There is a famous saying that “Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere”. The Poverty is a curse be it for want of employment, social security, living, treatment or for getting legal aid.
One of basic requirement of a just and social order is that all persons should have equal protection of the laws whether the people are rich and poor. Critics sometimes very rightly said that Courts are like a five star hotel which is open to all who can afford that.
Justice Krishna Iyer has similar observation when he says “Doors of Justice can be opened with golden keys”. The Preamble of the Constitution of India speaks of social, economic and political justice and equality of status and opportunity.
Article 14 of the Constitution provides that the State shall not deny to any persons equality before law or the equal protection of law. It means that all the parties to legal proceedings must have an equal opportunity to access courts and of presenting their cases to the court. But access to the court depends upon payment of court fees and assistance of skilled lawyer. The Poor man can’t pay these hefty fees that lawyers charges. Unless some provision is made for assistance of the poor man for the payment of court fees and lawyers fee and other incidental cost of litigation, he is denied equality of opportunity to seek justice.
The 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act 1976 has inserted Article 39A which provides that the legal system should provide for free legal aid by suitable legislation or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic disabilities.
After the aforesaid amendment in the constitution the concept of legal aid to the poor has become clearer. The time has come when the state should translate this constitutional directive into action by framing a suitable policy in this regard. Legal Aid should not be a subject to charity. It is a social and moral duty of the society to help the poor.
Chief Justice of India has stressed the need to protect the rights of the poor and marginalised sections of the society. He said “Legal Institutions need to be physically and economically accessible to the needy”. The Existing system of legal aid to the prisoners and persons lodged in correctional system of legal aid to the poor to be revamped. Thus in welfare state free legal aid is recognised by so many states. Various agencies of the Cnetre and the State are embarking upon Free Legal Aid Programmes. The Bra Associations throughout the country have also formulated schemes to implement this programme. But as a matter of fact these schemes are only on appear and nothing tangible has been achieved. Big hoarding have been put outside courts promising free legal aid to the poor but there are only some lawyers wo definitely come forward to help poor without charging their fees. But there number is almost negligible.
Who all are entitled to Free Legal Aid
Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 prescribes the criteria for giving legal services to the eligible persons. Section 12 of the Act reads as under:-
- A member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.
- A victim of trafficking in human beings of beggar.
- A woman or a child.
4.A person with disability such as suffering from blindness, leprosy, loco motor disability, hearing impairment, mental incapacity.
- A victim of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake of industrial disaster.
- An industrial workman.
- An under-trial in custody, including a juvenile or a mentally ill person in a psychiatric hospital of psychiatric nursing home.
- A person with an annual income of less than Rs, 1,50,000/-
How to Apply for Free Legal Aid
FORMAT FOR APPLICATION
|4||Contact Address with phone number. If any, e-mail ID, if any.
|5||Whether the applicant belong to the category of persons mentioned in Section-12 of the Act.
|6||Monthly income if the applicant|
|7||Whether affidavit/proof has been Produced in support of income/ Eligibility u/s 12 of the Act|
|8||Nature of legal aid or advice required|
|9||A brief statement of the case, If court based legal services is required|
|12||Signature of Applicant|
How Legal Services can be availed
The request for availing legal services can be made:
- in writing or verbally,
- can be made to the Member Secretary, District Legal Services Authority,
- District and Session Judge, Civil Judge (senior Division) at District level,
- Additional Civil Judge (senior Divisional) at sub-divisional level,
- Assistant District Attorney (Legal Services) or
- In the Front offices,
- Legal Aid Clinics and
- Legal Literacy Clubs.
Cases where free legal services can be provided
Free Legal Services can be provided in the below mentioned cases;
- All kind of Civil and Criminal cases.
- Property matter & Executions.
- Matrimonial/family dispute.
- Appeals, writs, review/revisions etc.
- Cases pending in the commissions and Tribunals.
- Cases relating to violation of Fundamental Rights or Public Interest Litigation.1
Legal Aid should have been provided by voluntary organizations, members of the bar and some service organisations. The choice of a counsel is an important question. The poor should not be left at mercy of counsels of poor quality. Legal Aid fund should be provided by Union as well as State government.
Faculties of law and students should work for the legal aid programme. Assisting in the programme will make them aware of the problems of the poor and make them better citizens.