Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formulated Legal Aid Services Act, 2000 to provide legal assistance to people financially insolvent, penniless or unable to get justice because of various socio-economic reasons and formed National Legal Aid Services Organization (NLASO).
“But the issue remained neglected from 2001 to 2008. After Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formed government for the second time in 2009, implementation of that act gained momentum. A total of 3, 93,790 people were been given legal aid free of cost from 2009 to March, 2019,” Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq told BSS.The law minister, a prominent jurist of the country as well, said NLASO is giving hope to the hopeless as the organization has so far provided legal aid to 66,402 prisoners.
“Of the total number of service receivers, 1, 18,315 people were given legal advice, 2, 40,218 were given assistance in cases, 17,929 got help in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and 17,328 were given legal information through toll-free national helpline ‘16430’,” Anisul added.
He said in seventh the five-year plan, the government had set a goal to provide legal help to 37,000 justice seekers annually by 2020 and it actually provided legal help to 82,000 justice seekers only in 2017-18 fiscal.
Apart from giving service through toll-free national helpline from 2016, the government in 2018 launched ‘BD Legal Aid App’ and justice seekers can download the app on their smartphone from Google Play Store and avail the service.
The government has already established district legal aid offices in all 64 districts across the country and appointed a judicial officer with the rank of senior assistant judge or assistant judge as fulltime legal aid officer in those offices.Legal aid activities are going on in Supreme Court also from 2015 through Supreme Court Legal Aid Office (SCLAO).
SCLAO is also providing the following services- legal advice, filing and dealing cases, expert opinion on the merit of the cases and bearing the actual cost of cases.
Any poor person is entitled to get free legal aid services. Besides, any individual receiving old-age allowance, distressed mother holding a VGD card, women and children victims of trafficking and acid throwing, insolvent widow, abandoned or distressed woman, disabled person and poor detainee can avail of the free legal services.