Government today flagged concerns regarding legal aid programmes, such as inability to meet the high cost of litigation, and promised to do its bit like releasing cess collected to extend free legal assistance to workers of unorganised sector.
Addressing a gathering here in the presence of Chief Justice of India designate Justice T S Thakur, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said he would like to “point out certain concerns” about the legal services programme in the country.
“First and foremost concern and barrier to access to justice is that of economic barrier. Cost of litigation consisting of cost of advocacy and court fee is a major obstacle for majority of the litigants in India,” he said.
He pointed out that that the fees charged by leading advocates in the Supreme Court, high courts as well in the district level courts becomes unaffordable for a large section of society.
“This problem gets pronounced when the poor litigant is pitted against a very rich and mighty opponent. In such scenarios, the result of the adjudication might go adverse to the poor litigant,” he said.
Before the minister spoke, Justice Thakur, who is executive chairman of National Legal Service Authority, pointed out that crores of rupees collected as cess for the unorganised sector were lying in the banks unutilised.
The fund is meant to extend legal aid to such workers who cannot afford the cost of litigation.
“There is a scheme for unorganised (labour) sector. There are 46 crore people working in unorganised sector out which 14 crore are women. We have found that huge amounts have been collected. Rs 3,000 crore has been collected in Karnataka as cess for unorganised sector.
“In Punjab, Rs 1,500 crore had been collected. Where is that money? That money is lying in banks and there is likelihood of that amount being used in purposes other than unorganised sector. There are schemes but those schemes have not been implemented. Let that money be spent on those schemes,” Justice Thakur said.
Responding to the issue, Gowda assured him that government will do its bit to ensure that the funds are released.