Bringing Justice to the Poor: An initiative of UNDP to reduce case backlog in Bangladesh

Jun 2, 2018

Peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law are important conduits for sustainable development. Bangladesh justice system is overburdened with a huge case backlog, estimated at around 3.3 million cases, resulting slow court administration and hardship for the poor to get access to justice, which hinders Sustainable Development Goals. Bangladesh government has shown concern on the increasing trends in case backlog, which is reflected in its various policy frameworks and ongoing initiatives. Several technical projects are being implemented by different ministries and departments, towards attaining Goal-16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting the justice system of Bangladesh since 2009 to improve its capacity to administer the court system and reduce case backlogs, through various development projects.  One such project is Responsive Justice Initiation Phase (RJIP) project which helps to improve the access to justice for poor and vulnerable citizens at the grass root level. It is also working to reduce the huge case backlog through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

The Government legal aid program currently administered within the legal framework of the Legal Aid Services Act, 2000. This Act defines the meaning and scope of legal aid and further it establishes a governmental organization called as National Legal Aid Services Organization (NLASO). The goal of the NLASO is to provide the best possible legal aid services to the poor and marginalized justice seekers of Bangladesh.  As per the Legal Aid Services Act 2000 District Legal Aid Committees, Upazila Legal Aid Committees and Union Legal Aid Committees in Bangladesh should be formed and activated. As all the Union Legal Aid Committees (ULAC) in Bangladesh are not formed and activated yet thus Legal Aid awareness is very low in Bangladesh. RJIP of UNDP in partnership with NLASO initiated activities in Naogaon to enhance the capacity of ULAC and DLAC members to manage the referral system and raise awareness of Legal Aid in collaboration with Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh Phase II Project of UNDP. With the request of NLASO through Law & Justice division a directive was given by Local Government Division to all the UP Chairmen in Bangladesh to refer the cases to DLAC which are outside the jurisdiction of Village Courts

As part of the implementation process, orientation programmes for 99 ULAC members in 11 Upazillas of Naogaon -Sadar, Porsha, Namatpur, Dhamurhat, Patnitala, Mohadevpur, Sapahar, Raninagor, Atrai and Badilgachi were organized in May-June 2018.  In total 1704 participants attended (in which 50% is female) the orientation sessions on the case referral from ULAC to DLAC through the prescribed application

The round of orientation programmes of the legal aid case referral mechanism were completed by 2nd June 2018. Immediately after the orientation the case referrals have started from ULAC to DLAC for resolution.

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