Role of Legal Aid in Promoting ADR in India
When so much dignity to his rights is assigned by judicial activism, even a prisoner cannot blame or cry shame towards the administration of justice. But despite such value judgments, we see the sorry state of affairs of the arrested persons. Legal aid remains much on paper than in reality in India. While free legal aid has been considered as a burden by the legal practitioners, quality legal aid has remained as a myth in India due to the litigation based mind frame of the legal service providers. One of the benchmarks of quality legal aid is the availability of choice between multiple justice dispensation systems to the litigants. This should necessarily involve different ADR mechanisms to settle the disputes amicably between the parties. However, in India, the disputing parties would ultimately end up in court litigations once they approach the legal practitioners. There are multiple factors to blame for the failure of legal aid to cater to the need of promoting ADR. To start with, the above-discussed developments from legislative as well as judicial sides have focused on the aspect of free legal aid and there is very little focus on quality legal aid. Since the focus is also more oriented towards criminal cases, ADR’s significance is somewhere lost in the process of legal aid. Added to this, the legal service providers have trained in court-based litigation and not in ADR mechanisms. Thus, their only means of resort to settle the disputes is the court-based litigation.
Lack of funding from the government, failure of the lower judiciary to take corrective steps, indifferent attitude of Bar Associations, and absence of professional liability for rendering poor quality legal aid are the few other factors standing in the way of cherishing the common man’s dream of effective legal aid. In terms of funding, the State governments in India have allotted minuscule of their budget for legal aid, which is spent more in terms of workshops and conferences with limited reach. The legal aid professionals are paid very low, and therefore, one cannot expect a highly qualified person exclusively being the part of legal aid. The lower judiciary and bench have taken no action in most parts of India to provide the requisite legal aid to the needy persons, especially in terms of resorting to an amicable settlement of disputes through ADR mechanisms. Most of the legal services authorities established under the Legal Services of Authorities Act consist of judges, bureaucrats, or busy practitioners, who have very little time for either rendering quality legal aid to the needy or for creating awareness among people. Added to this, the absence of professional liability for poor quality legal aid maintains the status quo of depriving the litigants of more suitable options like ADR in the settlement of their disputes.