Article 39-A of DPSP under the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all.
The Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted in the year 1987 by the Indian Parliament which came into force on 9th November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society on the basis of equal opportunity.
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to monitor and evaluate implementation of legal aid programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available under the Act.
In every State, a State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) and in every High Court, a High Court Legal Services Committee have been constituted. At district level District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees have been constituted and most of the Taluks to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to provide free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
Mobile Lok Adalats are also organized in various parts of the country which travel from one location to another to resolve disputes in order to facilitate the resolution of disputes through this mechanism.
The Supreme Court Legal Services Committee has been constituted to administer and implement the legal services programme in so far as it relates to the Supreme Court of India.
Functioning of NALSA
NALSA lays down policies, principles, guidelines and frames effective and economical schemes for the State Legal Services Authorities to implement the Legal Services Programmes throughout the country.
Primarily, the State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees, etc. have been asked to discharge the following main functions on regular basis are-
- To Provide Free and Competent Legal Services to the eligible persons – The Free Legal Services include payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings. Providing service of lawyers in legal proceedings, obtaining and supply of certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings and preparation of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.
Persons eligible for getting free legal services includes Women and children, Members of SC/ST, Industrial workmen, Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster, Disabled persons, Persons in custody and Victims of Trafficking in Human beings or beggars etc.
- To organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes – Lok Adalat is one of the Alternative Disputes Resolution Mechanisms. It is a forum where the disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/compromised amicably. The Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Under this Act, an Award i.e, the order made by a Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on parties to the dispute.
Lok Adalats are being organized by the Legal Services Authorities/Committees for settlement of cases pending before courts under section 19 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and also for matters at pre-Litigative stage, under the guidance of NALSA.
Another Chapter VI-A was added in the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 in the year 2002, with a view to provide a compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of disputes relating to ‘Public Utility Services’.
Further in the time of Covid, E-Lok Adalat was conceptualized which significantly improved access to justice for people who were otherwise unable to participate in the Lok Adalats.
- To organize legal awareness camps in the rural areas – NALSA through the help of State Legal Services Authorities, conduct legal literacy programmes. In some States, Legal Literacy Programmes are conducted every year in schools and colleges and also for empowerment of women in a routine manner, besides the rural legal literacy camps.
Source: DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE