First All India District Legal Services Authority Meeting

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In the news The Prime Minister of India recently addressed the inaugural session of the first meeting of District Legal Service Authorities from all over India.

About the meeting-

  • The first ever nationwide meeting of District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) was held from 30-31 July 2022 in Vigyan Bhawan by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
  • The meeting deliberated on creating an integrated procedure to bring consistency and synchronization between DLSAs.
  • During this meeting, the Prime Minister also issued a commemorative postage stamp on the “Right to free legal aid“.

About District Legal Services Authorities-

  • The District Legal Services Authority is constituted in each district to implement legal aid programs and programs in the district.
  • They are constituted in accordance with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) under section 9 of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
  • The district authority is under the direct supervision of the district judge who acts as president ex officio and is appointed under the position.
  • The state authority, in consultation with the chairman of the district authority, appoints a person belonging to the cadre of Civil Judge (Major Division) as full-time Secretary of the DLSA or, in his absence, as Chief Judicial Magistrate, as the case may be, as Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority .
  • There are in total 676 District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) nationwide.
  • Through the DLSAs and the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs), various legal aid and awareness programs are implemented by NALSA.
  • DLSAs also help reduce the burden on the courts by regulating Lok Adalats conducted by NALSA.

Constitutional Provisions-

  • Article 39A of the Constitution of India states that the state shall ensure that the functioning of the judicial system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular provide free legal assistance, through appropriate legislation or programs or otherwise, to ensure that opportunities for obtaining justice are not denied to any citizen on the basis of economic or other disability.
  • Articles 14 and 22(1) also obligate the state to ensure equality before the law and a legal system. which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity for all.
  • Legal aid strives to ensure that the constitutional commitment is fulfilled in letter and spirit and that equal justice is made accessible to the poor, oppressed and weakest sections of society.

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) –

  • NALSA was incorporated under the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 provide free legal services to the weakest strata of society and to organize Lok Adalats for the amicable settlement of disputes.
  • It is the supreme body constituted to establish policies and principles for the provision of legal services under the provisions of the law and to develop the most efficient and economical programs for legal services.
  • It also disburses funds and grants to state legal service authorities and NGOs for the implementation of legal aid plans and programs.

The State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) –

  • In each state, the SLSA was incorporated to give effect to the policies and guidelines of NALSA and to provide free legal services to the people and conduct the Lok Adalats in the state.
  • It is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Chief Patron of the State Legal Services Authority.

Criteria for giving legal services-

Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 prescribes the criteria for the provision of legal services to eligible persons. Section 12 of the Act reads: Any person who is required to file or defend a case is entitled to legal services under this Act if that person is –

  1. Member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.
  2. A victim of human trafficking or a beggar referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution.
  3. A woman or a child.
  4. A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person.
  5. A person in circumstances of undeserved need, such as a victim of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake, or an industrial disaster; Where
  6. An industrial worker; Where
  7. In police custody, including custody in a protective home within the meaning of subsection (g) of section 2 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 (104 of 1956); Where
  8. In a juvenile home within the meaning of subsection (j) of section 2 of the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 (53 of 1986) or in a psychiatric hospital or mental care home within the meaning of Section 2 (g) of the Mental Health Act Health Act, 1987 (14 of 1987); Where
  9. Receiving an annual income of less than nine thousand rupees or such higher amount as may be prescribed by the state government, if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court, and less than twelve thousand rupees or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the central government, if the case is before the Supreme Court. (The rules have already been changed to raise this income limit).

To note:

  • Under section 2(1) (a) of the Act, legal aid may be provided to a person for a “matter” which includes a legal action or any proceeding before a court.
  • Section 2(1) (aaa) defines “court” as a civil, criminal or tax tribunal and includes any court or other authority constituted under any law now in force, to exercise judicial or quasi-judicial functions.
  • Pursuant to paragraph 2(1)(c) “legal service” includes the provision of any service in the conduct of any business or other legal proceeding before any court or other authority or tribunal and the provision of advice on any legal matter.
  • Legal services authorities, after reviewing a claimant’s eligibility criteria and the existence of a prima facie case in their favor, provide them with an attorney at public expense, pay the required court costs in the case and bear all incidental costs related to the case.
  • The person to whom legal aid is provided is not required to pay anything for the litigation once it is supported by a legal services authority.

History of the Legal Aid Movement in India and Worldwide –

  • The first legal aid movement seems to be from the year 1851 when a law has been introduced in France to provide legal assistance to the indigent.
  • In Britain, the history of organized state efforts to provide legal services to the poor and needy dates back to 1944, when Lord Chancellor Viscount Simon appointed the Rushcliffe Committee to investigate existing facilities in England and Wales
  • In 1952, the government. of India has also begun to address the issue of legal aid for the poor in various conferences of law ministers and law commissions.
  • In 1960, some guidelines were established by the government. for legal aid schemes. In various states, legal aid programs have been established through legal aid commissions, associations and legal departments.
  • In 1980, a National Level Committee was set up oversee and oversee legal aid programs nationwide under the chairmanship of Hon. Mr. Justice PN Bhagwati then judge at the Supreme Court of India.
  • This committee is known as the CILAS (Committee for the implementation of legal aid schemes) and began to monitor legal aid activities across the country.
  • The introduction of Lok Adalat added a new chapter to the justice system of this country and succeeded in providing an additional forum for litigants for the conciliatory resolution of their disputes.
  • In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted to provide a legal basis for legal aid programs across the country in a uniform pattern.
  • This law was finally implemented on November 9, 1995 after some amendments were introduced to it by the 1994 Amendment Act.
  • Hon. Mr. Justice RN Mishra, then Chief Justice of India, played a key role in enforcing the law.
  • The National Legal Services Authority was incorporated on December 5, 1995.
  • His Lordship Hon. Dr Justice AS Anand, Judgethe Supreme Court of India took over as Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority on July 17, 1997.
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