The term pro bono, short for "pro bono publico", is a Latin term which means "for the public good". In practice, the term is used specifically in context of the legal profession- referring to the practice of giving voluntary legal advice to individuals and organisations that are unable to afford legal advice and/or cannot access legal aid. Those in genuine need of legal help are, thus, represented by lawyers for free or at a minimal cost - giving them an opportunity to meaningfully address their legal problems.
Department of Justice's Pro bono legal services programme was launched by Sh. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Hon'ble Minister for Law & Justice in April 2017. The programme is aimed at fulfilling the Department's critical mandate of enhancing 'access to justice' for marginalised sections of the society and the State's constitutional obligation of providing 'free legal aid' for all.
The programme seeks to put in place an institutional structure which will promote pro bono culture in India. On one hand, the programme would facilitate delivery of quality legal assistance to the marginalised communities, on the other hand it would ensure that lawyers who volunteer their valuable time and service, towards this public service, are duly recognized for their contribution.
Using technology to enhance access to justice for all, the Pro bono app will allow marginalised individuals (referred to as 'Applicants'), who need quality legal advice and counsel, to connect via a mobile application with 'Advocates' who have volunteered their time and services on this platform.
The App allows a sustained flow of communication and document exchange between the applicant and advocate, with oversight being maintained by the Department of Justice. Both the applicant and advocate can also any point of time submit feedback (regarding the functioning of the programme and technical issues) with the Department via the App.