- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is a statutory body constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- Lok Adalat (people’s courts) is a body established by the government to settle disputes through conciliation and compromise.
- NALSA came into force in 1995. It was enacted by the Parliament to give effect to Article 39 A of the Constitution of India which guarantees free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that they are not denied access to justice by reason of economic or other disability.
- The NALSA is headed by the Chief Justice of India as its Patron-in-Chief, the second senior most judge of the Supreme Court is the Executive Chairman.
- In every State, the State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
- The State Legal Services Authority is headed by the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
- In every District, the District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.
What are Legal Services?
- Legal Services includes providing Free Legal Aid to those weaker sections of the society who fall within the purview of Section 12 of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987.
- It also entails creating legal awareness by spreading legal literacy through legal awareness camps, print media, digital media and organizing Lok Adalats for the amicable settlement of disputes which are either pending or which are yet to be filed, by way of compromise.
- Legal services also encompasses facilitating the beneficiaries to get their entitlements under various government schemes, policies and legislations
Who is Entitled to Free Legal Services?
- The sections of the society as enlisted under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act are entitled for free legal services, they are :
- A member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;
- A victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;
- A woman or a child;
- A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;
- A person under circumstances of undeserved want such as being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster; or
- An industrial workman; or
- a person in receipt of annual income less than the amount prescribed by the State Government, if the case is before a Court other than the Supreme Court, and less than Rs 5 Lakh, if the case is before the Supreme Court.
- Senior citizens’ eligibility for free legal aid depends on the Rules framed by the respective State Governments in this regard.
Why in News?
- Supreme Court Judge Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has said providing legal aid to individuals is the need of the hour now as undertrials languish in prison across the country for lack of effective legal representation.
- He referred to the 82.4 lakh criminal cases pending in the courts of Uttar Pradesh alone. He added that the prison statistics for 2020 released by the National Crime Records Bureau, show that Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest number of undertrial prisoners in its jails, totaling 80,577, which constitute 21.7% of the overall number of undertrials in India.