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Free Legal Services to achieve the Goal Enshrined in the Preamble

Legal Aid Clinic of the Institute of Law at Nirma University was created under the guidance enshrined in Art. 39A, Art. 14, Art. 21 and Art. 22 (1) of the Constitution of India and works on the principle laid down in the National Legal Services Authority which has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Free Legal services are provided to the poor, downtrodden, and weaker sections of society. Posters are put on the campus and nearby villages to create awareness about the Legal Aid Clinic. Contact numbers are provided in the posters to make easy access of Legal Aid Clinic. Regular drive is also conducted to create awareness about Legal Aid Clinic activities. Legal Aid Clinic is working with the assistance of faculty members and student volunteers near the gate of Nirma University. Beneficiaries visit the Legal Aid Clinic, at Nirma University, and get assistance from the team of faculty members about their legal problems. Advocate assistance is also provided in the necessary case by providing contact of Alumni who are practising as advocates in the respective court/tribunal. Alumni are ready to work for the poor litigant at the cost of filing fees (Basic cost). It is helpful to create a pool between the poor litigant and advocates. Legal Aid Clinic is also recommending the nearby District Legal Service Authority/State Legal Service Authority to get the help of a team of lawyers available on the panel.

Legal Aid Clinic, Nirma University is constantly putting efforts to create awareness about the legal rights and present issues/challenges faced by society. A team of students under the guidance of a faculty team organizes varied programs in the nearby villages, schools, colleges, etc. Speed mentoring sessions were organized in the nearby schools to create legal awareness among children about important social issues such as child abuse, ragging, good touch, and bad touch. The objective was to educate the students on how to identify and prevent such issues and also to provide them with information on the steps to take in case of an emergency. Nukkad Natak was organized in association with Theatre Club to sensitize people in the nearby Village, about the issue of domestic violence and encourage women to stand up for their rights. The objective was to spread awareness and educate people about domestic violence, its impact on women, and how to seek legal aid if needed. Nukkad Natak was also organized in the nearby village to create awareness about key issues such as child abuse, exploitation, and sexual harassment. The objective was to sensitize the audience, particularly children and their parents, about the evils of child trafficking and how to prevent it. The Legal Literacy Programme for Junior Advocates was organized at the Gandhinagar Bar Association. It involved a panel discussion that provided legal education and practical knowledge to the junior advocates. The panel discussion included examples of successful cases or strategies that junior advocates have used in the past. The discussion also provided information on the latest legal developments or changes in the law that may affect junior advocates’ practice. The program also provided networking opportunities where junior advocates could connect with peers and mentors in the legal profession. Legal Aid Clinic had adopted the village Limbadiya, Dist. Gandhinagar provides legal assistance and organizes programs regularly in the village. The drive was organized to create awareness about cybercrime and consumer rights in the village. Women/Girls are sensitized to the issues of health and hygiene. The preamble of the Constitution of India and Fundamental duties are explained to the students during the Legal Awareness Programmes in the schools. Jail visits and assistance to prisoners is also one of the important parts of the Legal Aid Clinic activities. Students of ILNU are working as assistants to the District Legal Service Authority, Ahmedabad.  Legal awareness activities are conducted with the help of student volunteers regularly to generate consciousness about legal rights and duties in society.

The provisions of law certainly provide viewpoint. The preamble of the Constitution of India say that Justice shall be Social Economic and Political. It is essential to develop Free Legal Services to achieve the goal enshrined in the preamble. This Preamble to the Constitution will have to be read along with Article 38 which provides State to secure a social order for promotion of a welfare of people and Article 39 which provides for certain principles of policy to be followed by the State. Article 39 A say that 39A. Equal justice and free legal aid. – The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (ACT NO. 39 OF 1987) has to be read wherein same is amended by Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act (37 of 2002). By this amendment the Parliament has amended Section 22B which provides establishment of permanent Lok Adalat, 22C provides for Cognizance of cases by permanent Lok Adalat, 22D provides procedure of permanent Lok Adalat and 22E provides Award of Permanent Lok Adalat to be final.

There are following precedents which give more clarity about Free Legal Services:

  1. Khatri and others v. State of Bihar, AIR 1981 SC 928 said about right to free Legal Aid Services and the constitutional Obligation of the State arises when accused is first produced before Magistrate and it is the duty of Magistrate and Sessions Judge to asked for the need of Free Legal Aid Services to the accused.
  2. Anokhilal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (2019) 20 SCC 196 mentioned about Arts. 21 and 39-A – Free legal aid and equal justice. Hon’ble Court point out that the principle relating Right to free legal aid services is an essential ingredient of reasonable, fair and just procedure for person accused of an offence.
  3. Hussainara Khatoon and others v. Home Secretary State of Bihar, AIR 1979 SC 1369 stated that Constitution of India (Art.21) emphasised that Free legal service shall be provided for the indigent and poor.
  4. Centre of Legal Research and another v. State of Kerala, AIR 1986 SC 1322 said that under Art. 39A Legal aid programmes and public participation is essential. Voluntary organizations or social action group in this field must be supported by State Govt.

Legal provisions and precedents provide roadmap to enhance Legal Aid Clinic Activities and Free Legal Services. It is vital to provide free legal services to the destitute to achieve the goal enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution of India. Let me quote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hon’ble Mr. Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., “Equal Justice under law… it is perhaps the most inspiring idea for our society, it is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exits… it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.”

Author Dr Devang Chhatrapati