Free Legal Aid: annihilating opportunities for advocates?
Law as a career is considered highly putative and one of the most esteemed
careers across the globe. Affirmative action, as we crucially study as a part of
the curriculum has a lot to do with actual realities, and it should not be
equitable to put affirmative action and the profession of lawyers on the same
pair of scales because a lawyer always stands for the TRUE spirit and elements
of the constitution.
One of which is Article Thirty-nine(A) of the constitution of India which
provides that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system
promotes justice based on equal opportunity and shall, in particular, provide
free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes within any way to ensure the
opportunities for securing justice.
If I come to statistics approximately ₹30000 Crores is what litigants in India
spends in a year just to attend court hearing. There are almost 11089033 civil
cases and 33381609 criminal cases command in a total of 44470642 cases in the
court out of which approximately. 61.06% of the cases are one year old.
a myriad of total cases, the bulk even pending in the courts. It is to be
noticed that a small drop if taken out from the ocean and that too for a greater
cause won't affect the ocean. The same is the case with free legal aid being
provided to the poor won't clutch opportunities from the lawyers.
Free legal aid would serve as a pertinent mechanic for ensuring equal access to
justice, particularly for individuals who may not be financially well-equipped.
It is observed that some feel that it hinders the opportunities for lawyers, but
it is utterly important to recognize that free legal aid fosters Inclusively and
upholds the principle of fairness within the legal system.
Free legal aid helps to bridge the gap in access to justice and promotes a more
equitable society. It allows individuals from diverse backgrounds to assert
their rights, regardless of their financial circumstances.
As per the recent data published by "The Department of Justice", 50 lakhs were
helped through its TELE-LAW program, with Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.
Legal aid service strives to set the seal on the constitutional pledge that is
fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equality. Justice is made available to
the downtrodden and weaker sections of the society the state must see. That
legal system promotes justice based on essential elements of the constitution
which is Equal opportunities for all its citizens.
Judicial Defences To Free Legal Aid Services
Citing justice "Krishna Iyer's" contribution in promoting free legal aid in
Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra, he affirmed If a
prisoner sentenced to imprisonment, is virtually unable to exercise his
constitutional and statutory right of appeal, inclusive of special leave to
appeal, for want of legal assistance, there is implicit in the Court under
Article 142, read with Articles 21, and 39A of the Constitution, power to assign
counsel for such imprisoned individual for doing complete justice, The inference
is inevitable that this is a State's duty and not government's charity.
In 1986, in another case of Sukhdas v. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh,
Justice P.N. Bhagwati, while referring to the decision of Hossainara Khatoon's
case the court observed that about 70% of the people living in rural areas are
illiterate and even more than that percentage of the people are not aware of the
rights conferred upon them by law.
The gap between Article 21 and the concept of free legal aid was bridged in
Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar where the court was appalled at the
plight of thousands of undertrials languishing in the jails in Bihar for years
on end without ever being represented by lawyers. The court declared, "There can
be no doubt that speedy trial, and by speedy trial, we mean reasonably
expeditious trial, is an integral and essential part of the fundamental right to
life and liberty enshrined in Article 21.
In Khatri Vs. State of Bihar; it was held that 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.
In another case i.e. Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra; it was held
that the police must inform the nearest Legal Aid Committee about the arrest of
a person immediately after such arrest.
The provision of legal service is an integral component of the process of a
"reasonable, equitable, and just" environment, because, without it, a person
with an economic or other disability would be denied the right to obtain
justice. Consequently, the right to receive free legal services is a fundamental
element of the "reasonable, equal, and just" procedure for any person accused of
a criminal offense and must be implicit in the guarantee provided for in Article
Also, even the accused under section 304 of the criminal procedure code is
provided with a defense council at the expense of the state, if the accused
doesn't have sufficient means to engage a lawyer, because the Constitution
believes that the right to be represented is the integral right of any person.
It's crucial to note that free legal aid isn't annihilating the essence of
private practice but only serves as a complementary resource, addressing the
needs of individuals who can't afford legal services. Private lawyers, however,
continues to play a paramount role in providing specialized legal service and
representing the clients who can afford it. Free Legal Aid and private practice
could co-exist, each fulfilling peerless roles in our legal system.
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