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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) ,focuses on giving free legal aid and raising legal awareness.
  • Article 39A works coherently with the preamble as it provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity
  • Article 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution makes it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law.
  • NALSA identifies specific categories of the marginalised and excluded groups from the diverse population of the country with the intention of reaching out and providing aid to them.
  • The Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
  • NALSA runs legal literacy programmes as part of the preventive and strategic legal aid.

India today has 1 Supreme Court, 25 High Courts, and approximately 672 district courts. It's safe to say that the scope of the court in our nation is fairly broad. However, India is special because it recognises that not everyone will have access to the courts; as a result, it offers both legal institutions and means for people to access them.In this article we will be discussing one such initiative by the government which is National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) , which focuses on giving free legal aid and raising legal awareness.

THE ORIGIN

The Preamble of India assures all the citizens to Justice in all three – social, economic and political way. Article 39A works coherently with the preamble as it provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity. While Article 39A provides with the opportunity, Article 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution makes it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law.

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted on 9th of November,1995 under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. With Hon’ble Mr. Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, The Chief Justice of India being it’s the Patron-in-Chief, NALSA works to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society and 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.

OBJECTIVES AND STRUCTUREOF NALSA

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) identifies specific categories of the marginalised and excluded groups from the diverse population of the country with the intention of reaching out to them. NALSA then develops various plans for the implementation of preventive and strategic legal service programmes to be undertaken and managed to carry out by the Legal Services Authorities at the various levels.

To ensure the efficient and successful operation of the many agencies and stakeholders, NALSA collaborates closely with the various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities, and other agencies as part of the performance of all these obligations. This entails maintaining a regular information flow, keeping tabs on the execution and development of the many present schemes, and supporting this strategy.

FUNCTIONING OF NALSA

The three main pillars NALSA is based upon is Public awareness, equal opportunity and deliverable justice.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:

To provide free legal aid, organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. Apart from the abovementioned, functions of NALSA include spreading legal literacy and awareness, undertaking social justice litigations etc.

i. Free Legal Services

By providing legal aid, today NALSA is the ray of hope for the underprivileged for litigation. Under this free legal aid, NALSA endures the cost of 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. It’s fair to say that NALSA tries to cover all the main aspects financially.

The eligibility criteria for procuring legal aid from NALSA (defined in Section 12 of the Act), is that one should belong to either of these groups:

a. Women and children

b. Members of SC/ST

c. Industrial workmen

d. Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster.

e. People with disability.

f. Convicts.

g. People with annual income below Rs. 1 lakh (in the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee the limit is Rs. 5,00,000/-).

h. Victims of Human Trafficking

ii. Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat acts like an alternative dispute resolution ground for people of India. It serves as a venue for the amicable resolution of legal issues and cases that are pending in court or in the preliminary stages of litigation.

The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 grants the Lok Adalat statutory status. According to this Act, a Lok Adalat award is considered to be a civil court's final and definitive decree, and no court may hear an appeal against it.

In light of Covid, the concept of E-Lok Adalat has been developed, greatly enhancing access to justice for those who would not otherwise be able to participate in Lok Adalats.

iii. Legal Awareness Programme

Through the State Legal Services Authorities, NALSA runs legal literacy programmes as part of the preventive and strategic legal aid. In certain States, in addition to the rural legal literacy camps, annual legal literacy programmes are held in schools and universities as well as regularly for the empowerment of women.

After discussing the functioning and the objective of NALSA, the major question to be answered now is how to apply?

To respond to the questioning, anyone in need of free legal assistance may contact the relevant authority or committee by submitting an application, which may be submitted orally with the help of a paralegal volunteer or authority officer, in writing, or by filling out a form created by the relevant authority and stating briefly why the applicant needs legal assistance.

A person can also apply for legal aid to any Legal Services Institution in the nation, by completing out the online Legal Aid Application form on NALSA's website, selecting the "Online Application" link on the Home Page, and uploading the required papers.

CONCLUSION

According to the most recent statistics provided by NALSA, about 8.22 lakh people across India benefited through legal aid services from April 2017 to June 2018. It’s very clear that the organisation is strengthening, smoothening as well as simplifying the judicial system for the people of India.

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