NALSAR Lecture Series: Justice S Muralidhar speaks on ‘Evolution of Legal Aid Movement in India’

As part of the NALSAR Lecture Series on Constitutionalism, the NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad hosted Justice S Muralidhar, Judge, Delhi High Court who spoke on the ‘Evolution of Legal Aid Movement in India’.

Justice Muralidhar is best known for his pro bono work, including the cases for the victims of the Bhopal Gas Disaster and those displaced by the dams on the Narmada river. He was appointed amicus curiae by the Supreme Court in several PIL cases and in cases involving convicts on the death row. He was appointed as judge of the Delhi High Court in 2006. We also know him for his significant contribution to the ‘Naz Foundation’ decision.

Dr Muralidhar began his lecture from the origins of the Constitution by alluding to the Constituent Assembly Debates. Justice Muralidhar then noted the different phases at which an effective legal aid mechanism ought to intervene.

Justice Muralidhar then identified the barriers to effective inclusion of the poor into the legal fold by drawing attention to discriminatory laws, such as those which criminalize poverty, the systemic problem of the mystification of law and legal processes, and the privileging of sections of society, including the high dependence on lawyers by poor illiterate litigants.

It was noted that the costs involved in the legal process, delays and uncertainties embedded in the institutional model of state-sponsored legal aid, coupled with further special disadvantages such as poverty, social status, economic status, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc; pose serious problems.

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