India is a country with mass population, illiteracy and poverty. Majority of the people are not aware of the legal system prevailing in the country and also of their Constitutional rights. Even those who are aware of it are not in a situation to avail these rights because of their economic and social backwardness.
Legal aid is a constitutional right supported by Articles 21 and 39-A of the Constitution of India. “Access to Justice” is a basic human right conferred by the common law and exists unless it is taken away under any valid exercise of statutory or constitutional power by the legislature. The word “access” in itself signifies a Right to move towards Remedy.
This is not a modern concept and it is a large reflective of the primeval principle of Roman law “ubi jus ibi remedium” i.e. where there is a Right, there is a Remedy. The prime obligation of state is to provide free legal aid to the poor, indigent and marginalized citizens and it is their right guaranteed under The Constitution of India to demand and avail these. Further the paper proceeds with the legal awareness with issues and challenges in India and the conclusive part will be dealing with certain suggestions for promoting more effectiveness of statutory provisions.
Legal aid to the poor is necessary for the preservation of rule of law which is necessary for the existence of the orderly society. It implies giving free legal services to the poor and needy who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority. Until and unless poor illiterate man is not legally assisted, he is denied the opportunity to seek justice. The main objective is to provide equal justice to be made available to the poor, down trodden and weaker section of society. The Indian Constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary and the courts are given power to protect the constitution and safeguard the rights of people. In this regard Justice P.N.Bhagwati rightly observed that, “The legal aid means providing an arrangement in the society so that the missionary of administration of justice becomes easily accessible and is not out of reach of those who have to resort to it for enforcement of its given to them by law, the poor and illiterate should be able to approach the courts and their ignorance and poverty should not be an impediment in the way of their obtaining justice from the courts. Legal aid should be available to the poor and illiterate, who don’t have access to courts. One need not be a litigant to seek aid by means of legal aid.”
The foundation of the right to legal aid is premised in the universally accepted principle of “Fair trial”. The right to a fair hearing is universally recognized and documented in national constitutions and regional and international human rights instruments. It is the foundation for the protection of individual liberties. Right to legal aid is a demonstration of the need to level the powers of state to those of the suspect. The right to legal aid and representation at the expense of the state becomes a constituent element of the right to a fair trial.
Awareness of Legal Aid in India
Legal awareness sometimes called public legal education is the empowerment of individuals regarding issues involving the law. It helps to promote the consciousness of the legal culture. Legal awareness can empower people o demand justice, accountability, and effective remedies at all levels. We all know that India is a country unfrequented with illiteracy, poverty, and innocuousness of wide range of people, it is in a position of getting awareness to the people in every matter. Here in each and every people, no matter of illiteracy should be aware of the basic law of the country. Awareness of the legal aid system and also its schemes should be learned by them.