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Report No. 230

Access to justice

1.40 Traditional concept of "access to justice" as understood by common man is access to courts of law. For a common man, a court is the place where justice is meted out to him/her. But since the laws enacted were in English and the proceedings of all the courts were highly complicated, confusing and expensive for the Indian public, the 'English' illiterate Indian public found it difficult to get access to the justice-delivery system.

As a solution, the need to have lawyers was felt as an effective mediator between the legal world and the common man. Therefore, we can see that a lawyer in addition to being champion at the various laws also has a social responsibility of helping the ignorant and the underprivileged to attain justice.

1.41 The State in contemporary scenario is welfare-oriented. It is one of the most important duties of a welfare state to provide judicial and non- 21judicial dispute resolution mechanisms to which all citizens have equal access, for the resolution of their legal disputes and enforcement of their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights. Poverty, ignorance or social inequalities should not become barriers to it.

1.42 Article 39A of the Constitution provides for equal justice and free legal aid. The said article obligates the State to promote justice on a basis of equal opportunity and, in particular, provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justices are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.

1.43 Lok Adalats, Nyaya Panchayats, Legal Services Authorities are also part of the campaign to take justice to the people and ensure that all people have equal access to justice in spite of various barriers like social and economic backwardness.

1.44 Large population, more litigation and lack of adequate infrastructure are the major factors that hamper our justice system. Regular adjudication procedures through the constant efforts of Legal Services Authorities will act as catalysts in curing these maladies of our system.

1.45 Disposal of legal disputes at pre-litigative stage by permanent and continuous Lok Adalats would provide expense-free justice to the citizens of this country. It also saves the courts from additional and avoidable burden of petty cases enabling them to divert their court-time to more contentious and old matters. Legal literacy and legal awareness are the principal means to achieve the objective for ensuring equality before law for the citizens of our country.

1.46 Legal profession of the country, as we know it today, is more than two centuries old. We can legitimately expect that the future of this profession ought to be very bright, particularly in the context of the enormous strides our country is making in various fields and human rights awareness. Public interest has to be its motto and service in the cause of justice its creed. Mahatma Gandhi was a barrister who practised law without compromising truth. Abraham Lincoln said:

"Discourage litigation, persuade your neighbours to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser in fees, expenses and time".

1.47 A stark reality that stares at our face is the fact that more than 70% of the people of this country are illiterate. The noble objective flowing from the Preamble of the Constitution and the earnest wish and hopes expressed in the Directive Principles shall remain on paper unless the people in this country are educated.



Reforms in the Judiciary - Some Suggestions Back




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