Every society thrives when there is the rule of law, and it is equally important that the rights of the weak and the poor are protected in the administration of justice.
It is worthy to note that the Constitution provides that the State should operate a legal system that promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity and provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied any citizen by reason of economic or other disability.
Thankfully, our country is blessed with the Legal Aid Commission (LAC), whose main duty is to bring justice closer to the people, especially the poor and the needy. And to help the commission execute its mandate, lawyers are encouraged to provide free legal services for the poor and the needy who, ordinarily, cannot afford these services.
This is why the Daily Graphic finds it commendable the setting up of the Legal Aid Fund, with the objective of helping to resource the LAC to efficiently and effectively carry out its mandate.
We agree with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, when he spoke at the launch of the fund last Wednesday, that building a modern legal and justice system for the country could never be compromised, in spite of the challenges faced by the LAC.
“The promotion of the rule of law is of utmost importance and cannot take a back seat, no matter the current circumstances. It is necessary for the government to lend its support to the institutions whose objectives promote the cause of the LAC,” he said.
The Daily Graphic is of the conviction that legal aid is essential in this present society where the gulf between the haves and the have-nots is increasing day by day. And the elimination of social and structural discrimination against the poor will be achieved when free legal aid is used as an important tool in bringing about distributive justice
And, crucially, legal aid strives to ensure that that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden and weaker sections of society.
Legal aid for the poor and weak is necessary for the preservation of the rule of law, which is necessary for the creation of an orderly society. Until and unless a poor, illiterate man is legally assisted, he is denied equality in the opportunity to seek justice.
Therefore, as a step towards making the legal service serve the poor and the deprived, the Judiciary has, in the recent past, taken an active interest in providing legal aid for the needy.
The 1992 Constitution provides for an independent and impartial Judiciary, and the courts are given the power to protect the Constitution and safeguard the rights of the people, irrespective of their financial status.
Since the aim of the Constitution is to provide justice for all, and the directive principles are its integral part, the Constitution dictates that the Judiciary has a duty to protect the rights of the poor and society as a whole. The Judiciary, through its significant judicial interventions, has to ensure that justice is brought to the poor.
To ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the LAC, we support the view that the Ghana Bar Association should endeavour to include pro bono cases handled as a criterion for the renewal of lawyers’ licences.
The Daily Graphic believes that if this proposal is implemented, it will cure the reluctance of some lawyers to do pro bono cases for the poor and the underprivileged in society. Legal services are expensive, and to access a good quality lawyer, one needs to pay some fee which is beyond the reach of ordinary people.
We cannot, therefore, discount the critical role of legal aid — without access to justice, people who live in abject poverty can be ignored without a voice in advocating justice themselves.
We call on all public-spirited individuals and organisations to support the Legal Aid Fund.