Critically Analysing The Role Of Advocates In Providing Legal Aid Services
Law is a noble profession and an Advocate is an Officer of justice of the Court. He is an important element for the administration of justice. The significant position enjoyed by an Advocate imposes a responsibility upon him to ensure that justice is available to all. Article 39A of the Indian Constitution says, that the States are required to provide free legal aid to the weaker and poorer sections of the society by assisting the people who are unable to afford legal services which include women and children, members of SC/ST, Industrial workmen, victims of a mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster, disabled persons, persons in custody, persons whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 1 lakh and victims of human trafficking and beggar enlisted under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act.
Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also makes it binding for the State to ensure equality before the law and a legal system that promotes justice based on equal opportunity to all. The provisions of legal aid have been laid down under section 304 of Cr.P.C, which states that if the accused does not have sufficient means to engage a lawyer, the court must grant a lawyer to the defense of the accused at the expenditure of the State. The right to a speedy trial and free legal aid has been recognized as being part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the parliament which was a nationwide uniform system. Under this Act, The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted to evaluate the performance of legal aid programs by laying down policies for making the legal services available to people. There are various authorities constituted in this act which are State Legal Services Authority, District Legal Service Authority, Supreme Court Legal Service Committee, High Court Legal Service Committee, and Taluk Legal Service Committee.
To guarantee justice to poor sections of the society, an advocate is required to provide them legal aid, even when they are not in a position either to pay him or adequately pay him for his services. He owes a duty to provide sincerely to all legal aid schemes available under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Be it the legal aid to poor sections of the society or promotion of legal literacy or facilitating the resolution of disputes through Lok Adalat
The consequences of the failure of legal aid schemes should not be ignored. More lawyers must be encouraged and campaigns should be launched to inform citizens about the concept and working of free legal aid services. Free legal aid can be achieved when the people are aware of their basic legal rights or they are exploited and ultimately deprived of their rights and benefits provided to them by the law.
Well established and senior Advocates are reluctant to take up cases under the Legal Services Authorities Act. Thus, newly enrolled Advocates as they do not have enough experience they opt for such cases and they are not able to provide excellent legal services due to their inexperience in their field. The unwillingness of senior Advocates in doing service to the community through free legal services is a serious constraint in the success of the legal aid scheme in India.
The Supreme Court in the case of Kishore Chand vs State of H.P. (AIR 1990 SC 2140) commented that it is high time that senior counsel should volunteer to defend accused as a part of their professional duty. In a landmark case of Hussainara Khatoon Vs State of Bihar, the petition was filed by the prisoners of the Bihar jail. They had already undergone the punishment more than they would have got if there was no delay in their conviction. The court released them and held that the State cannot be permitted to deny the constitutional right of the speedy trial on the ground that the State does not have adequate resources. Thus, the court said that Article 39A was an indisputable element of fair and just procedure and right to free legal services were implicit in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Free legal aid is beneficial to poor people and has been created with noble purpose but still, it has become a breeding ground for corruption. Many lawyers are found to be indulged in activities where they take cases of petty criminals and first-time convicts and charge fairly a high fee for the same. One such instance had been reported in newspaper article under the caption "Free Legal Aid for a Fee" which shows that there is lack of intention of lawyers to provide free legal aid services to people and the laws are such which are not stringent enough to bound every lawyer to take such cases which will ensure legal services for all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shivanshi Gupta is a 3rd year Law student, who is currently pursuing a B.com LLB degree from the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
You can contact her at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shivanshi-gupta-77137a176
edited by Rudra Prasad
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