The topic has become very relevant from the Indian point of view whose majority of people suffer from illiteracy, poverty and social evils like dowry system, caste system etc which are proving to be the bane of the Indian society.
Lawyers advocate the cause of their clients in a court of law by receiving the legal fees on the basis of the nature of the case and the value of the claim involved. It is the duty of the lawyers to conduct the case of their clients sincerely and to the best of their ability. The lawyers also owe a duty to the society by way of social and moral obligation to do something to uphold the values of the society, to help the needy and poor people who cannot afford to pay the requisite legal fees to the lawyers and bear the expenses of the courts, but still suffering from some kind of legal problems with the expectation that somebody would bail them out.
Realising the actual problems and economic conditions of the poor people, the Indian Government has come up with a very useful ‘Legal Services Authority Act, 1987’, so as to provide free legal services to the needy and poor people. The Act extends to the whole of India. Each state has a separate judge to supervise the activities of the legal aid committees functioning at the District and Taluk level.The State level legal services authority also allots sufficient funds to the District and Taluk level legal aid committees. The idea and the mode of functioning of the committees is to receive the complaints from the people who are genuinely aggrieved which is prima facie ascertained on the basis of their records available with them, send notices to the respondents and by fixing up a hearing date, try to solve their legal problems as far as possible through mediation and conciliation.
The problems that remain unsolved are referred to a senior lawyer seeking his opinion.On getting his legal opinion and if the opinion is in favour of filing a case, the brief is entrusted to a legal aid committee panel lawyer for filing and proceed with the case in an appropriate court of law.
All the lawyers who have a minimum standing of three years are eligible to get themselves included in the legal aid panel. On being entrusted with a brief, he has to conduct the case without getting any fees initially. When the case is disposed of in a court, the panel lawyer who has been entrusted with the case has to apply to the legal services authority along with the decree and judgment, to get his fees. The Legal Services Authority sanctions a legal fee to the concerned advocate who conducted the case.
But the legal services authority of India pays only a nominal or fixed fee irrespective of the stake or claim involved in the suit.
Thus the Legal Services Authority Act in India has been playing a pioneering role in coordinating the activities of the advocates and the poor and needy people who are in real need of the lawyers to solve their problems.
Though only a nominal fee is paid to the lawyers who appear for the poor people, the ultimate goal of rendering free legal aid to them is solved at the cost of the government, the lawyers community are also doing their best to help the poor people, through legal services authority of India, by way of getting only a nominal fees.
But the legal services authority of India is not compelling the lawyers’ community to join the panel of lawyers to render free legal aid but it remains only optional. However, some of the leading lawyers who are busy and earning heavily, evince little interest in joining the panel of free legal aid services committee and it does not augur well for the pioneering work done by the Legal Services Authority Act.
In my humble opinion, all lawyers irrespective of their economic status are equal before the eyes of law. They too have moral and social obligations that they owe to the society.
Therefore, the entire legal fraternity should be compulsorily enrolled as members in the panel of the legal services authority of India and do their bit to champion the cause of the poor, needy and downtrodden people. After all they are the people who are mostly in need of lawyers’ help than anybody else.