August 28, 2023
In a powerful speech at the 31st annual convocation of the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru, Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud advocated for better working conditions, work-life balance, and gender-inclusive policies within the legal profession. He shared personal anecdotes and urged graduating students to prioritize being good people over mere success.
CJI Chandrachud’s address shed light on the challenges faced by lawyers, particularly women, in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Drawing from his own experiences, he recalled his late former wife’s encounter with law firms’ demanding schedules. “My late former wife who was a lawyer, when she went to a law firm, she asked what would be the working hours and she was told it is 24×7 and 365 days,” the CJI noted. He further highlighted that she was advised to find a husband who could share household responsibilities and was told there would be no time for family. Chandrachud emphasized that while such norms prevailed in the past, they are changing now.
Importance of Supporting Women
Chandrachud stressed the importance of addressing the specific needs of women in the legal profession. He mentioned his practice of allowing women law clerks to work from home when they experienced health issues related to menstruation. “Last year, four law clerks out of five were women. It is common for them to call me up and say that ‘Sir I have menstrual cramps.’ I tell them, ‘please work from home and take care of your health,'” the CJI stated. He also noted that sanitary napkin dispensers had been provided in the female washrooms of the Supreme Court of India, promoting a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.
In his address, CJI Chandrachud urged the graduating students to prioritize their principles and conscience over mere success. “If being a good person and a good lawyer comes at a juncture, I urge you to be a good person. If the cost of being successful is that we have to act against conscience or be indifferent in the face of injustice, know that the cost is too high,” he advised.
The CJI’s remarks echo a growing global conversation about the importance of work-life balance, gender inclusivity, and mental health in the legal profession. Chandrachud’s willingness to openly discuss these matters and share personal stories sets a precedent for promoting positive changes within the legal community.
As the legal landscape continues to evolve, the impact of Chandrachud’s words is likely to resonate far beyond the convocation hall, encouraging both legal professionals and institutions to reevaluate and prioritize the well-being of those within the profession.