Rahima is a domestic worker; her husband abandoned her and not giving her dower money. She is being deprived of justice, because she does not know where to go. This scenario is not a rare one. Rather in practice, justice is densely unavailable to the impoverished section of the society.
Alternatively justice is easy and accessible for the poorer section in the name of legal aid service in Bangladesh. Under the Legal Aid Services Act, 2000 legal aid means legal advice and aid in litigations to be filed or already filed and all the relevant costs therewith. The United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems include legal education, access to legal information within the definition of legal aid. The concept of legal aid emerged from the principle of natural justice. Internationally the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights expressly recognize legal aid.
Legal Aid is not a constitutionally guaranteed right in Bangladesh directly though Article 14,27,31,35 of the Constitution of People's Republic of Bangladesh respectively emphasizes on the emancipation of backward section of the society, equality before law, equal protection of law and right to fair trial.
Apart from the Legal Aid Services Act, 2000, the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 recognizes legal aid in the form of pauper suit Under Order XXXIII.
National Legal Aid Services Organization (NLASO) is responsible to implement the legal aid service in Bangladesh and they are very much passionate and dedicated in their duties and responsibilities. From the time of its birth, District Legal Aid Office (DLAO), UZLAC and UPLAC have been formed in Upozilla and Union Level and ChowkiAdadlat has been formed in remote areas where the people are not able to come in DLAOs. Transfer of cases to DLAO (having jurisdiction) for disposal using ADR mechanism is a revolutionary step of new amended Legal aid Act and will be helpful to reduce backlog.
Recommendations for Making Legal Aid Service More Accessible:
We can recommend the methods which have been using in other countries of the sub-continent so that we can develop ours.Legal aid should be introduced as constitutionally guaranteed right expressly like India. Legal Services to transgender people should be introduced, inclusion of all designated senior lawyers in the legal aid schemes and requiring them to undertake at least two cases free of charge every year, which is a major feature of legal aid system in India. We can incorporate provisions regarding legal aid in the existing major laws of Bangladesh so that whenever they intent to file a suit under a specific legislation, they get legal aid automatically. We can take Bhutan as an example in this regard. We can also increase the sources from where people can get legal aid like Nepal.
Justice should not remain a star in the sky; it should be within the reach of every citizen. Taking legal aid service to the doorstep of common people can pave the way for access to justice. 'Fair Trial', 'Natural Justice' would be mockery if a state cannot ensure legal aid properly.
The writers are members of working committee of Student Legal Aid Forum.