LEGAL AID: CONSTITUTIONAL AND STATUTORY PROVISIONS
To the poor the Courts are a maze, if he pleads there all his life, law is so lordly, and loath to end his case; without money paid in presents, law listeneth to few” -
The Constitution of India mandates the state to accord justice to all members of the society in all facets of human activity. Our national goal is to achieve justice - social, economic and political through the process of Rule of Law. Equal access to law for the rich and the poor alike is essential for the maintenance of Rule of Law. Thus, it is necessary to provide effective legal aid to poor and underprivileged so as to enable them to access justice and to use effectively the judicial system for enforcement of rights given to them by law. CONCEPT OF PROTECTIVE DISCRIMINATION AND LEGAL AID
The principle of equality of law does not mean that the same law should apply to everyone but that the law should deal alike with all in one class; that there should be an equality of treatment under equal circumstances. The legislature is entitled to make reasonable classification for purposes of legislations and treat all in one class on an equal footing. Article 14 of the Constitution ensures equality among equals. Its aim is to protect persons similarly placed against discriminatory treatment. Widening the scope of fairness inherent in the guarantee of equality under Article 14, the Supreme Court has held that the Court would not only strike down a law on the grounds of absence of reasonableness of the classification made by it, but would conversely, uphold a law which makes protective discrimination. It means that Article 14 enjoins the State to take into account the de facto inequalities which exist in the society and to “take affirmative action by way of giving preference to the socially and economically disadvantaged persons or inflicting handicaps on those more advantageously placed, in order to bring out real equality.” Such affirmative action though apparently discriminatory is calculated to produce equality on a broader basis by eliminating de facto inequalities and placing the weaker section of the community on a footing of equality with the more powerful section so that each member of the community may enjoy equal opportunity of using to the full, his natural endowments. “To treat unequals differently according to their inequality is not only permitted but required.” Article 21 though couched in negative language confers on every person the fundamental right to life and personal liberty. It provides that “no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law.” Article 21 connotes positive concept. DUTY OF THE STATE TO PROVIDED LEGAL AID
The Constitution of India categorically proclaims that every citizen of India is to be ensured social, economic and political justice. It is with regards to enabling a person represent his interests or defence before a Court of Law that the concept of legal aid to the poor is related to. Since the Constitution of India is based on the overriding principle of equality , the State is under an extraordinary obligation to not only give legal aid to the poor and infirm but also to ensure that he gets himself adequately and effectively represented on par with his opponents howsoever rich or powerful they may be. In partial fulfillment to this obligation, the Constitution has imposed a duty on the State to provide legal aid to the poor and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. The legal assistance to a poor or indigent accused who is arrested and out in jeopardy of his life and personal liberty is a Constitutive imperative mandated not only by Article 39-A but also by Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. It is necessary sine qua non of justice and where it is not provided, injustice is likely to result and...
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