“It was an edifying spectacle to see the members of the Bar from all over the country assembled together inspired by a noble ideal in the spacious and modern hall of Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, the stalwarts of the profession whose names are held as symbols of the best and the noblest aspects of the profession throughout the length & breadth of the Country.
The leaders of the Bar from the various, States and the young & new entrants to the profession, their expressions though somewhat clouded by inner anxieties and doubts but at the same time brightened by hopes and aspirations mingled with each other.
A spirit of oneness and belonging to' the same noble calling prevailed. Every one proudly felt that he was participating in something which is historic and mementous for the future. The participation of the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India in the solemn function was very significant.
The fact that these high dignitaries of State once belonged to the Bar and were nurtured by the Bar reminded those who were assembled there of the functions, responsibilities, duties and rights of the members of the Bar as the upholders of freedom, liberty and justice.
The speeches delivered at the function focussed the attention of the assembly on a number of problems & aspects of the profession Genesis of the all India Bar.
“The attainment of India's Independence, the establishment of democratic institutions in this Country and the attempt to solve the nation's problems by the application of a new socio-economic philosophy have cumulatively ushered in a rapidly changing pattern of Society. Naturally the legal profession cannot remain indifferent to the dynamic changes taking place in the new set up. It is necessary that the members of the Bar should pay serious attention to this problem.
That change may be for good or for bad. So, all these new problems come and these problems can be decided certainly, as far as lawyers are concerned, by specialised training and also by a certain amount of wisdom and a certain understanding of those problems, apart even from their judicial significance, because life is an integrated thing. You cannot separate it in compartments, some part of life meant only for lawyers and judges and some other part meant for somebody else. That is not so.”
In real life they all overlap and in a changing phase of society it becomes so necessary to have some integrated understanding of these various developments so as to be able to deal with it. Shri M. C. Setalvad emphasised the function of the Bar Association to help the lawyers in bringing about a new orientation.
The men of the law cannot afford to stand aside when the country is forging ahead along its newly chosen path. We have to adapt ourselves to these new conditions, discard the notion that we are a mere profession and realise that we can regain the influence which we once exercised in public affairs only if we become the leaders of the people in the changed conditions so as to guide them to the' new destination which they have set themselves to reach.
The Bar Association of India was inaugurated by the President of India on 2nd of April 1960 and in the words of the Chief Justice of India "a red letter day in the history of the legal profession of India when we are for the first time laying the foundations of an all-India Bar which, let us hope, will develop on the right lines and will lay down healthy traditions and sound conventions for the legal profession to follow".
On the inaugural moment of the Bar Association Of India by the President of India Shri M, C. Setalvad, Attorney General of India said "It is in the fitness of things that you Mr. President should initiate the functioning of this nation-wide body of lawyers which has recently come into existence. Having been a notable and distinguished figure at the Bar and having presided at the fashioning of our organic law, the Constitution, it is but appropriate that this Organisation of lawyers which we hope will make a national institution, should be called into activity at your hands".
The eminent speeches delivered at the function Referring to the Bar Association of India in which the President of India said "a body like this can help in resolving many of the difficulties which may arise and in guiding public opinion in the country and if I may say so also members of Legislatures in whose hands power of legislation is vested". He further told that it should not hold any longer, because we are producing legislation on such a mass scale now that it becomes impossible for anyone to keep himself fully acquainted with the trends of the new legislation, and details of it of course are out of the question”.
He continued that “It is therefore necessary all the more for those who are in a position to guide and to advise the ordinary man, to keep themselves posted, fully up to date with regard to the trends of the law so that they can give the ordinary man the right type of advice, and their advice should not necessarily be for the winning of a case although it is important for a lawyer to win a case".
The Attorney General in the words of Dr. K. M. Munshi "in his inimitable way mentioned the aims and objects and the purpose for which this Association is founded" as follows: The objects of the Association are 'broad-based and aim not only at the furtherance of the interests of the profession but set before it the task of public and national welfare in many directions. We aim at upholding the Constitution of India, the representative, free and democratic form of Government established by it and the promotion of the Rule of Law, we are to endeavour to apply our knowledge and experience in the field of law to the promotion of the public good. We have pledged ourselves to promote the improvement of legal education and to undertake instruction in law and allied subjects; We are also to take measures for the provision of free legal aid to the poor and the establishment and maintenance of a system of prompt and efficient legal advice for persons irrespective of their capacity to pay. I have mentioned but a few of our objects which will tend to the public weal. In addition we shall also function in our own characteristic fields; such as, the promotion of the science of jurisprudence, the encouragement and conduct of research in legal and allied fields, the reform of administration of justice and law and the promotion of the uniformity of legislation and judicial decision".
He was the greatest of Indian Jurists in the post independence era, an outstanding and eminent personality, a sound and astute lawyer, one of the brightest legal luminaries of the country and a nationalist son He was the most distinguished son of a very illustrious father Sir Chimanlal Setalvad was brought up in Mumbai.
He started practicing law in Bombay an active member of the Bar for a period of over six decades his services were requisitioned by Government for upholding the cause of the country in international forum. Few persons acquired the eminence that he achieved in a life of almost ninety years. He refused to become the first Indian Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay when offered the post by then British Government.
He was appointed Advocate General of Bombay from 1937 to 1942. But he gave up the office when Quit India Movement started. A conflict arose in his conscience between his duties to the office and his duties to the Nation.
He was the first Attorney-General of India from 1950 to 1962, Immediately after partition he represented the country before the Radcliff Commission which determined India’s boundary with West Pakistan.
Mr. M. C. Setalvad was awarded by Padma Vibhushan on Monday, August 5, 1974. Those were the days when it was extremely difficult for a young junior to make his headway in the profession in competition with eminent English members of the Bar who were in active practice. His task was extremely difficult as he began his career with an absolute and firm determination as noted in his diary:- “No flattery, no dishonesty, no untruthfulness.
He truly and faithfully adhered to every syllable of what he noted in his diary all his life. Notwithstanding that his father was an eminent lawyer in those days he had to wait patiently for eight to ten years for briefs to come to him. He used this period to make a thorough study of all aspect of law with emphasis on first principles.
He never misled the Court for interest of the party he represented. If in his honest opinion the party he represented had no case, he had the courage to tell the court “My Lords, my clients has no case”. He was throughout his career as a lawyer, a symbol of integrity, honesty, uprightness and truthfulness. In a true and ideal sense he was an officer of the Court whose duty it was to assist the judge to administer justice.
He was never rude to any counsel opposing him even under provocation. He never lost his serenity and dignity. He was invariably considerate to junior counsel who were on the other side in any case. Even outside the Court he helped many junior counsel by giving them guidance and advice. He was outspoken and straightforward when anything incorrect was done at any level.
He never allowed personal considerations or intimate friendship to affect his principles or judgement. Courage and rectitude were his strong characteristics and virtues throughout his life. He always gave advice without fear or favour. His high standards as counsel and as a man of principle were never diluted by him for any reason whatsoever. Though he appeared reserved by nature, he was affectionate to persons whom he found worthy of his trust.
Throughout his career as a lawyer he was completely independent in thought and outlook, fearless in expression of his opinion and no respector of personality. It is said at one stage he even offered to resign from the office of Attorney General and claimed his right to address Parliament as such.
He was a member of the Rajya Sabha and whenever an occasion arose he rarely hesitated to fearlessly express his views on the burning topic of the day. He has to his credit the authorship of many books.
The Bar Association of India is Federation of the Supreme Court, High Court, District Court and other local Bar Associations, Law Societies in India and the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF), cumulatively representing as a voluntary body almost the entire legal profession, apart from having a distinguished individual membership.