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Report No. 62

7.19. Section 23.- Section 23 deals with the powers and procedure of Commissioners. It needs no change.

7.20. Section 24.- Section 24 relates to the appearance of parties. It needs no change.

7.21. Sections 24A and 24B (New)-Legal aid.-

For the effective representation of claimants under the Act, a provision regarding legal aid is desirable. In the absence of legal aid, the provisions conferring rights remain a dead latter, for want of proper assertion of those rights. In this connection, attention may be invited to our Report on the Code of Civil Procedure1, where we have made a recommendation that where a person permitted to sue as an indigent is not represented by a pleader, the court shall assign a pleader to him at the expense of the State.

1. 54th Report (Code of Civil Procedure), Chapter 33, recommendation to insert Order 33, rule 9A (new).

7.21A. Eligibility for legal aid.-

In relation to the eligibility for proposed legal aid, we have, after some consideration, come to the conclusion that it is not necessary to lay down any means test. The right to legal aid should be available to every workman, irrespective of his financial condition. We do not think that such a provision would cast any undue burden on the State, because, in practice, those who can afford to engage a private lawyer, will always do so.

While legal aid for workmen who are injured and who are alive presents no difficulties, a peculiar difficulty might arise in relation to their dependants. This difficulty arises because of the fact that there might be a conflict of interest amongst the dependants, where rival claims are put up under section 8(5) in respect of apportionment of compensation amongst the various dependants. It is obvious that the official lawyer-whom we propose to designate as the Claims Prosecutor-would be placed in an embarrassing position if he were to be burdened with the duty of pleading before the Commissioner the case of each dependant in respect of his claim to apportionment.

In so far as the case of dependants is common to all of them, he would have no difficulty, but where there is a conflict of interest of the nature mentioned above, his position would be embarrassing. We, therefore, propose to make it clear that in such cases, he will not represent the dependants in respect of matters on which there is a conflict of interest. In case of conflict, the official lawyer shall not represent them in respect to the conflict. Subject to this rider, it may be provided that every workman1 (alive) and all dependants together shall be entitled to be represented by an official lawyer.

1. Irrespective of income.

7.22. We are not suggesting any elaborate provisions as to procedure for grant of legal aid. As regards appeals and references before the High Court, the procedure in this regard will be governed by rules to be made by the High Court. As to proceedings bef9tt the Commissioner, the necessary rules can be made by the Government under the general rule-making power. If necessary, the relevant section1can be suitably amplified.

1. Section 32(2)(c).

Workmens Compensation Act, 1923 Back

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