The parents of Rani, not her real name, of Lakshmipur Sadar, separated when she was in her mother's womb. She grew up in her mother's care as her father did not recognise her as his daughter for 20 years. At 18, Rahi got married to Rahim (fake name) of Feni's Parshuram.
Knowing about her parental rejection, Rani's husband took her to Lakshmipur District Legal Aid Office. After 20 years, her father accepted her as his daughter following three meetings of arbitration, without any DNA test after they had lodged a complaint here.
Not only Rani's case, but many other similar cases of disputes have been settled through the arbitration by the Lakshmipur Legal Aid office, without resorting to the lengthy legal process and without having to face any hassle.
Senior Assistant Judge and District Legal Aid Officer Muhammad Fahad bin Amin Chowdhury said, "One has to come to our office and fill in a form in order to get legal aid help. We then call for a compromise on both sides. If they are interested in a mutual solution, we then start working. It takes three meetings and about three months to settle a case."
This correspondent spoke to judicial officers concerned, litigants and persons who have received assistance from the district legal aid office and came to know more such stories.
According to the Lakshmipur District Legal Aid Office, about 50 cases and alternative disputes are settled through this legal aid office every month.
From January 2020 to February this year, the District Legal Aid Office has provided legal assistance in more than 300 cases, out of which 281 cases have been settled. Through alternative dispute resolution, more than Tk20 lakh has been recovered on 259 allegations.
The Business Standard talked to Halima and Safiq, an elderly couple, at the district legal aid office on Wednesday. They came from Dalal Bazar area of Lakshmipur Sadar upazila. Safiq is a rickshaw puller.
Elderly Halima, 60, said the elderly couple had bought six decimal land from a neighbour 20 years ago. But they did not get possession of the land till date. Rather, the seller filed a case against them seven years ago. At the old age, they had to come to Lakshmipur Judge's Court almost every month and spend Tk2.50 lakh in the last seven years.
The case has now been transferred to the Legal Aid Office from the Judge's Court. Halima Begum hopes to get possession of the land and be relieved of the case.
The legal aid office is also the only hope for the Bede and Manta community people who do not stay in a place for long and cannot hope to get speedy solution to their problems from the conventional courts, said advocate Ripon Patwari at the Lakshmipur Judge's Court.
He said as there are no written marriage documents for the Bede and Manta couples; the females of these communities, if they do not have any children, do not get any legal help, even in the case of domestic violence.
Muhammad Fahd bin Amin Chowdhury, senior assistant judge and district legal aid officer of Laxmipur Judge's Court, said through legal aid offices, helpless jail inmates and people on trial in lower and higher courts receive legal services at government expense.
Additionally, many helpless people are getting legal aid every day through alternative dispute resolution and the mediation of the legal aid offices across the country.
Legal Aid Offices in different districts provide free legal aid to helpless people as per Section 21 (ka) of the Legal Aid Act 2000 and Rule 16 of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules 2015. Since then many helpless people have been coming to the legal aid office for justice without fear.