Access to Justice Through Legal Aid – Constitutional and Legal Framework
The Constitution of India guarantees its citizens equality before the law. Article 14 provides that the State shall not deny its citizens equality before law or equal protection of laws within the territory of India. Justice P.N. Bhagwati has once said.” The protection of laws, therefore, must extend to the poor and the illiterate who are unable to get access to justice because of this backwardness. The Indian Judiciary, as the guardian of our Constitution and the protector of the rights of the citizens, has played a significant role here whereby through its judgments has called on the legislature to legislate such laws whereby the weaker sections of the society can come knocking on the doors of the courts for justice.
The relaxation of the procedure established by law in Maneka Gandhi case is a good example. Judicial Activism too has played an exemplary role in providing justice to those backward sections of the society who are unable to access courts to get justice. The introduction of the concept of Public Interest Litigation is a good example whereby public spirited citizens can seek justice for the weak and the downtrodden.Apart from these, certain reforms have been introduced in the judicial process whereby the access to justice has been made cheap and easy with the introduction of the Lok Adalat system to ensure that speedy justice is delivered to the deprived class. Also various legislations have been enacted by the Parliament such as the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which provides for the setting up of legal aid authorities at the National, State and District Level. The authors here wish to highlight the importance of providing legal aid in a democratic country like India where a majority of the population does not know about the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution ever since the time it came into force since 1950.
Keywords: Constitution, Equality, Justice, Legal Aid.
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Report Made By:
Name of Author: Puneet Kumar Arya, Executive Member, Student Section INBA
Name of Co-Author: Saima Hassan, Associate Law, Competition Commission of India, New Delhi