Dr. Praveen Kumar Lohchab
Asst. Professor (Sel. Grade)
School of Law
The NorthCap University, Gurugram
Legal aid may be taken to mean free legal assistance to the poor persons in any judicial proceedings before the Court, Tribunals or any authority. It intends to provide free legal assistance to the poor persons who are not able to enforce the rights given to them by law. Justice P.N. Bhagwati has clearly stated that legal aid means providing an arrangement in the society which makes the machinery of administration of Justice easily accessible and in reach of those who have to resort to it for enforcement of rights given to them by law. He has rightly said that the poor and the illiterate should be able to approach the courts and their ignorance and poverty should not be an impediment in the way of obtaining justice from the Courts. The constitution of India gives much importance to rule of law. In India, it is regarded as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and also of natural justice. Free legal aid to the poor and weak persons has been held to be necessary adjunct of the rule of law.
Legal aid in India
The preamble of the Indian constitution aims to secure to the people of India justice – socio economic and political. Article 38 and 39A of the Indian constitution are notable. Article 38(1) states- the State shall promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting the social order including justice and Article 39-A of the constitution states that the state shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen.
Obstacles to Legal Assistance
At present the legal aid movement in India is unorganized, diffused and sporadic. There is lack of co-ordination in it. The ideal of equal access and availability of legal justice has reached almost breakdown point. There is a wide gap between the goals set and met. One law firm recently commented in a survey, “We no longer do pro bono work; we are too busy trying to survive”. Lawyers don’t engage themselves in pro bono activities because of various reasons. There is lack of financial resources.
Illiteracy is also a major obstacle to legal aid. Now it is common knowledge that about 70% of the people living in rural areas are illiterate and even more then that are not aware of the rights conferred upon them by law. It is the absence of legal awareness which leads to exploitation and deprivation of rights and benefits of the poor.
In order to provide legal assistance to the citizens of Gurugram, School of Law at The NorthCap University, Gurugram is running Legal Aid Clinic since 2010. NCU Law School is amongst Top Law School in Haryana and was established in 2010. NCU Law School is a premier institution; offers 5 years integrated BBA LLB (Hons.) degree, LL.M degree and Ph.D in Law. Hundreds of poor litigants visit NCU Legal Aid Clinic for legal assistance regarding their family disputes, land disputes, tenancy right and other litigations every year. Moreover, NCU Legal Aid Clinic organizes at least two Legal Aid Camps in surrounding regions every year. NCU Legal Aid Clinic wishes to provide legal assistance to the needy and poor people outside Gurugram also in coming future.