More to be done in extending legal aid: Balakrishnan

ADVOCATING PROMPT DELIVERY OF JUSTICE: Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan with Kerala High Court Acting Chief Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan at the inaugural function of an all-India meet of legal services authorities of States in Kochi on Saturday . Photo: VipinChandran  

Staff Reporter

`Millions still need support for access to justice'

Kochi: Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan said here on Saturday that legal aid was a tool of empowerment for the marginalised population which had been deprived of social benefits.

Inaugurating a two-day all-India meeting of the legal services authorities of States, he said that despite efforts, the Constitutional goals of equality and equal opportunities were yet to be realised. Millions of Indians still needed support for access to justice. Enough had not been done in the field of providing legal aid. In fact, providing legal aid to poor people had been a serious problem faced by various legal services authorities. Though there were many voluntary organisations for providing legal aid in various States, much could not be done because of illiteracy and poverty.

The Chief Justice said that it was the duty of everyone to protect the rights of women, victims of human trafficking, migrant labourers, sex workers and labourers in unorganised sectors. The rights of HIV-infected persons should be protected. The existing system of legal aid to persons lodged in correctional homes should be revamped.

He said: "The poor generally has less voice, less income and less access to services than most of other people. We have to create and shape the public action so that acquisition of human capacity is not driven by circumstances such as birth."

Speaking at the function, Union Minister of State for Law and Justice K. Venkatapathy said that some of the States were not keen on providing free legal aid to the needy. In fact, certain State governments had stopped asking funds for legal aid.

He said the legal system in the country was so complicated that ordinary persons could not understand court verdicts without the assistance of lawyers. The Minster said that a majority of people were unable to approach the judiciary owing to poverty and economic deprivation. Minister for Law M. Vijayakumar said the proposal for setting up two more permanent Lok Adalats in Kochi and Kozhikode was under the active consideration of the State Government. Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan emphasised the need for providing legal aid to the poor. Supreme Court Judge and Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority Ashok Bhan presided. The Supreme Court judges Arijit Pasayat and S.B. Sinha; Acting Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court K.S. Radhakrishnan; and J.B. Koshy, High Court Judge and Executive Chairman of the Kerala State Legal Services Authority, spoke.