The Constitution of Bangladesh has in clear terms recognized the basic fundamental human rights. One of the basic fundamental rights is that all are equal before law and are entitled adequate protection of law. The principles of Natural Justice is “Nobody should be condemned unheard”. On the other hand, article 27 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to have equal protection of law. In the case of Dry. Amelia Abraham Vs..
State, 32 ODL (1980) 201, it was held that the principle of audio altered parted (hear the other party) unless expressly excluded by law or by the nature of the objects of any particular law is to be implied to have been proved in every statute. In a democratic country it is a prerequisite that all citizens get economic and social justice. The economically backward people need either free or state sponsored legal aid to get Justice and fair trial. This will uphold human rights and equality. The citizens require empowerment through legal aid for fair trial and Justice. This is a component of rule of law for any society.
It is not a charity but a civil right of the citizens. It ensures protection of law. The legal system in Bangladesh has the formal Judicial and the informal Sailfish system. The complexity of Justice system is an obstacle for poor people to access to justice. There is high legal cost like court fee, processing fee, solicitor’s fee, and other incidental expenses. A large number of people of the country don’t have financial and other logistic support to get the appropriate service from the Judicial system. So, without giving any legal assistance they can not ensure their rights.
There are a number of problems in Sailfish system like bias, corruption, and change in Legal Aid Act 2000 and justice delivery system By misguided saltshaker. The traditional Salaries were elderly and educated members of the society. Now-a-days, someone having linked to political or administrative high ups, embers of the law enforcement agencies like Officer-in-charge of police stations is holding the position of Shakily. The social, political and economic changes in society have weakened the Sailfish system and deprive the poor of getting Justice.
The Gram Karakas system is also ineffective due to too much politicking the formation of Gram Sacker. This is considered as parallel of local government at village level. The Gram Sacker Act needs some reform. The Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADAIR) in civil litigation is still not yet mandatory. There are some Adders not widely practiced. The ADAIR is a matter of practice and adoption and regulated by code of civil procedure. Some arbitration in some laws is not satisfactory due to difficult and biased procedures. The arbitration in Earth Ring Adult Act is one of the examples.
The citizens are facing a number of quasi Judicial and administrative authorities in their professional and personal life. The common people face many odds due to ignorance of law, rules, procedures and also of their rights. The new act -The Right to Information Act 2009 and the Information commission have failed to create an environment of free flow of information. The laws of most nations recognize the equal status of all people before the law, the presumption of their innocence (until proven guilty) and their right to legal representation.
There are some provisions in the constitutions of many countries to make provision for legal representation at public expense ‘where the interests of Justice so require’ or where ‘substantial injustice’ would result. The legal aid is part of Justice system to address the problem of certain class of member of the population. All the countries be developed or developing have legal Aid service for the citizens ho are unable to take protection of legal system due to different limitations.
They used to face common types of cases like: denial or deprivation of government benefits, evictions, domestic violence, immigration status, and discrimination. There is a global movement of civil society by human rights groups for strengthening the roles, capacities, and power of the disadvantaged and civil society. There are macro level interventions such as Public Interest Litigation and Advocacy for legal reform. They are also advocating with government for improved legal service delivery and enforcement of existing laws. In micro level interventions legal services are ADAIR and legal aid.
Bangladesh passed the Legal Aid Act, 2000, declared Legal Aid Services Principles limitation of citizens. Bangladesh has a government legal aid funds to provide services to the citizens. According to section 2(a) of the Act, “Legal Aid” means to provide legal aid to people who are unable to get the Justice due to financial position or due to different socio economic condition such as the payment of lawyer’s fees, etc. Thus, section 2 (a) of the Act broadly defines ‘Legal Aid’ so as to include counseling, payment of lawyers sees and other incidental cost for expenses of litigation.
For the purposes of the Legal Aid Act by the term financially incapable or poor means any person whose yearly average income is not more than take 3000. 00. There are some minor loopholes of the Acts. For examples, the Act does not specify criminal or civil cases for which legal aid can be provided. The process of consideration of application for legal aid is having meeting of board or committee in national, district or pizza levels headed by Judges with members from administration and others. The Board holds at least one meeting in every three months and the committee holds one meeting in every month.
The responsibility of boards and committees are voluntary services and there is no accountability. There are no set criteria of selecting cases for legal aid. There is no representation of really poor people in the board or committee and hardly the present board/ committee can feel the gravity of situation. The government has constituted a National Legal Aid Support Directorate under chairmanship of Minister for Law and Parliamentary affairs as per the Legal aid act. A senior District Judge is now the Director of the Directorate.
Unfortunately, the organism is yet to get a nod from the government and they are working with some support staffs paid by some donors. The directorate is unable to perform properly due to lack of manpower and other logistics. Bangladesh has a long way to go to implement the constitutional obligation to provide legal aid to the whole population forequarter protection of law and equality of law for everyone. Poor can get Justice only after due reform in Judiciary and law. The writer is a part-time teacher at the Leading University. He can be reached at e- mail: [email protected] Com