Shedding light on the fact that the overwhelming majority of the general public not utilising the free legal aid services due to many reasons including the lack of awareness and poor quality of the aid offered, Justice Uday U. Lalit, Supreme Court Judge and the Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority, said that the good quality legal aid must be ensured to make people have faith in the legal aid system.
“Most of us who deserve or the potential beneficiaries of free legal aid is not even aware of their rights. Only 1% of the total criminal cases heard in the courts of law get legal aid from the offices of Legal Services Authorities across the country. Is it that the remaining 99% of the general public doesn’t want legal aid? There could be two reasons for not getting legal aid. One, most of them are even not aware that it is their constitutional right to be provided free legal aid. Second, they don’t perhaps have confidence in the set up of legal aid, which is more dangerous. If they don’t have confidence in the setup or in the machinery of legal aid, then we need to do self-introspection. Good quality aid must be ensured. Legal aid to the poor does not mean poor legal aid. There has to be better standard, better quality and better level [of legal aid offered through legal services authorities].
He was delivering a keynote address at a legal awareness programme titled “Actualisation of Rights and Entitlements in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals - 2030” held at the PDA Engineering College auditorium here on October 24. The programme, which was a part of the pan-India outreach campaign, was organised by District and State Legal Services Authorities.
Stressing the need for the active involvement of good lawyers in ensuring quality legal aid to the people in need, Justice Lalit called upon the lawyers to increasingly join the State efforts to expand the legal aid services to more people.
“Some of the leading and senior advocates in the bar must take legal aid as a matter of choice and practice... We, at legal services authorities, may inculcate awareness among the people about their rights to get free legal aid. But, the final legal aid when it comes to court-based litigation has to come from the lawyers. Therefore a large and larger number of good lawyers must come forward to offer legal aid. It will generate an atmosphere of confidence in the minds of the general public,” Justice Lalit said.
Justice Lalit inaugurated the Legal Services Clinics (off-campus) in Law Universities and Colleges throughout the State and released the Standard Operating Procedure for them. He also released the second edition of the caricature book on legal literacy to the general public.
Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi delivered the special address in the programme.
Karnataka High Court judges Justice B. Veerappa, P.S. Dinesh Kumar, Justice Krishna S. Dixit and R. Devdas and Advocate General for Karnataka State Prabhuling K. Navadgi were present.