Justice P.N. Bhagwati has rightly said that “the poor and the illiterate should be able to approach the Courts and their ignorance and poverty should not be an impediment in the way of their obtaining Justice from the Courts.”
The laws of the land exist to serve the people and to achieve the ultimate end. The supreme law of the country is the Constitutional Law which is paramount and held as the highest and the ultimate authority that governs all the inhabitants living in the country. The main purpose of the laws so framed and presented in the Constitution is to safeguard, protect and preserve the life of all citizens and to protect the rights that such individuals possess, from being infringed upon, or harmed and hampered with in the course of their life.
The preamble of the Constitution secures to its citizen, social, economic and political justice. Article 14 of the Constitution makes it clear that the State shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. The aim of Article 14 is to ensure equal justice. The guarantee of equal justice is meaningless if the poor or illiterate or weak persons cannot enforce their rights because of their poverty or illiteracy or weakness.
In a democracy, where rule of law is supreme; it is essential to ensure that even the weakest amongst the weak, poorest among the poor, in the country does not suffer injustice arising out of any abrasive action on part of State or private person. As a way forward there is need to ensure capacity building for legal aid movement.
Article 14 and 22(1) also provide that it is obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all. Legal aid strives to ensure that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden and weaker sections of the society.
The major drawback of legal aid movement in India is the lack of legal awareness. People are not aware of their rights and protection available under the law. It needs to be realized that the promotion of awareness regarding legal aid is not the exclusive duty of the Legal fraternity. It is equally the concern and responsibility of the society at large, Constitutional commitment for legal aid can only be cherished if society comes forward to care for its vulnerable population.