“The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations”, CJI NV Ramana has said, while also pointing out that custodial torture and other police atrocities are problems that still prevail in our society.
“In spite of constitutional declarations and guarantees, lack of effective legal representation at the police stations is a huge detriment to arrested/detained persons. The decisions taken in these early hours will later determine the ability of the accused to defend himself. Going by the recent reports even the privileged are not spared third-degree treatment”, the CJI said on Sunday.
He was speaking at an event organaised by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to release its vision and mission statement along with legal services mobile application.
The CJI said it was necessary to disseminate information about the constitutional right to legal aid and the availability of free legal aid services in order to keep police excesses in check.
“The installation of display boards and outdoor hoardings in every police station/prison is a step in this direction. However, NALSA must also actively carry out nationwide sensitization of police officers”, he said.
The CJI said the concept of legal aid had its roots in the freedom movement when legal luminaries rendered pro-bono services to freedom fighters, who were targeted by the colonial rulers.
He said for a society to be governed by the rule of law, “it is imperative for us to bridge the gap of accessibility to justice between the highly privileged and the most vulnerable.”
“We must remember that the realities of socio-economic diversity which prevail in our nation, cannot ever be a reason for denial of rights,” he said.
Justice UU Lalit, the Executive Chairman, of the NALSA suggested that law colleges adopt nearby taluks to spread awareness about legal aid.