50 hours of Pro Bono Service in a year ~ American Bar Association
The term “pro bono” is extracted from the Latin term pro bono publico, which means “for the public good it refers to services that are proffered by a professional for free or at a lower cost. Pro Bono has become synonym to free legal aid. Pro bono lawyers serve the public interest by giving free legal services to individuals who are in need. Instead of working for profit, the provider is regarded to be imparting a benefit for the larger good.
Hence from an ethical point of view, the concept of Pro Bono shouldn’t be perceived as a form of charity, but rather as a part of moral responsibility for legal practitioners Supporting Article 22 and Article 29 of the Indian Constitution which states the right of the accused to be represented by any legal practitioner of his choice, Pro bono allows and helps the indigent people to be represented by lawyers in the court of law. It also functions in consonance with Section 304 of CrPC whereby legal aid is provided to the accused and representation is ensured.
Pro-Bono in legal services is the responsibility of the state, but most lawyers and law firms do take few Pro Bono as a moral obligation. Pro Bono Cases help young lawyer to enhance their skills as it gives a lot of exposure and experience in different fields of law.
PURPOSE OF PRO BONO
Prejudices do not exist in pro bono services, Pro bono work is undertaken by lawyers who are eager to help and have a noble motive to do so. Lawyers and their clients have the window to examine their affinity. The client is also cognizant of the fact that his/her lawyer is providing the services either at no cost or at reduced cost and with the view to help the client in resolving the dispute. As a result, mutual respect, trust, and a strong working relationship between the practitioner and client development Another important factor in favour of the pro bono system is that both the client and the lawyer have the flexibility to terminate the engagement at any point in time.
LEGAL POSITION ON PRO BONO LEGAL SERVICES
Sustainable Development Goal 16 of United Nations Development Programme, creates peace justice & strong institutions a global goal. Pro Bono Legal Services is recognized by international community in Article 14(3)(d) of International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights.
Article 39A of Constitution of India enshrines the principal of equal justice and free legal aid. This article is the grund norm for Free Legal Aid in India, this article does not only makes a legal representation mandatory, but also have the right of adequate legal representation within it, in the case of Anokhilal V. State of MP (2019) 20 SCC 196 , the court in this case said that since the Amicus Curiae for defendant was appointed by legal services at the very last moment, the Amicus Curiae did not get the time to study the matter nor get any time to go through the basic documents. Charges were framed, before Amicus Curiae could even go through with the matter. The miscarriage of justice in this case, resulted in this case due to a dummy legal representation. Therefore, legal representation under Article 39A Of the Indian Constitution, should be an adequate legal representation, as Right to Adequate representation is within the meaning of the said article.
Free Legal Aid is also a subset of protection of life and legal liberty, as enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In case of Khatri & Ors. V. State of Bihar & Ors. (1981) 1 SCC 627, the court said that it is duty of state to provide free legal aid not only at the stage of trial but also at every stage, which includes the stage when the person under consideration is bought before the magistrate or remanded from time to time. In the case of Suk Das V. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh (1986) 2 SCC 401, the court stated that even though the person in consideration have not applied for legal aid, the failure to apply for legal aid does not take the right away & it is the duty of magistrate to inform the person in consideration of its rights & inquire if the person in consideration wishes to be provided with legal aid on state’s cost. In the case of M.H. Hoskot V. State of Maharashtra (1978) 3 SCC 544, the court stated that the procedure established by law as said in Article 21, includes the Right to Appeal & Right to Counsel, again inferring to duty of the state to provide legal aid. Article 22(1) of the Indian Constitution also infer the right to legal representation.
Section 304 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, mandates legal aid to the accused on state expense in certain cases. Section 304 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that:
(1) Where, in a trial before the Court of Session, the accused is not represented by a pleader, and where it appears to the Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage a pleader, the Court shall assign a pleader for his defence at the expense of the State.
(2) The High Court may, with the previous approval of the State Government, make rules providing for—
(a) the mode of selecting pleaders for defence under sub-section (1);
(b) the facilities to be allowed to such pleaders by the Courts;
(c) the fees payable to such pleaders by the Government, and generally, for carrying out the purposes of sub-section (1).
(3) The State Government may, by notification, direct that, as from such date as may be specified in the notification, the provisions of sub-sections (1) and (2) shall apply in relation to any class of trials before other Courts in the State as they apply in relation to trials before Courts of Session.
Order 33 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 waives a person from paying court fees when a person is not able to seek justice due to financial constraints.
Chapter Four of the Legal Service Authority Act,1987, details the entitlement to legal services. Legal Service Authority Act creates various mechanisms to deliver free legal aid.
ADVANTAGES OF PRO BONO
There are Several reasons and factors due to which lawyers are inclined to undertake Pro bono work. Oftentimes, lawyers indulge in such work so as to cultivate the habit of empathizing with the suffering of others. Another prominent factor might be the sense of immense satisfaction achieved while imparting their services in pro bono matters. There are numerous examples of Pro Bono work imparted by top lawyers in India. One instance can be that of Raju Ramachandran, who provided a helping hand to Ajmal Kasab in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case. The Supreme Court before adjudicating the case had appointed Raju Ramachandran as its amicus curiae to work with it in the inquisition of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack convict Amir Ajmal Kasab’s plea which challenged his capital punishment. Raju Ramchandran insisted on taking up the matter pro bono. As a concept and a technique of making a long-term contribution to access to justice, unfortunately, pro bono service has not acquired much traction in India. Despite the fact that some practitioners, law firms, and even senior advocates are already providing commendable pro bono services, this system has not gained the prominence it deserves and continues to be ad hoc.
LEGAL PRO BONO SERVICES: PRESENT SCENARIO
Legal Service Authority Act, 1987, creates The National Legal Service Authority & State Legal Service Authority for the purpose of providing free legal aid. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987, also establishes National Legal Aid Fund, State Legal Aid Fund & District Legal Aid Fund under sections 15, 16 & 17 respectively. Lok Adalat’s including permanent Lok Adalat’s are also established under The Legal Service Authority Act, 1987 for the purpose of dispensing ground-level justice.
Department of Justice encourages legal professionals for Pro Bono services and for the same creates a database of lawyers, who are enrolled with a bar council and are practising as an advocate at the bar. Interested Lawyers can register with Service Plus to create an Id, and use that login to Service Plus to create a profile for Pro Bono. The database becomes a platform that connects the person in consideration for legal aid with the legal professional, has experience in the areas of concern in that specific case.
Tele Law & Nyaya Bandhu are the leading platforms by the Department of Justice for Pro Bono Legal Services. Tele-Law provides pre-litigation legal advice mechanism, a beneficiary can seek this legal advice by Tele Law Mobile Application or by visiting Common Service Centre (CSC), here the beneficiary can seek an appointment for video conferencing with panel lawyers through para legal volunteers. The beneficiary can seek the advice of a panel lawyer on the scheduled date and time. Nyaya Bandhu, on the other hand, is the flagship Pro Bono Legal Service of the Department of Justice, Nyaya Bandu dispenses its services through Android /IOS & UMANG Platform. Nyaya Bandhu collaborates with lawyers, civil society organizations & law firms, Creates Nyaya Bandhu Pannels in High Court & Establish Pro Bono Clubs in Law Schools under its Pro Bono Club Scheme with an aim to create awareness for Pro Bono Legal Services and creating a better Pro Bono environment in the country, while doing so it creates a database of Pro Bono Advocates. Nyaya Bandu with its platform connects the beneficiary applicant seeking legal aid to a Pro Bono Advocate having expertise in the specific matter. The author is also working on a pro bono platform as Core Committee member in Pro Bono Club of Law college Dehradun
The Department of Justice has taken various measures to build a database consisting of lawyers who impart and are prepared to give pro bono legal services, so as to give some weightage to the same while considering the appointment of advocates to relevant posts After the judgment of the Supreme Court in Indira Jai Singh v. Supreme Court of India, pro bono work has been considered to be one of the qualifying factors for nomination as a Senior Advocate, thereby encouraging the advocates to take up pro bono matters from time to time. A balanced mix of legal aid and pro bono services will go a long way toward ensuring that our nation achieves the long-sought goal of equal access to justice
PRO BONO LEGAL SERVICES: A LONG ROAD TO WALK
Though Government have taken some sincere steps in providing Pro Bono Legal Services, it is up to the legal fraternity to pick up the Pro Bono Culture. Legal Professionals need to make the step to maintain the Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette to be Observed by Advocates Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette, made by the Bar Council of India under Section 49(1)(c) of the Advocates Act, 1961. Legal Processionals can register with Service Plus & Nyaya Bandhu or any other Private Pro Bono Service.
Pro bono fortifies the representation of underprivileged people in the court of law. It leaves a positive impact on society, With the passage of time, pro bono work has been introduced in various fields of law and is still in a continuous process of augmentation. Hence, there is a lot of scope for Lawyers undertaking pro bono matters in future and its aggressive promotion may help in enlarging the sphere of Pro bono work in India.