Office of Legal Aid Officer in Madhes Province comes as a boon for service seekers

Ram Asheshwor Thakur of Mahottari district toiled for 14 years in Saudi Arabia. With a baggage full of dreams for himself and his family, he had flown to the gulf country as a migrant worker.

With money he would earn in the foreign land, he had expected to bring prosperity and happiness to his family.

To his utter disappointment and getting his dreams shattered, his own father, who took all money he earned and ancestral properties, betrayed him.

He worked hard in the foreign land for a good 14 years from 2002 to 2016 and earned handsome money.

“Being an elder son in the family, I had much responsibility for my family. So, I flew to a foreign country for a job separating from my wife and children. But, I was betrayed by my own father as he claimed all my money and properties bought with my earnings in Saudi Arabia,” said Thakur. He has a father, a mother and two brothers in the family. His father owned three kaththas of land and a house as parental properties.

Later, his ancestral properties added to around one bigha of land that was bought with money he earned in Saudi Arabia, he claimed. After returning home from a foreign job, he asked his father to allocate ancestral properties in his share to him. To his utter surprise and disappointment, he was denied them saying that he sold off some of them and allocated the remaining to his other two sons.

“I asked him to allocate my share of parental properties to me, if not the ones I earned from a foreign employment. Neighbours also tried to convince him, but he did not hear. He said he would not transfer parental properties to me whatsoever,” lamented Thakur.

He then had no idea where to go for justice. He had also no money for that as well. However, in search for justice, he came in contact with the Office of Legal Aid Officer in Mahottari district, and got help from it.

With assistance from the office, he filed a case in the District Court seeking justice.
“He (Thakur) reached us after knowing that we provide free legal aid to the people who are out of the reach of justice and lack money for the legal process. He fought a case with our assistances and got justice from the court,” said legal aid officer Manoj Kumar Sah.

As per the court’s verdict, he has the ancestral properties in his share. Similar is the story of one Shanti Devi from Mahottari district. Her husband got married to a woman in second marriage. Following this setback, her life with her husband became difficult as he started blaming her and pointing his fingers at her character. He instead filed for divorce from her. However, she had no money to fight the case. She also got legal aid from the legal aid office.

“We provided legal aid free of cost. She filed a case in the court on 19 November 2021. The court issued a verdict in her favour,” he said.

The two cases are just in point. The legal aid office has provided free legal aid to those who are out of the reach of justice and cannot afford legal process due to a lack of money. The number of people seeking help from the office is on the upward trend, said Sah.

Legal aid officer in Siraha district Mahendra Kumar Paswan concurred with Sah. The number of people seeking legal aid from the office is increasing, he said. The office provides legal aid like writing an application for petition, helping with pleading in a case in the court, and writing various types of applications related to laws, he said.

“Impoverished people and Dalits are out of the reach of justice due to a lack of money required for fighting legal cases. The office of the legal aid officer under the Office of Chief Attorney in Madhes Province has become a boon for them. Making it more empowering will help establish the access to justice for Nepali citizens,” he said.

All eight districts in Madhes Province have set up the office in a bid to provide access to justice for the people of the province, said Chief of the Office of Chief Attorney Sudip Kumar Dangal, claiming that this practice has been into effect only in the province. “The service has started in all eight districts in the province during the first tenure of the provincial government,” he said.

According to him, in the previous fiscal year, 2021/22, the office of the legal aid officer in Dhanusha district provided free legal assistance in 147 cases, 206 cases in Parsa, 617 in Saptari, 414 in Mahottari, 468 in Rautahat, 161 in Siraha, 149 in Bara and 164 in Sarlahi.
Assistant attorney Bidya Nanda Sah said the office provided legal aid in cases related to divorce, alimony, parental properties, citizenship, cheque fraud, fighting, and financial transactions.

“The practice has proved much beneficial to those who have been deprived of justice due to a lack of awareness and money to fight a case. Besides, the office provides required legal advice to people’s representatives and office bearers of the judicial committee, and help with the orientation for reconciliation. There is a need to make it much effective,” he said.
Article 20 (10) of the Constitution of Nepal has stipulated free legal aid to those people who cannot afford as a fundamental right.

To implement it, the Legal Aid Act, 2054 has provisioned a legal aid committee in the centre and district.

As per the provision, there are a central legal aid committee, a district legal aid committee and paid legal practitioners in the Supreme Court, High Court and District Court.

“As per the constitutional provision, courts, the bar and other legal institutions may have launched programmes related to legal aid, but the practice of providing free legal aid by the office of the legal aid officer at the provincial level has been launched only in Madhes Province. We will make additional plans and polices in the days to come to make the service much effective,” said Chief Attorney Birendra Kumar Thakur.

The provision of hiring lawyer for assisting the side, which cannot afford to hire lawyers to fight their cases due to various reasons, started from the Supreme Court since 2015 BS itself. Such lawyers were paid by the government.

At present, the service has expanded across courts at all levels and paralegals. The Nepal Bar Association, and other governmental and non-governmental organisations at the central, and local levels including the National Women Commission, the National Dalit Commission, the Muslim Commission Nepal, the Women and Children Office have been providing free legal aid.

However, to make the service much effective, people should be made aware about the legal aid provided by such organisations, suggested stakeholders.



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