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Problems of Pro Bono Schemes in India

What Does Pro Bono Mean?

The term 'Pro Bono is derived from the Latin word which means "For the Public Good". As we are aware of the fact that the privileged and the underprivileged are the two inseparable hands of every society. Though the gates of the law are open for every class the real fact is that justice is not accessible to the underprivileged ones due to the many reasons and money is the major problem among them.

Like M.K Gandhi said "there is enough resource for everyone's needs but not greed" in contrast nowadays justice is accessible to those who can afford it not to those who are in need. So basically, Pro bono is the way through which lawyers, NGOs, and other legal institutes like nowadays Law schools through their law students try to give legal aid to the underprivileged ones at zero-cost so that justice should reach all classes.

Emergence Of Pro Bono Activities

Initially, the free legal aid activity was first observed in America during the pre-independence period around in the 1770s when Adam fought the case of British soldiers at Pro Bono for which he had been criticized by their countrymen. Then after getting independence in 1776 from the USA gradually the free legal services to no needy ones started gaining momentum which later had been adopted by many countries.[1]

Pro Bono Activities In Different Countries

After several years the USA through article 6.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct recommended that at least 50 hours of pro bono services per year by every lawyer. In South Korea, it is required to perform pro bono service for at least 30 hours per year which can be reduced by the local bar to 20 hours. Lawyers can also be exempt from it just by giving a good reason along with the payment of 17-26USD. And in the UK, two main organizations are working for free legal aid.

Firstly, Law Works (the operating name of the Solicitors Pro Bono Group) is national charity work. Secondly, 'Advocates for International Development' for free legal aid in sustainable development cases.[2]

Pro Bono In India

Though, it is constitutionally given under article 39E for the state to make sure equal justice to all still India has been far away from the pro bono activities taken by many developed countries like the USA, UK, South Korea, etc.

Apart from the constitutional guidelines government has also formed a new act that is Legal Service Authority Act 1987. This act allows the center and state governments to set up free legal aid authority at the center, state, and district levels.

But the enrolment of the lawyers under it remained very low because of the following reason:
  1. Hectic Schedule:
    Due to a heavy workload and the shortest time many advocates escaped themselves to join in it.
     
  2. Lack of recognition:
    Many advocates escaped themselves from pro bono because their hard work in most cases does not receive any appreciation.
     
  3. Unpaid:
    For new struggling lawyers without earning a single penny is difficult to perform pro bono work.

Reforms In Pro Bono Service

  1. Pro Bono Legal Service program which is ' Nyaya Bandu' was launched by Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad( Former Minister of Law and Justice) in April 2017. It aims to reach every marginalized or needy one through the means of an app and to bring all the members of the pro bono service to one place.
  2. To further enhance the service of pro bono Department of Justice reached 25 HCs requesting them to set up an integrated panel of pro bono lawyers. By 31st 2020 502 advocates have been registered as naysay band under 14 HCs.[3]
  3. After taking several steps the number of participants was not satisfactory due to a lack of time with the advocates. So to cope with this Department of Justice decided to allow law students to assist pro bono advocates. Then in June 2020, a module of Pro Bono Club was designed. Law School has to pass 3 criteria to get into it. After which DOJ has restructured the PB Club document for the FY 2021-21 after observing the covid situation to broader the concept of PB Club in Pan India scheme to access to justice titled " Designing Innovative Solutions And Holistic Access to Justice(DISHA)".


Key Objectives Of PB Club:
  1. To improve the efficiency in pro bono services by assisting advocates
  2. To make law students responsible citizens.

Scope of PB CLUB:
  1. A total of 80 new students will join the PB Club by the FY 2021-2026 under the DISHA scheme. In 2020-21 (29) have joined and 20 are planning to join in 2021-22 from Tier-I, Tier-II, and Tier-III.
  2. To maintain PB Club as a separate activity in law school.
Composition of PB Club:
  1. In each law school PB Club is headed by full-time faculty in charge, Student Committee (consist of 10 students selected by faculty im-charge)
  2. Students selected must be of 2nd 5th year( in the 5-year course) or 2nd 3rd year(in the 3-year course). And selected students called Pro Bono Associates(PBA).[4]

Activities To Be Carried Out By Pro Bono Associates (PBAs)

  1. Litigation Assistance:
    Under the guidance of the faculty in charge the PB Club can decide the type of legal assistance. The number of cases assigned should according to his year in law school, Number of PBAs supporting Pro Bono advocates under Nyay Bnadu High court Panel, No. of hours to be spent by PBAs, No. of a session organized by the law school in training advocates/ appellants in joining Nyay Bandu app, etc.
     
  2.  Community Care Legal Assistance (CCLA):
    1. Adoption of at least two villages
    2. Number of materials prepared to encourage the Nayay Bandhu Scheme
    3. Number of banners, posters, and activities presented in the law school
    4. Number of field visits taken by PBAs[5]
       
  3. Research, Documentation, and Reporting:
    1. Summaries of the cases taken by PB Club.
    2. Quarterly published PB Club Newspaper.
    3. Submission of Monthly and Bi-Monthly reports of PB Club on the Pro Bono Website.
       
  4. Promote Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism:
    1. Types on which PBAs support Mediation
    2. Organisation of client counseling and client interviewing competition for PBAs.

Why does the Pro Bono Scheme still lack?
  1. Limited Participation of Law school:
    At this point, DOJ's focus is only on the NLUs and Central Universities and neglects other Law schools. As almost all NLUs environment is of corporate nature that is why their students escape themselves to indulge in litigation activities.
     
  2. Low spirit shown by advocates to these cases:
    Many pro bono advocates show low interest or say put fewer efforts into these cases due to lack of recognition.
     
  3. Pro Bono scheme failed to reach mass:
    Even after taking measures still, more people have no legal assistance.

Conclusion
So after evaluating the pro bono scheme and its lack-ness we conclude by saying that DOJs should shift their focus from just NLUs and Central Universities to State Universities where many students themselves come from such backgrounds who suffered due to non-availability of pro bono services. And DOJ's must recognize the work of the PB advocates by giving them awards, cash prizes, etc. and last new steps must be taken to reach the grass-root level of the problem of pro bono reach.

End-Notes:
  1. History of Lawyers of Pro Bono Services available at https://law.rwu.edu/library/blog/history-lawyer-pro-bono-services
  2. Pro Bono available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro_bono
  3. DOJs Pro Bono Scheme available at - https://www.probono-doj.in/static/pdf/Revised%20SOP%20on%20PRO%20BONO%20CLUBS%20at%20Law%20Schools.pdf
  4. Supra -2

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