“Government alone will never be able to do it. it is only the people themselves who must utilize the law for the purpose of bringing justice at the doorstep of the large masses of the people of the country.” -Justice PN Bhagwati
In this article, the author will conduct a critical analysis of the “Legal Aid and Advice (Amendment) Act, 2015.” Furthermore, this article discusses questions such as why legal aid is necessary and how important it is under our constitution. In addition, we shall examine in this article all of the landmark case legislation that gave birth to the concept of free legal assistance and guidance in our country. The author will provide their recommendation and conclusion on the topic at the end of this article.
HISTORY OF LEGAL AID
To begin with, the concept of legal aid is a need for our society especially for a section of society that is poor and needy these people simply cannot afford to fight for their rights in a court of law. This concept of legal aid provides free legal assistance to them. According to the principle of natural justice, every person has a right to be heard in a court of law, it symbolizes fairness and equality among all citizens.
It will be a no just state if justice is only available to the privileged class of people. If every citizen is treated equally and justice is available to all then this is how harmony and peace could be maintained in a welfare society.
If we go back to the 1970s there was no such concept of free legal in our country. It was the Bombay legal society which has proposed the concept of free legal aid to the poor and needy persons. Later on, a committee was set up under the chairmanship of PN Bhagwat that is the committee on legal aid and legal advice in Bombay. Finally, it was concluded that it is the basic right of the needy person to get access to justice. Hence, the parliament introduced the Legal Service Authority Act, of 1987.
The legal aid provision in our constitution was introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976. Wherein, a provision was inserted under Article 39 A in the Directive Principles of State Policy for providing free legal aid to the poor section and the weaker part of our society.
This article clearly says that it is the duty of the state to give justice to all. Furthermore, their financial status or other disability cannot be a reason to not give them access to justice. It is the very essence of Article 14, that every citizen shall be treated equally that is equality before the law and equal protection law.
LEGAL AID AND ADVICE (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2015
The very need was felt by the parliament because in our country most of the people are not aware of their basic rights which are enshrined in our constitution. Also, the weaker section and illiterate people simply cannot afford to represent themselves in a court of law and get justice for themselves whenever their rights get violated. Free legal aid becomes important for these people to get access to justice and represent themselves in a court of law.
The National Legal Service Authority was formed under the Legal Service Authority Act of 1987 and renders free legal services to the needy and illiterate person. Moreover, it also organizes Lok Adalat for the settlement of any disputes in the matter of civil.
Landmark Case laws
Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar is one of the leading cases which highlighted the importance of access to justice, the facts of this case were like this there were many men, who were arrested for trivial offences. They were kept in prison for many years without giving any chance to be heard in court and some of them were not even charged with any offence. It happened because they were illiterate and financially unable to afford justice Hence, the court looked into the matter and said to immediately release them and highlighted the importance of free legal aid.
Khatri vs State of Bihar, the court, in this case, held that it is the duty of the state to give legal aid to the person who is unable to represent himself. it arises as he first appears in front magistrate and continues till his trials. Also, in the case of New India Assurance Co. Ltd. Vs Gopali, the facts were like this, a person died in an accident and his family cannot afford to file a case against the respondent company the Apex court held that the company must pay compensation the aggrieved family and they also granted free legal aid under Article 39A of our constitution.
The concept of free legal aid is regarded as an essential component of the rule of law. The welfare state needs to treat every citizen equally whatever their financial condition, it is the job of the state to give indigent individuals access to legal services that too at the cost of the State. Cases like Khatri show the need for natural justice and the rule of law, as well as the right to be heard and to have a prosecutor; the atrocities experienced by the prisoner were beyond our comprehension in this case.
To be more specific, 24 convicts who were unable to obtain legal counsel due to financial constraints were imprisoned for an extended period of time. The cops blinded those 24 convicts and poured acid into their eyes, which was both regrettable and harsh. Following this, the court took attention and issued appropriate directions to recompense the convicts, as well as take strict action against the Bihar police. There are many horrible cases that go unheard and unnoticed because of a lack of caring; we need to be more attentive to such crimes and educate the uninformed so that justice can be served.
List of references:
- Nishita Kirty, Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid, 4(2) IJLMH (2021)
- An Overview of Legal Aid and Advice (Amendment) Act 2015, Jus Corpus, 5 July 2022, available at: https://www.juscorpus.com/d-an-overview-of-legal-aid-and-advice-amendment-act-2015/
- Legal Aid and Advice (Amendment) Bill 2015, Juris Centre, 29 January 2023, available at: https://juriscentre.com/2023/01/29/legal-aid-and-advice-amendment-Act-2015/