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Every man is born free in the world. He inherits few rights naturally and few granted to him by the society. Society is a web of relationships and for a just and healthy society it is important that the rights of every individual is respected. Today, our country & society tends to work on the model of a welfare state. Therefore, the ideals of justice, equality and liberty together form the spirit of our Constitution and were beautifully reflected in the preamble. A welfare society can never be achieved unless all the citizens of the state, rich or poor, weak or strong, influential or common are scanned equally by the state. Whenever the state deviates from the notion of equality among its citizens; disparity rages among individuals and the essence of a welfare state is lost.
Imparting justice in a just and fair manner is the essential duty of state through its institutions. Poverty is not only due to lack of material factors but being unable to fight and attain justice for the infringement of rights of an individual. Thus, the responsibility of the state is not only to impart justice but to check that access to justice is available to all the needy, deprived, oppressed sections of the society or not. Courts are there to protect the rights and the state should check that every individual gets equal opportunity to represent himself in the temple of justice.
The government of India enacted LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITIES ACT 1987 with the view to provide access to justice to all. Under this act the needy persons are entailed to legal aid on the expense of the state if they fall under any of these following criteria:
· Any person who is the member of scheduled casts\tribe
· A victim of trafficking in human beings or beggar
· A women or a child ;
· A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person:
· A person under circumstances of undeserved want such as being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, draught, earthquake or industrial disaster;
· An industrial workman
· In custody including protective custody:
· Facing a charge which might result in punishment
as According to the legal services authorities act 1987, a national legal service authority is established and legal service authorities are established in every state, district and taluk level. The national legal service authority is the apex body which reviews all the state legal service authorities. The intention of the legislators behind the legislation is to provide access to justice to all.
In a country of over hundred billion population it is very difficult to provide equal opportunity of justice to everyone. The legal service authorities thus, are working on a very monumental task in providing access to justice to all the needy and aggrieved persons who are deprived of their rights.
Legal Aid implies giving free legal services to the poor and needy who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority.
Right to Legal Aid: It is the duty of the State to see that the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity for all its citizens. It must therefore arrange to provide free legal aid to those who cannot access justice due to economic and other disabilities.
Even in the procedural law of our country the provisions of legal aid has been laid down in sec, 304 of criminal procedure code which states that If the accused does not have sufficient means to engage a lawyer, the court must provide one for the defence of the accused at the expense of the state.
In various case laws the court has acknowledged the need and importance of legal aid.
It is very important to note that mere providing legal aid is not the intention of the legislation but the victim should be provided a quality legal aid. What do we mean by quality legal aid?
It’s very possible question in anyone’s mind. By mentioning the word quality it means that state should provide a reasonable and competent lawyer to the aggrieved. Failing to do so defeats the purpose of the legislation.
Access to justice inheres in the notion of justice. In the preamble of our constitution justice- social, economic and political are core principles. In their work on civil justice systems, Cappelletti and Garth point out that the emergence of right to access to justice as ‘the most human basic right’ was in recognition of the fact the possession of rights without any effective mechanism of vindication would be meaningless. The ‘first wave’ in this new movement was legal aid, the second was concerned with the reforms aimed at providing legal representation for ‘diffuse’ interests, especially in the areas of consumer and environmental protection; and the third, “access to justice approach,” which includes, but goes much beyond, the earlier approaches, thus representing an attempt to attack access barriers in a more articulate and comprehensive manner.’ Law should not be used as an instrument of oppression but rather as a tool to eradicate injustice and alleviate poor by restoring their rights in a just manner whenever they are infringed.
Legal service authorities in different states have been enshrined with this purpose to make access to justice available to all. They play a very decisive role and acts as a bridge between the needy, poor and the courts. They are the link which shows the poor the way that how can they attain justice from the court; it includes providing counsel, paying of court fees and fulfilling other court formalities by the authorities. Though still it’s seen that it is not enough. This approach, in short, needs some radical innovations, which goes beyond the sphere of legal representation.
The hurdles which are possessed in this arena are sometimes very simple for e.g. in many cases the poor litigant is not able to pay the required court fees which is in fact many a times very high for the poor litigant thus, refraining him from knocking the doors of the court for the justice. Thus, the work of legal services authorities can be compartmentalized in order to promote efficiency. Various other institutions like nongovernmental organisations, human rights commissions, Commissions for women etc can work in harmony with the legal service authority for the desired purpose. The weakness in not in the system but the weakness is in the application of the system. Legal service authorities have been set up with the vision to correct the application of the system. They thus, not only help in providing justice to the needy but consequently they also helps in restoring faith of the oppressed towards the legal system. Thus, in today’s world the role of legal service authority is more sociological rather than being another legal institution of the state.
Fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution hold out an assurance to each citizen that the state cherishes their dignity. In order to discharge the national obligation to fashion the legal process a sure means to social & economic justice and to ensure that no one, not even the most indigent, the poorest of the poor or one at the bottom of the pit amongst the downtrodden is denied the right to equality before law, Article 41, exhorted the State to make effective provision for securing, amongst others, public assistance in cases of “disablement” or “undeserved want”. Thus, it is above the institutions of the state that they should hold on sincerely to the vision our constitution. Legal services authority is one positive step in such direction but its decisive role and significance depends how it organizes itself in the society and proves it worth. The monumental task lies ahead, but as it is said: ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN ONE DAY similarly the social malaise and ailing judiciary in delivering justice cannot be curbed overnight.
Light In The Dark: Jharkhand Legal Services AuthorityJharkhand legal services authority was founded on 2nd January 2002 with the aim to promote legal awareness and to provide access to justice to all.
Since its foundation the legal services authority has taken various measures on grass root level to promote awareness among the people about their rights and to provide them legal aid.
However, it is only a faint like in the oblivion of darkness. Jharkhand is one of the poorest states of India as well as one of the most illiterate states too. In order to achieve justice people should be aware about their rights too otherwise “law which should be the protector of the poor becomes its offender”.
Jhalsa has adopted various methods in order to achieve its goal like, promoting awareness in every block of the district, organising timely lok adalats , setting up of mediation centre and promoting alternative dispute resolution and discouraging litigation. Perhaps the augment of its all achievements is “justice on wheels” which is a very innovative and successful method. The idea of mobile courts has hit the core of the problem it has enabled the institution of justice to go right on the doors of poor and needy who cannot afford coming to courts. But still a lot remains to be done.
The state legal service authority should never forget its sociological importance in the society. Perhaps it is one of the major institutions of state which could promote the interests of have-nots in restoring their rights as well as faith in the judiciary
Indeed A First Taste of Law:
As a part of my internship, I was assigned the task of legal awareness from jhalsa. I have to work with the team of r.l.e.k. who have come here for the same purpose from Dehra doon and were organising camps in all districts of Jharkhand for legal awareness. Jharkhand is the only state in India which lays rock bottom when it comes to no. of litigation filed every year. This could be very good news for the judiciary as there is at least one state in India where people are content and happy and there is no need for frivolous litigation to be filed but is that so? The answer is really disturbing and hurting. Those who are under the impression that the judiciary in Jharkhand is efficient and people are content are under an illusion. The cause of least no of cases filed in Jharkhand every year in the country is not due to the effective law and order but it is due to that people are not aware of their rights. Imagine after 62 years of independence people are still not aware of their rights, was this the dream of our constitutional fathers? Millions who sacrificed their lives just to achieve this kind of freedom, that after so many years of independence people still are not aware of their fundamental rights.
During my symbiotic relationship with R.L.E.K, I went to lohardagga district of Jharkhand mere 40 kms away from the capital ranchi. We organised a camp there for legal awareness among women. The majority of the women who turned up there were illiterate and thus engrossed heavily in superstition. It took a while for us to make them understand that there is nothing called as witch and witch practices but only time could tell how far we succeeded in educating them. We enlighten them with many laws which were made for there well being including P.W.D.V.A and sc/st prevention of atrocities of act, forest dwelling act etc.
The whole approach of ours just to give them substantial and procedural information that how they could achieve justice whenever their rights are infringed.
The majority of complained which we heard in their camps are basic administrative complaints which include ration cards not allotted , loans not given, B.P.L and A.P.L conflict etc. it was sad to perceive and finally visualize that the corrupt and ineffective administration has just fooled and used law as an instrument of oppression against the poor and helpless.
Promising steps have been initiated by the judiciary to restructure it and keep its pace with the changing society. Though still there are evaporation rather than condensation of made promises. Society should not and ought not favour only haves and ignore have – not’s.
· The strength of the no. of judicial officers working in the state as well as the district legal service authority should be increased.
· The lawyers appointed by the state legal services to provide legal aid should be paid adequately by the government. This will encourage lawyers and it would also improve the quality of legal aid provided. The high court can set up a pool of lawyers specifically for providing legal aid and pay them monthly salary as given to a judicial officer. It can hold examinations and interview for selection of those lawyers. This will ensure that only well qualified lawyers selected in the pool. Thus, the lawyers won’t have to worry in providing legal aids as they are paid a monthly income by the states but it will also help in improving the quality.
· Providing legal awareness is a task which requires maximum attention. The authorities could provide internships to students studying law or humanities and assign them tasks regarding legal awareness. Every district legal service authority should visit all the schools in its jurisdiction and impart awareness to students regarding various laws. The authorities should adopt innovative techniques like screening of documentary movies, setting up street plays in villages, blocs etc to promote awareness.
· State legal service authorities should encourage and provide training to the workers of ngos in paralegal activities.
· The scope of public utilities mentioned in section 22 of legal services authority act 1987 should be widen and inter- departmental issues should be given a place. This will help in providing speedy justice in inter departmental issues and would help in curbing pending arrears.
· Alternative dispute resolution should be encouraged, the inter-disciplinary work of various legal authorities should be monitored carefully thus, maintain coherence.
 Under chapter iv sec 12 of the legal services authorities act 1987
 As referred in article 23 of the constitution of India.
 Khatri II Vs. State of Bihar,(1981) 1 SCC
 Wherever applicable In case of taluk
 Art.39 A of the Constitution of India)
 The Constitutional duty to provide legal aid arises from the time the accused is produced before the Magistrate for the first time and continues whenever he is produced for remand.( khatri II vs. State of Bihar , (1981) 1SCC (Cri) 228: 1981 Cri. LJ 470
 M Cappelletti and B Garth, ‘ Access to justice – The Worldwide Movement to Make Rights Effective: A General Report, Access to justice- A World Survey, (eds MCappelletti and B Garth ), Vol I, Sijtoff and Noordhoff,1978, pp 5, 8-9. This shift occurred, according to the authors, simultaneous with the emergence, in the twentieth century, of the ‘welfare state’.
 Ibid , pp 21, 49
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org / Ph no: 09912054730 / Print This Article
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