Legal aid in India to the poor and weak should be treated as necessity for the preservation of rule of law which is needed for the existence of the orderly society. The Indian Constitution has provided an independent and impartial judiciary and the courts are authorized to protect the constitution and safeguard the rights of people irrespective of their financial status. Since the goal of the constitution is to provide justice irrespective of their caste, colour, sex, region and religion and the directive principles are in its integral part of the constitution, the constitution commands that judiciary has responsibility to protect rights of the poor as also society as a whole. Apart from PIL and judicial activism, there are changes in the judicial process, where it targets to make justice cheap and easy by introducing Lok Adalat system as a one of the most efficient methods to provide free legal aid and speedy justice at the door steps of the poor.
Legal Aid helps to provide free legal services to the poor, 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. Legal Aid is the method undertaken to ensure that no one should be barred from receiving any professional advice and help due of lack of funds. Therefore, the main aim is to provide equal justice which is to be made available to the poor and weaker section of society. Legal aid is to be made affordable to the poor and needy by providing a system of government funding for those who cannot afford the cost of litigation. Legal aid needs to ensure that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor. National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been formed under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for the cordial settlement of disputes. Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to make sure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all. State Legal Services Authority has been incorporated for the implementation of the policies and directions of the NALSA and conduct Lok Adalats in the State. The State Legal Services Authority is led by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
The sections of the society which has been enrolled under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act are entitled for free legal services, they are:
- Women and children
- Members of SC/ST
- Industrial workmen
- Victims of human trafficking or beggar as mentioned in Article 23 of the Constitution
- Victims of natural disaster and industrial disaster.
- A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person.
Lok Adalat is an assembly where the disputes or pending cases in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/compromised amicably. The Lok Adalat has been given judicial status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Under the act, the apportion made by the Lok Adalats is consider to be the decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and therefore no appeal is then made before any court against its award.
Nature of cases brought before Lok Adalat-
- any case pending before any court
- Any dispute which has not appeared before in any single court and is likely to be filed before the court
Provided that any matter relating to an offence should not be combine under any law, shall not be settled in Lok Adalat.
It is suggested that it is the need of the hour that the poor illiterate people should be updated with legal knowledge and should be educated on their basic rights which should be done from the grass root level of the country. For that judiciary needs the support from state administration to conduct legal literacy programs. In providing Legal Aid, the Legal Aid institutions at all level should use efficient ADR methods so as to gear up the process of compromise between parties to the case and with that, matter will be settled without any further appeal.
Legal aid is not a charity or award, but is an obligation of the state and right of the citizens. The primary moto of the state should be equal justice for all.
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