Address by Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, Honourable Vice President at the "American Bar Association (ABA) India Conference 2024- The Global Lawyers' Summit" in New Delhi on March 28, 2024.

New Delhi | March 28, 2024

Good evening all of you,

My address will be primarily for young professionals.For reasons I can't figure out. For me, law firms were like Lutyens Delhi, they were impregnable. I could never pierce them.

 I came to know law firm’s strength only from the other side when I face those lawyers in the court. There may be some exceptions; they engaged me because others were not available or not prepared to go to far distant place.

My twist with the legal profession, the jealous mistress, started in 1979. In less than 10 and a half years, I was designated senior advocate. That twist entered the painful party that took place in 2019, when I was nominated according to Mamta ji, appointed according to the Constitution by the Hon’ble President, to be the Governor of the state of Bengal. So, technically and in a legal sense, I am no longer a fraternal member of this august profession but then my connect will there be, always. That is a reason why I am here.

The parting with jealous mistress, was very painful. I miss my memos, they were quite useful.

I used to take no more than one case a day, and the senior lawyers on the other side, with multiple cases, were looking at the board, negotiating from one case to another. I took longer time in my arguments to enjoy their helplessness. It was like the extraction of a tooth, taking longer. And therefore, I did not issue any disclaimer, never had any association with a particular law firm, and the opportunity may not come as I am told people who demit this office, i.e., of Vice President, they normally don't appear in court.

If a man like me from a village, with that kind of academic credentials, is going well, you need not believe in scratches; the world is before you, make most of it.

Lawyers, as a community, are well-suited to contribute to global peace, harmony, and development, and make our particular country, Bharat, great. But this can happen only when we realize our spinal strength.

The participants are principally from America and India. A very powerful democracy, a very developed democracy, and India, home to one-sixth of humanity, is a functional, vibrant democracy, the largest, the oldest, on the rise as never before. The rise is unstoppable, the right is incremental.

In the face of headwinds, when global economics have collapsed, the challenges others have been decimated. India has marched ahead. From being part of the fragile five economies just a decade ago, we are now amongst the 5. Journey from fragile five to Big 5, overcoming the economies of Canada, UK, France. We had rough terrain, difficult terrain. No one knows more than lawyers of this room. In 2 years, we will be the third-largest economy, ahead of Japan and Germany.

It has been brought about because there is a mission, passion, and fearless execution. It has been brought about because fundamentals have been changed. One fundamental that has gone through a big change is equality before law. Privilege, pedigree— they entertain an idea, they are above law, they are beyond the reach of law, they are immune from law, and that was the ground reality.

I had the good fortune to be in the council of ministers. Patronage, nepotism, favoritism are matters of the past.

Patronage no longer secures you a job or a contract. You are living in good times. You are living in times when there is an ecosystem where you can fully unleash your energy, expand your talent, realize your aspirations, and fructify your dreams. People of my age were in turmoil.

My young friends, don't be deterred by anything. There is nothing else any institution has worth only because of human resources, and I always found that assistance rendered to me in global commercial arbitration or in the highest court or High Courts emanated from young minds. I always acknowledge it, they are source of motivation to me.

Second big change: corruption is no longer rewarding. Power corridors, once infested with middlemen, power brokers, they extra-legally leveraged in decision-making, and certain professionals engaged in a situation where they were deciding appointments, even of Ministers. People were in a state of hopelessness; they were drifting from the main theme of this country. But now, the power corridors have been duly sanitized. These elements have not been neutralized; they have been finished.

And the third one, Indian passport a decade ago, and being Indian a decade ago outside of India was a different game altogether. Now, if you are an Indian, they will look at you and wish to connect with you.

Our global image has taken a huge upsurge. I would not say incremental, a vertical upsurge like a rocket.

IMF, World Bank, there was a time they were in a disciplinary mood for India. In 1990 as a Council of Ministers’ member as Minister, I suffered the pain that our foreign exchange was between One billion and Two billion US dollars. Our gold, gold of Bharat, was taken in a plane to be placed in two Swiss banks to sustain our credibility. Where are we now? 600 billion plus. There may be a week when there may be a jump of 6 billion, a billion a day. That's a big change. It was never before.

IMF, what does it say now? India is a favourite destination, a hotspot of investment and opportunities. What does the World Bank say? In digital penetration, India has accomplished in 6 to 7 years what was not possible for more than four decades.

Our digital transactions in a country of 1.4 billion is fifty percent of global transactions. Our UPI is getting acceptability in countries that are developed, and look at availability of Internet and accessibility of Internet, uses of Internet per capita, we are more than USA and Chinataken together.

At this point, with this growth – a growth that is marked with economic rise – my heart pains. And someone who was in the position of power in this country in the field of economics is spreading only pessimism. India cannot go beyond 5.5% growth. No one asks the question when the growth is 7.5%.Why this passivism when we are in era of hope and possibility? Nothing is beyond us.

Chandrayan 3 landing on the soft side of the moon, that is the South pole, is just an instance. If you young boys and girls will care to find out, you will know how much we have earned in billions by putting rockets of other nations from our delivery machine in the space. This is Bharat.

Our legislation and executive will work in tandem. To that extent, the dream of having one-third woman in Lok Sabha, in state legislature, is fructified.

India is the only country in the world that is a constitutionally structured democracy at all levels. You know it Part-IX of the constitution. A constitutionally structured democracy at the Panchayat level, at the municipal level – which other country has it? And in that scenario, there are some countries from sovereign platforms; they want to teach us what democracy is?

Young minds have to be activated; you have to subscribe to the spirit of nationalism. Nationalism is non-negotiable; we have to have firm commitment to it. You are discerning minds; you are intelligent minds; you must speak out on public platforms, on social media. We are a nation, not to get scriptures from others.

We are a nation that has civilizational ethos for more than 5000 years. Look at the G20; what was the motto? "One Earth, one family, one future."We did not coin it for G20, It is nectar of our civilisational worth embedded in our ethos.

How can we look at nationalism from gains in the political arena? No, we overcame to make; we helped hundreds of other countries. They are grateful to Bharat for rescuing them from the pandemic.

We are the only country that made available digital certificates on mobile. We saved paper; no other country in the world, not even the most developed, made available certification to their people.

Now when we are a nation like this, I am a little surprised. How can an observation be made in ignorance of ground reality.What does it say, Let me tell you a simple thing, the reaction has come. Citizenship Amendment Act,  You are lawyers, What does it say?

We are giving, taking into consideration humanitarian aspects, reprieve to those who have been persecuted on religious grounds in the neighborhood. None is being deprived, and the narrative is so different.

Second, we are not inviting people to get benefit of it. Benefit of this is given to those who are already in this country, this country over a decade because cut-off date is 2014. Are we doing it for the first time? Jews, Zoroastrianism, others, Parsis – they came to this country, flourished, blossomed, occupied top positions

Someone from a sovereign platform, ignorant of the ground reality in this country, is trying to teach us a lesson that this is discriminatory. Let us rebuff their ignorance; let us enlighten them to engage in due diligence.

We are in Amrit kaal; a firm foundation has been laid for a developed nation by 2047. And I come from a village; every there was no light, every home has it now; there was no gas connection, every home has it now; there was no tap water, exercises going on, toilet I could never think of; every home has a toilet now. This big change has taken place. Those of you who are from villages, you can work from your home because internet connectivity is available in every village.

People of my generation, they used to take a day off from work so that they can pay their electricity bill, the telephone bill, their water bill; they can apply for a passport. Service delivery in a country of 1.4 billion people is digitally driven now.

Look at the success of it. I am not in a figure. A large amount more than 2 lakh 75 thousand crore has gone to the farmers; the number is more than 9 or 10 crores; it's fluctuating. They receive thrice in a year direct transfer of money. Government has mechanism but what is more important is the farmer has mechanism to receive it.

Late back to the time when I got into parliament, a year before that, India's Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi ji, he had to lament, is this sent 1 rupee from Delhi, fraction of 15 Paisa reached. No longer now it is hundred percent.

There are people in the world who want to lecture us on our judicial behavior. India has robust judicial mechanism that is fair, independent, firm, and ever ready; it is citizen-centric.

The country will take a big leap when institutions work in their domain. They must work in tandem, but there will always be issues; there will be no day when there will be no issues between judiciary and executives, judiciary and legislature. We will overcome that by dialogue, deliberation, and discussion. Can you find another judicial institution that is as independent as enormously talented as ours? Trust me; you will not be able to find out.

I appeal to you also; you can catalyze big change. You must persuade young minds that there are new opportunities available to you. They must come out of silos, they engage recklessly driven sometimes by their parents to try only for competitive examinations. It is highly stressful; don't call it cut-throat competition, but if there are 100 seats, thousands of people try; 900 will be disappointed.

And after people get into the government jobs, they leave the jobs to make most of private ventures. It is in that context I am telling you that there are people in this country and outside also who find it very difficult to digest our growth. The world is stunned, and everyone is applauding, but some of us are setting afloat narratives that are sinister, pernicious, demeaning our progress, tainting our institution.

Your silence on the issue will ever resonate in your ears.

As coming to the governance aspect and harmony, the world is in need of harmony as never before. We have no rule-based order on high seas, but our Navy is contributing massively; you must be hearing every day.

We had problems in various parts of the globe, but look at how our citizens are taken out using diplomacy, using our resources, and helping other nations also.

So, there is every reason for you to be proud Indians and to take pride in historic exponential achievements.

I know there are certain issues; the issues will be resolved; we will find a way out. We are no longer in a tunnel where light cannot be seen. There are tunnels around, but when you get into a tunnel, you see a light; it can't last long.

Look at what is happening in other parts of the world; it was your dream once to be in that city; now you find, why not this city? There was an observation; there is no growth of arbitration in our country.

Arbitration in our country is a mechanism that adds one more year to civil litigation. You get an appointment of an arbitrator, intervention of court, and then the act is so worded that the arbitrator's appointment may be independent, but who stops him from calling? He is not independent; now you can go to court again. It is not an award and challenge; it's a civil suit. Then there are just statutory appeals provided, and when we are litigating minds, enormously talented and innovative in that area, why does the Supreme Court exist unless we don't access it?

The Supreme Court is open for one and all, which is a good thing, but then what happens to the High Court, district courts? Everyone has to do their job well. I am extremely proud of our judicial system. We will have to also take care that the institution of the High Court is fundamental to judicial governance. It is the High Court that has power of superintendence over subordinate judiciary. That's a big change.

My young friends in particular, I wish you a great journey. You are living in a nation; you are lucky. All of you are, according to me, part of a marathon march to a developed Bharat by 2047. I am sure I will not be around, but wherever I will be, I will be clapping for you

Thank you Jai Hind!