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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016
Ph.D. Thesis on ‘Legal Aid’ by Mrs. Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, DHJS

In the Preamble of the Constitution of India, the people of India, have solemnly resolved to constitute India into a "Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic" and to secure to all its citizens; Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; ..... ".

The Constitution of India has put in place an excellent legal system, which endeavours to protect the rights of everyone. Whereas, the ground reality is that despite such a concrete system of laws, rules and regulations, the implementation part of the laws is largely missing, due to multitude of factors such as poverty, illiteracy, absence of knowledge of rights and the presence of suffocating corruption.

It is heartening to note that India is endowed with two gifts: one, its splendid Armed Forces and the other, its dynamic judiciary. Indian judiciary in the past six decades has done a remarkable job of protecting citizens' rights, liberty, dignity and the rule of law against all morbid and obnoxious odds by controlling the abuse of arbitrary and discriminatory administrative actions. The administration equipped with rule-making powers overwhelms the " little man " by trampling upon his liberty and property.

In Fertilizer Corporation case, Justice Krishna Iyer had rightly observed, "When corruption permeates the entire fabric of the government, legality is the first casualty". Again the question arises as to how the 'little man' can consult, engage or be represented by a lawyer. To address this situation and to ensure ' Right to Constitutional Remedies' to all citizens, the concept of 'Legal Aid' was adopted, vide Article 39A of the Constitution. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, was enacted. However, the concept has still not gone beyond infancy.

In the Chief Justices' Conference held at New Delhi in 2006, a resolution was passed to say that in the service records of the judicial officers, their interest in legal aid programmes should be reflected. However, one judicial officer of DHJS, Mrs. Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, went a step forward from the resolution. She opted to write thesis on 'Legal Aid' for her Ph.D. programme and has very successfully attempted the same.

It can be aversed that the lamp-post of her brilliant work on Legal Aid is likely to illuminate the dark alley of ignorance and will prove to be the pole-star for the masses amid the smaze, not only in Indian context but abroad too. Sangita Dhingra's contemporaries in US are looking at India for tips on how to provide legal aid to the poor on the shoe-string budget. After slashing of US legal budget by $ 170 million from $ 2.5 billion in 2010, in New York State alone, more than 90% litigants in civil cases are unrepresented.

Recently, Justice Fisher and Fred P Rooney, Director of the Community Legal Resource Network of City University of New York School of Law, had visited India to understand and replicate India's legal practices especially the Legal Aid.

Hasan Khurshid

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