The Supreme Court of India
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is going to establish a "legal aid" system for the poor and the marginalised in all districts on the lines of the office of public prosecutors, Supreme Court judge Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said on Saturday.
Justice Lalit, who is also the executive chairperson of the NALSA, was addressing the first All India District Legal Services Authorities Meet here. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India N V Ramana also addressed the meet and dealt with various issues, including the release of undertrials languishing in jails awaiting legal aid.
Justice Lalit said that NALSA was planning to have a programme where legal aid defense counsel would be provided to poor accused who cannot afford private lawyers across the nation.
"To start with, we have selected 350 districts in the entire nation. In the first phase we will start this programme (defence counsel system). In the second phase we will complete the entire process. These 350 districts also include 112 aspirational districts, which according to the Government of India, are to be given top priority, based on certain parameters perhaps like infrastructure, facilities, opportunities etc. We will start those activities,"
The District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) office will function as a nodal office to have an interface with the needy undertrial prisoners, he said.
Justice Lalit referred to the 42-day Pan-India Awareness and Outreach Programme in which NALSA through State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) and District Legal Service Authorities (DLSAs) reached out to almost all the villages in the country.
"We have completed 25 years of Legal Aide service in the country, in which we have learned from our experiences, made course corrections.... In the last 15 months, we have seen two basic very broad ideas which are emerging: the success of the Lok Adalat is one; and the kind of awareness programme we could initiate, propagate and we could complete in that 42 days of time," he said.
He said now another programme would be launched to ensure that every District Legal Service Authority has an “e-library”. The two-day meet, organised by NALSA, is being attended by over 1,200 delegates from across the nation, including the principal district and sessions judges of all the judicial districts and ex-officio chairpersons of DLSAs. The meet would discuss the implementation of a unified business process for providing effective legal aid to marginalised and poor.