Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that pro bono legal services provided by a lawyer should be taken into account while he or she is being considered for a promotion.
Speaking at an event held by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), Prasad stated that Section 436A of criminal law which deals with the undertrials’ right to freedom must “become a movement”.
The event was organised on the occasion of Legal Services Day and was attended by the Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra along with several other senior Supreme Court judges.
Incentive For Lawyers To Provide Genuine Pro bono Assistance
According to Prasad in order to make access to justice possible, there must be incentives provided for lawyers, which need not be monetary in nature but “something different.”
In his comments, Prasad said that he felt strongly about authentic pro bono legal work being considered as a factor for elevation. He further added that the pro bono work should be genuine legal aid provided with a sense of compassion and not for publicity.
He pointed out that senior judges were “seasoned enough” to separate out the lawyers giving legal aid with commitment from those giving lip-service. If such service becomes a norm Prasad said he was convinced that “justice to all” will become a movement.
Access To Justice Essential Feature Of Constitutional Democracy
Prasad also highlighted that the constitutional polity of India had matured and was now considered almost as a beacon across the world, but noted that access to justice and the rule of law were important components of a constitutional democracy. Rule of law, he stated, can become a fundamental right only if access to justice was readily available.
Prasad emphasised that all cases and especially criminal cases that are 10 years or older must be expedited so as to relieve the undertrials from having to languish in jails for long periods.
The Union Law Minister also stressed that modern technology such as video conferencing must be harnessed in order to expedite trials .
NALSA Volunteer Scheme May See Nationwide Launch
Prasad stated that his ministry was evaluating a nationwide roll out of NALSA’s scheme in which volunteers offer pre-litigation guidance at common service centres on selected days, after a pilot held in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar proved to be a success.
The Section 436A (of Criminal Procedure Code or CrPC) states that in cases where an undertrial has experienced detention for a time period that is up to half of the maximum imprisonment time specified in the law for that offence, he can be released by the court after providing personal bond with or without a surety.