Legal Aid System in Bangladesh Justice for All -Md. Abdur Rahman (Khoka)
The most pivotal mechanism for providing support towards the destitute people who are not capable of having affordable to pay to lawyers for getting justice and legal representation is called “Legal Aid” which has been regarded as the most indispensable part and parcel of justice system because impartiality and fairness with sharply and swiftly in case of justice must be ensured for all irrespective of justice seeker’s identity as it is one of the main characteristic of good governance. Fortunately but truly we are living in a modern democratic and civil society where there is an implied social contract between the citizens and the Government that the government would have to do everything according to the demand and need of citizens. The sovereign country consists of three organs i.e. executive, judiciary and legislative. Here the judiciary’s main responsibility is to explain and apply the Act of Parliament in such a way that the justice is not only done but also it is done to be seen. However, law does not off course imposes any positive duty on the judges to infer anything in order to decide whether the defendant is guilty or not rather they are actually depending on most appropriate arguments of the litigants which have to be based on the law. That is why there is an important phenomenon that the judges are blind (impartial role).But the obstacle to access to justice arises from here because poor litigants cannot meet the expenses of the high fees of lawyers for which they have to bear the burns of injustice which has been imposed on them in the name of justice in various aspects of life without any legal relief. So it was a raising crucial issue in almost all the countries considering such an adversely negative effect on those who are always the victim of injustice .So the concept of legal aid has been formed although the implication ,process and method for applying it varies from country to country. This is nothing but repudiation to them of one of their fundamental rights of uniformity before law and the equal safeguard of law. In such a case Legal aid can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal for which they will usually need to show that they can’t afford to pay for this help albeit they may have to pay some money towards the legal costs of their case or pay costs back later. Now it shall be deemed to consider those definitions of it which are mentioned below.
According to UNDP Practice Notes on Access to Justice, access to justice is much more than improving individual’s access to courts or granting legal representation .It must be defined in terms of ensuring firstly easy access to and strengthening of both formal and informal justice mechanisms for all particularly for poor and marginalized, and secondly, that legal and judicial outcomes are just and equitable ”and according to USAID ,”Legal empowerment of the poor refers to actions and process including but not limited to legal reforms, by which the poor are legally enabled to act more effectively to improve their economic situation and livelihoods, allowing them to alleviate or escape property”
After that it is found from the Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh that “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.”However, In spite of such pivotal provisions in the Constitution, Every year countless people in Bangladesh are being underprivileged of their constitutional rights to access justice due to poverty.
But can it be imagined in modern civilization that those people just for want of money they will not be entitled to get justice? So now it is necessary to have a careful concentration on legal aid system in Bangladesh which is comparatively a new phenomenon. In this article I would have initially mentioned about the constitutional basis of Legal Aid for which The Legal Aid Services Act 2000 had been enacted for the purpose of providing assistance which is treated as pro bono .According to this, anyone whose annual income will not exceed more 100000tk or in case of freedom fighters, it will not exceed more than 150000tk although the facility to get legal advice from NLASO is almost always absolutely free of cost which is opened for all regardless of advice seeker’s identity. However, after the full effectiveness of this revolutionary act, the expected outcome has not been found yet although many great initiatives have aptly been taken by the existent government with the collaboration of numerous national and international Non-Government Organizations. For example, USAID saves millions of lives every year across the world through Justice for All Programs as well as it has provided huge support in Bangladesh to ensure justice for all and its aims are to facilitate access to justice and empower citizens to exercise their rights. In cooperation with justice sector counterparts and civil society, the Program will improve the delivery of legal aid, enhance judicial governance, and raise awareness among citizens about the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution.
But the fact is that after the enactment of the Legal Aid Services Act 2000, it was impossible to make available service to the justice seekers because of its absence of required rules on providing legal aid at the highest court of Bangladesh. Until 2010, NLASO provided only Jail Appeal to the people who are socially and financially vulnerable through only by a small group of lawyers although recently the situation has fully been changed because of a recommendation by advisory committee about the enacting and publishing the Legal Aid Regulation 2015 by which it created the scope of a new way for providing legal aid at the highest court of Bangladesh. Furthermore, the newly published gazette includes the issues concerning fees of lawyers, jurisdiction of filling cases and many other related issues.
To ensure justice for all particularly for the poor in such kind of country like Bangladesh would not be very easy task, most of them would agree on this pint because of various hindrances for which everyone related to directly or indirectly with judiciary should come forward to uphold the flag of the justice and to raise our voices in favored of righteousness.
Intern at Justice for All Program, USAID