Legal aid for those who can’t afford it

Govt helps resolve 4.3 lakh disputes free of cost

Shah Alam and Jahanara got married seven years back in Cumilla, and they were living peacefully with their two children despite struggling with finances. But as time went on frequent disputes among family members ultimately led to the two getting divorced.

Witnessing the conflict, after the divorce, neighbours sent Jahanara to the district legal aid office in Cumilla for a settlement. After a discussion, the office sent a notice to Shah and a family member of his, but they did not respond.

Six months later, Shah applied to the legal aid office to restore his conjugal relationship with Jahanara. The office took necessary legal initiatives and called Shah, his family members and Jahanara to the office in February this year and finally resolved everything through mutual understanding and compromise.

A marriage registrar was called, and the two got married again, in presence of representatives from USAID, International Consortium for Court Excellence and Democracy International.

The couple is doing well now, according to a recent study report of the law ministry.

Like Shah and Jahanara, thousands of low-income citizens are getting legal aid free of cost from National Legal Aid and Services Organisation (NLASO) under the law ministry.

The government has provided legal aid to 4,29,723 helpless individuals in the last six years — since 2014-2015 fiscal till February, 2020 — bearing all costs. A total of 1,02,296 cases related to such disputes were disposed of through NLASO during the same period.

NLASO operates through its district legal aid offices across the country.

Besides, 19,011 people have received legal aid at the Supreme Court through Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee (SCLAC) during the period, the report said.

SCLAC has provided legal assistance to 216 underprivileged prisoners who had been suffering in different jails for over five to ten years across the country, SCLAC sources said.

A total of 64,785 disadvantaged prisoners received legal support during the six-year period, the report added.

Moreover, NLASO has collected Tk 35.2 crore by settling 27,070 cases out of court and awarded the money to victims of the cases.

Meanwhile, the law ministry has been running a national helpline (16430) to provide legal aid to poor people, particularly labourers, free of cost, even during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A total of 83,918 people have received legal assistance through the helpline since its launch in 2016, according to the report.

Masuda Yeasmin, assistant director of NLASO, told The Daily Star that the toll-free helpline is open 24/7 for everyone.

Replying to a question, Masuda said many helpless people from across the country communicate with NLASO through the helpline every day. The organisation then tries to solve their problems either via district-level offices or instantly over phone.

Source: The Daily Star

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