Towards a fair Society
We live in a world full of contradictions . On the one hand we have people rolling in luxury and on the one hand we have people who even struggle to manage two squares of meal a day . More than Ninety percent of our Indian workforce is trapped in unorganized sector , with no social security benifits . Their life is trapped in endless cycle of struggle and toil .
Today , we live in an era of free market economy , dominated by capitalist ideology . In a society where there is no concept of free lunch , how can a person of limited means ensure justice for himself . The Constitution of India puts every person on equal parlance and incorporates the ideals of Justice , equity and fairness for all citizens of India . But how can these priciples be applied in practice in a society which is marked by an extremely uneven economic landscape .
In India , according to World Bank Report , over 23.6 percent of poppulation lives below $1.25 per day . In a society where a large chunk of poppulation , is struggling to make the both ends meet , what mechanism can be established to esure accessiblity to largely expensive legal services for them so that justice can be ensured for all . For ensuring the continuence of civilised society , it’s very important that rule of law prevails and even the people at the bottom of pyramid has access to legal services , so that they can ensure justice for themselves .
In these pre-text the concept of probono work finds a greater relevance than ever before in contempory society , which is marked by extremly unven economic landscape . Pro bono literally means work undertaken without charge especially legal work for client on low income .The term ,”pro bono “ , which is a short for ,” pro bono publico “ is a latin term that means ,” for public good “ . It involves lawyers and law students giving up their time on voluntary basis for people who need legal assistance , but aren’t in a position to afford for the same . In practice it is to help low income people with legal problems and needs . The pro-bono work is an umbrella term , which refers to providing free of cost legal services to the poor , or to organizations with principle purpose of promoting the interests of poor , to individuals , groups or organisations seeking to secure or protect Civil Rights , Civil Liberties or Public Rights and in connection with activities for improving the law , legal system or profession of law as a whole . Unlike traditional volunteerism , it is a service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them .
Pro –bono as a concept is now gaining momentum in India . In devloped countries like USA , UK , Australia etc this concept is already very well incorporated in legal profession and is in practice.
In U.S.A for instance , Lawyers are recommended under American Bar Association (A.B.A) ethical rules to contribute at least fifty hours of Pro-bono service per year . The A.B.A standing comittee on Pro-Bono , is a national source of information , resource and assistance to facilitate and expand the delivery of pro-bono legal help. The A.B.A standing committee also sponsors Pro-Bono week during the week of october 23-29 . Law universities in U.S.A makes it mandatory for Law students to complete require amount of time of pro-bono work . And this is a condition precedent before conferring a Law degree on a student . Universities of International repute such as Havard Law School , Stanford Law School , N.Y.U etc. Have made a minimum of 50 hours of pro-bono work as a condition precedent before conferring a Law degree on a student . There are rules which confers an obligation on Lawyers to fulfill a stipulated requirement of minimum number of pro-bono work hours . The American Bar Association describes the parameters of Pro-bono for practicing lawyers in the Model rules of professional conduct . Model Rule 6.1 states that lawyers should aspire to render – without fees – at least 50 hours of Pro bono publico legal services per year . Further incentives are also given to those who do these pro-bono work . These kind of rules and regulations boost the Pro-bono work and helps in achieving the noble intention which this Pro-bono work is intended to achieve .
In United Kingdoms also , many law firms and Law schools have celebrated an annual pro-bono week , which encourages solicitors and barristors to offer pro-bono services.
In India this concept is new , but is slowly and steadily gaining momentum . When a large section of population finds it difficult to possess even sufficient means to live , it is unfair to expect of them to cater to the lawyer’s fee. Hence this concept of Pro-bono finds even greater relevance in devloping countries like those of India . So it is demand of time that this concept of “ Pro-bono” should be systematically devloped with the help of state intervention in order to ensure justice to the millions of poor of this country . Supreme Court of India , by it’s various judgements has rightly incorporated Legal Aid as a part of the Right to Fair Trial . Supreme Court in Hussainara Khatton case held that a reasonable , fair and just Trial involves free legal service to the poor . It was further held in a case of ,” Suk Das v. State of Andhra pradesh “ , that a trial conducted in the absence of due legal representation to the economically disabled stands vitated . The Supreme Court has recognized the ,” Right to free Legal Aid “ , as a part of the ,” Right to Life and Personal Liberty “. Article 39A directs the state to ensure that justice is not denied to those unable to seek it’s recourse for want of economic needs .
Further by the force of Legal Services Authorities Act , 2002 the Government has established a hierarchy of State , District and Taluka Legal Services Authorities , to give effect to the constitutional promise of equal access of justice . These Legal Service Authorities provides free legal services to the poor and downtrodden sections of the society .
Law in India puts an obligation on Indian State to provide free legal aid to the poor sections of the society . However , the law does not confer any obligation on Lawyers and Law firms for compulsory pro-bono work . Well there is an ethical Obligation but no legal obligation on lawyers to provide for Pro-bono work. In country like India which is home to second largest poppulation in world , it is not possible for government to cater to the legal needs of large poor sections of society . Hence it must encourage voluntary pro-bono work by legal fraternity , by giving them recognition and giving them incentives . This will help in creating environment conducive for development of voluntary Pro-bono work . NGO’s involved in giving free legal aid should be appreciated for their work and should be provided with grants . In order for effective implementation of free legal aid service , Government should largely assume regulatory role. That is it should recognize individuals or groups involved in providing free legal aid services and then should provide them with incentives and all necessary support for carrying out pro-bono work . This will help in effective implementation and more people will be inclined to provide pro-bono work due to the benefits of incentive attached by the government .
Further law students should also be encouraged to participate in voluntary pro-bono work for the larger cause of the society . Following the trend in many developed countries , many premium Indian universities have also incorporated the compulsory requirement of minimum hours of pro-bono work.
Justice for all is the basic requirement for continuance of rule of law . The presence of Rule of Law is extremely important for the existence of Civilized society . Paucity of economic resources should not prevent any person from accessing legal service , in order to ensure justice for himself . Hence , the State should assume pro-active role in propogating , facilitating , and supporting voluntary Pro-bono work . We as the citizens of the country should also realize our responsibilities towards society and we as a nation should take one step forward in the direction of ensuring justice for all.