. Following the tussle over the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill, he took a more active role in state affairs. In 1962, after serving twelve years as the president, he announced his decision to retire. After relinquishing the office of the President of India on May 1962, he returned to Patna on 14 May 1962 and preferred to stay in the campus of Bihar Vidyapeeth.[22] His wife died on 9 September 1962. A month before Indo-China War. He was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian award.He died on 28 February 1963, aged 78. Rajendra Smriti Sangrahalaya in Patna is dedicated to him. 


Significient Role Played by Advocates in Society

Any person who supports or recommends for the cause of others or for a change is said to be advocating for the cause. However, a person who takes up the noble profession to plead for the cause of others, to fight for the rights of others and to fight for justice is called an “Advocate”.


1. Advocates have been instrumental in spearheading movements in the society for a positive change. In modern times lawyers in various countries have given leadership to their nations. In the great American and French Revolutions many of the leading figures were lawyers. Abraham Lincoln, the great American President during the American Civil war was a lawyer, and so was Robespierre, the great French leader during the French Revolution, Lenin, the great leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a student of law. Prominent freedom fighters belonged to the legal fraternity and played a leading part in the framing of our Constitution. Gandhiji, Pandit Nehru, Dr.Ambedkar, Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer, K.M.Munshi to mention just a few. Lawyers gave up their practice to join the freedom movement and many of them went to jail.


2. The reason why many great leaders in various countries were lawyers is that the legal profession is objectively in the position of producing statesmen. This is due to two reasons:-


           1) Lawyers belong to an independent profession, they are not subordinate to the Government or to anyone else and 


           2) they are directly in contact with society in its entirety as they have to deal with all kinds of problems of people from all sections of society, unlike say, doctors who are confined to medical problems or engineers who are confined to technical problems. Hence lawyers are the people who are most conversant with the problems of society as a whole.3. The central function of the legal profession is to promote the administration of justice. Every civilised society sustains itself on the “Rule of Law” and the lawyers being the primary supporters of it aid and assist its operation in a meaningful measure. The existence of an independent Bar is a bulwark against authoritarianism. It is not a coincidence that in a dictatorship, lawyers are jailed on frivolous charges. And it is the courageous efforts of the lawyers that have led to overthrow of totalitarian regimes. Significance of “Rule of Law” cannot be minimised in any form of Govt. more especially in a democracy. Without Rule of Law and its upholders, be they in executive, legislature or in judiciary, democracy may not survive. If there is one principle which runs through the entire fabric of the Constitution, it is the principle of the Rule of Law and under the Constitution, the judiciary is entrusted with the task of keeping every organ of the state within the limits of the law and thereby making the Rule of Law meaningful and effective.


4. As such, it is clear that an independent judiciary is a must for the sustenance of democracy. If the Independent Judiciary is the pillar of the democracy, the Bar is the foundation of the Independent Judiciary. The Bar is the Mother of the Bench and the bright mirror of the Judicial Officers, 3 whose image, character and conduct is correctly and vividly reflected therein. Whenever there has been a need for a change or development in the society, the society has looked upto the Advocates. Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer once remarked, “The legal profession should be the midwife of the big change struggle to be born …… indeed, independence of the judiciary and fearlessness of advocates are conceptually close cousins. The legal profession has a cause and should bear the cross “ . A fearless, vibrant and alert Bar would mean an independent and strong judiciary. It is to be further borne in mind that it is the members of Bar who are elevated to the Bench.


5. The legal profession is different from other professions in that what the lawyers do, affects not only an individual but the administration of justice which is the foundation of the civilised society. It is to be noted that when people suffer from medical problems, they have to endure and suffer, whereas when people are meted out with injustice, it is intolerable and they pull down the whole structure. As such the administration of justice is one of the most essential functions of the modern welfare state. Men desire justice and it is the function of legal practitioners to plead for justice. Lawyer is considered as the guardian who can secure justice and liberty. Lawyers and Courts are the last refuge for the hapless and the harassed litigant. With the Alternate Dispute Resolutions getting the legal sanction, lawyers have also resorted to bringing about quick settlements using their best efforts.6. The advocate is considered to be an officer of the Court. He not only owes a duty to his client but also to the Court, to assist the Court to the best of his ability in the administration of justice. The legal profession is considered to be a learned profession because a legal practitioner is required to be familiar with all branches of human knowledge as he is required to deal with every topic under the sun. The practice of this profession requires constant study and learning throughout ones career. There is no escape from it. That is why law is said to be a jealous mistress. Today people are bringing to the Court for resolution diverse and complex social and scientific issues touching all aspects of life, be it public health, education, human rights, environment, reservations, elections, cyber space, genetic engineering, international legal disputes, intellectual property matters, etc.,. In this changing scenario, the members of the Bar have been successfully upgrading their knowledge and skills to assist the Court, by acquainting themselves with the latest developments not only in law but also in various other fields of human knowledge. All this requires a wide range of learning, continuing education and choosing the field of practice wherein one would like to specialize. It has been rightly said that “ law is an ocean” and off late with the rapid developments in science, there has been new discoveries and insights into the unchartered and unknown areas of the ocean called law.


7. There are many thousands of Acts, and it is for the lawyers to apply the appropriate law knowing the object of the law. It is appropriate here to state that one who knows not the object of the law, knows not the law. The proverb “Knowledge is Power” is aptly applicable in the case of the legal profession and thus legal profession is rightly called the learned profession. The legislature may do well by enacting various laws and acts for the welfare of the society and nation in the various fields and areas. However, it would remain a paper tiger unless it is enforced by way of legal administration. In this, the advocates play a crucial role. To give a small illustration, the legislature in all its zeal to bring gender equality enacted several laws, both civil and criminal to promote the rights of the women. The legislature also enacted laws to give equal rights for women in property 5 matters. However, the advocates have played a very important role in enlightening the society (through their clients) regarding the laws and have advised to utilized it and enforce their rights. It can be seen that the women have started asserting their rights and their lot have become better than the past. Lawyers have a pivotal role to play in a developing society presenting unending challenges of evolutionary and revolutionary changes as they are directly in touch with the society.


8. The Advocates’ Profession is a unique profession in the sense that the members of the legal profession are pitched against each other to fight for the cause of their clients in search of truth and justice. A point which eludes the understanding of the common man and which is deprecated generally by the common man is the role played by the Advocates in the defence of Accused, “bad” people, criminals, people who do not deserve any protection and who in their opinion deserve to be punished. People attribute motives when an advocate represents his client. Also advocates representing criminals are looked upon as criminals since it is their premise that only a person who endorses the act of the criminals can plead for them. In this regard, since the recent past, there is a misconception and misunderstanding in the society about the role of an advocate and the nobleness of the profession. This has been so not only in India, but in a few other countries where there has been no proper understanding of the legal profession

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