In 1952, the concept of Free Legal Aid and Impartiality emerged in the Indian policy and many conferences and meetings were held to discuss the future Legal Aid framework, which became as a Path of Justice for the poor and needy. sections of Society. Further, Article 39A of the Constitution of India confirms the position of the Policy Makers as it clearly mentions the term Free Legal Aid without denying opportunities to ensure the right to a citizen due to economic or other disabilities.
Legal Aid Boards, Societies, and Legal Departments simultaneously offered legal aid programs in different countries. Later, a national committee was established in 1980 to manage and monitor legal aid programs across the country. The leader of this committee is Hon’ble Mr. Justice PN Bhagwati, who was a Supreme Court judge of India at the time.
Finally, there is a special law passed by Parliament that provides legal aid programs with a legal basis that follows a uniform pattern throughout the country. It was called the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 and came into force in 1995.
India has the largest number of legal aid councils in the world, over 80% of its 1.3 billion citizens are eligible for legal aid and they have an excellent team of Lawyers-per-Capital. However, has the Law and its Vision reached its goal, or should the Law remember and reconsider the position of the Attempt at Legal Aid?
What the Act contains:
Initially, the Act began with its mission to establish legal services authorities that provide free and cognizant legal services to the weaker sections of the society and organize Lok Adalats that promote justice in on equal opportunity.
While trying to manage the Legal Aid, he defined various terms like ‘legal services’, ‘Lok Adalat’, ‘State Government’ with clear and concise terms.
Section 2(c) defines the Legal Service and includes all forms of Legal Writing and the opportunity to present the case before the court and the parties.
- “rendering services in the conduct of a case or other legal proceeding before a court or other authority or tribunal and giving advice on a legal matter”
Legal Service ‘Plans’, such as Free Legal Aid, Legal Advice and Information Schemes are defined under Section 2(g).
- “Any scheme created by a Central Authority, a State Authority or a Local Authority for the purpose of enforcing any of the provisions of this Act”
Further, the Act provides for the establishment and constitution of Lok Adalats under Chapter VI. Lok Adalats, basically a forum where disputes/cases are settled in a court of law or before a trial.
Section 19 of the Act deals with the conduct of Lok Adalats
- “(1) Every State or District Authority or the Supreme Court Legal Service Committee or the High Court Legal Service Committee or the Taluk Legal Service Committee may appoint Lok Adalats at such places and places, for the exercise of such jurisdiction as may be deemed necessary.”
Besides, Lok Adalats consist of Authorized Judicial Officers and other local persons nominated by the State/ District Authority, Supreme Court Legal Service Committee or High Court Legal Service Committee.
However, one of the most important parts of the Act is Section 12 as it lays down the Criteria for the provision of legal services. Every person who brings or defends a suit is entitled to legal proceedings under this Act if—
(a) a member of a Scheduled Tribe or Scheduled Tribe;
(b) a person who is a victim of human trafficking or a person of cruelty referred to in section 23 of the Constitution;
(c) a wife or child;
(d) a disabled person as defined in clause (i) of section 2 of the Disabled Persons (Equality, Protection of Rights and Full Inclusion) Act, 1995 (1 of 1996)
(e) a person under circumstances of dire need such as the victim of a major disaster, civil, violence, civil disorder, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster; or
(f) an industrial worker; or
(g) in a prison, including a detention center within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956 (104 of 1956 ), or in a juvenile institution within the meaning of clause (j) ) of section 2 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (53 of 1986), or in a mental hospital or or mental institution within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987 (14 of 1987).
A person who meets all or any of the criteria mentioned above will be entitled to legal services if the Authority is satisfied that the person is eligible. prima facie to prosecute or defend.
Every year at 9th November, Legal Services Day is celebrated to commemorate the commencement of the Legal Services Act, 1987. Along with the Act, NALSA was established as the Apex Organization for Legal Aid. This idea was given a formal footing with the enactment of the Law Enforcement Act in 1987 and the subsequent establishment of the NALSA in 1995. Since then, hope has been indicated for those who have failed. However, in practice, it is very difficult, which prevents it from achieving its full potential and prevents the poor from receiving high quality justice.
According to India Justice Report 2019, more than 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people are eligible for legal aid but only 15 million have benefited since 1995. The administration of legal aid suffer from a lack of efficiency and accountability in handling requests. After receiving an application, choosing an attorney can take weeks or months. Additionally, according to the 2018 CHRI survey, the average time between application and assignment is 11 days, in contrast to NALSA’s requirement that a decision be made within 7 days after receiving the request.
Monitoring the effectiveness of services provided by legal aid centers is extremely difficult due to the lack of data on representation, case outcomes, and client feedback. As a result, the entire system is aimless, ineffective, and ineffective. In addition, the amount spent on legal aid is pitiful, and the only thing 0.75 a 1.05 rupees per person will be paid in 2018 and 2019–20.
Another worrying trend was found in the National Law University Delhi Report titled ‘The Quality of Legal Representation: An Introductory Analysis of Non-Legal Aid Services in India.‘. The report highlighted a lack of trust and confidence in the quality of Legal Aid Services. All data was collected from 18 countries and 36 territories. Primary data was collected from 3,029 legal aid beneficiaries, 609 judicial officers, 1,007 legal aid advocates, 33 managers/secretaries, and women 3120. The survey showed that beneficiaries choose free legal aid services because they do not have the funds to hire a private lawyer. In addition, 22.6% of beneficiaries said they would not choose free legal aid services a second time. According to the survey, 60% of women who are aware of free legal aid services chose an independent lawyer because they have more control over their legal counsel.
About 75% of recipients said they chose free legal aid because they did not have the funds or resources to hire a private, paid attorney. If they have the means to hire private attorneys, then “never reach out to legal aid services,” the survey concluded.
It is important that lawyers, law enforcement and the courts understand their role in upholding the objectives of Article 39A. Seasoned lawyers and those who have entered the bar should have the opportunity to defend the indigent as part of their professional work. All attorneys should be required by the government and the courts to take on at least a minimum number of pro bono cases throughout their careers, and a strict system should be established to reward them, such as the burden of legal aid experience in the time of choosing the assistants and judges.
Moreover, Legal aid has not yet been integrated into Indian clinical legal education. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), legal aid centers at law schools play an important role in increasing legal literacy among the masses and providing related assistance. It is a well-established practice in many countries. In the United Kingdom, for example, one study found that university-run legal clinics averaged 104 issue every year. Increasing involvement of Law Schools in legal aid.
Most importantly, the per capita expenditure and budget allocated to NALSA should be increased. In addition, it can be arranged for companies to spend their social responsibility funds (CSR) on legal aid and increase the salary of the group’s lawyers to enhance the quality of service. However, efforts to revive the Legal Aid System are imminent.
A personal view.