Free legal help for the helpless | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 28, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:07 AM, April 28, 2021

National Legal Aid Day Today

Free legal help for the helpless

It has been a long and agonising wait for Sheikh Zahid.

An accused in a case filed over the murder of his wife and daughter, Zahid from Baghmara Motlober Mor in Khulna Sadar was sentenced to death on June 25, 2000.

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After the verdict, Zahid, who was staying in the condemned cell of Khulna jail, filed an appeal challenging the judgment.

On July 31, 2004, the High Court confirmed his death penalty.

He then filed a petition with the Appellate Division next year through the authorities concerned of Khulna jail, challenging the HC verdict.

But the petition remained pending for years until the jail authorities sent a letter to the Supreme Court Legal Aid Office (SCLAO), on March 1 last year, requesting for the update of Zahid's petition.

SCLAO Chairman Justice Enayetur Rahim directed the officials concerned of the SC to inquire about the petition and take necessary steps so the Appellate Division could hold a hearing and deliver a verdict as early as possible.

Subsequently, the Appellate Division held a virtual hearing and delivered the verdict, acquitting Zahid of the case on August 25 last year.

Zahid, now 49 years old, walked out of jail the following day, SCLAO's coordinator Ripan Paul Sku told The Daily Star.

As Zahid stayed behind bars for all these years, he did not have anything to survive. "The SCLAO is trying to do something for him," Ripan Paul said.

Like Zahid's case, the Supreme Court Legal Aid Office has been working to provide legal assistance to the poor and helpless people at free of cost since its inception in September 2015.

It continued serving even during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, maintaining health rules.

The country is observing National Legal Aid Services Day today.

The SCLAO has provided legal opinions and advice to 17,952 helpless people at free of cost till this March, according to a study report of SCLAO.

It has got 799 cases disposed of through its panel lawyers during this period, the report said.

As a huge number of people in the country are impoverished, they hardly avail legal aid to protect and vindicate their legal rights and lawful causes.

The Legal Aid Act was enacted in 2000 to ensure legal services to low-income and vulnerable citizens of the country. The National Legal Aid Agency was established the same year under this act.  

Legal aid committees are now working in all the districts under this organisation. Through it, the government has so far provided legal aid to 6,07,880 poor and helpless people at free of cost.    

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