Two years ago, Salma Begum of Krishnapur Paikpara village of Kurigram went to the District Legal Aid office to seek legal assistance. She returned to her father's house two years ago after being tortured by her husband. After bagging dowry, her husband Saidul divorced her.
In November 2017, she applied for legal aid. The District Legal Aid Officer appointed a lawyer to fight the case for Reshma that year. The verdict came in her favor on September 29 this year.
When asked, Salma Begum said, "I did not spend a single taka on the case. I understand the meaning of debt. The Legal Aid Office has helped me a lot.”
The National Legal Aid Agency is providing free legal services to victims of financial problems like Salma.
According to one statistics, in the last 10 years, 4 lakh 58 thousand 56 people have received government legal assistance. These include legal advice, court litigation, labor support, dispute resolution, and information services.
In 2009, as many as 9,160 people received legal aid from national legal aid agency. The number is now more than three times, than that 10 years ago. Last year, 34,720 people received legal assistance from this company.
According to data provided by the Legal Aid Organization, there are 3 lakh 47 thousand 657 people who have received government legal assistance in 10 years from 64 district legal aid offices.
The issue of resolving disputes through the mediation of alternative methods (ADRs) is now becoming increasingly important in the legal assistance activities of the helpless people. District Legal Aid Offices are being made as alternative dispute resolution centers in the country. In order to make this program more effective, 96 posts have been created for the Bench Assistant and Issuer at the district level.
One of the members of the National Board of Directors of the National Legal Assistance Agency, Md. Ghulam Sarwar said, over 4 lakh people have been provided legal aid in the last 10 years.
Simplifying the service process, activating legal aid committees at the Upazila and union level, increasing the use of information technology and increasing the fees of panel lawyers have extended the scope of these services, he added.
In the developed world, settling disputes outside the courts is preferred over lengthy litigation. With this idea in mind, a special initiative of the Law Minister is taking a project to strengthen ADR activities.
In 2000, the 'Legal Aid Act 2000' was made to provide legal assistance to the people at the expense of those who are unable to get justice for financially viable, non-assisted and various socioeconomic causes.
Under the Act, the National Legal Aid Organization was formed in 2001. However, due to lack of manpower and institutional structure, the activities of the organization were halted from the beginning until 2009.
A separate office was established for the National Legal Aid Organization in 2009 after the Awami League-led government came to power. In addition to the organization, the district office was established in each district court and a local committee was formed.
From that time onwards the rate of legal services began to increase. Now a permanent legal aid office has been set up in 64 districts of the country. National Legal Aid Day is celebrated on April 28 of each year.
The donations are made to the district committees by the National Legal Aid Agency, in many cases. According to the findings, under this fund, Tk 1 crore was allocated in 64 districts in 2009 and 2010.
Of this, Tk. 67 lakhs 92 thousand 689 were spent in 2009. The following year, Tk.73 lakh 93 thousand 596 was spent.
The formal operation of the 'National Legal Helpline for Government Legal Assistance' began on 28 April 2016, with the toll-free number 16430.
Senior advocate AM Amin Uddin, one of the members of the organization's National Board of Directors said that the e-service management is a huge response to the legal support activities in the field.
People are now aware of their own rights. If they do not know how to fight for legal rights through legal aid to earn their own rights, legal aid does this for them he added.