Justice NV Ramana has lost no time in releasing a Vision 2020 document and conferring with State Legal Services Authorities to fulfil his mission of “Justice to All”
By India Legal Bureau
Within a fortnight of taking over as executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), Justice NV Ramana of the Supreme Court has once again shown that his heart lies in providing legal aid for the poor and the needy. Justice Ramana, who is the most senior judge of the Court and will take over as the next chief justice in April 2021, video-conferenced with executive chairpersons and member-secretaries of all State Legal Services Authorities. Among other things, he discussed strengthening of legal aid services for the needy, conducting training programmes for lawyers and setting up of committees at the district level to effectively implement NALSA guidelines.
NALSA was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free services to the weaker sections of society and organise Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. Separately, the State Legal Services Authority was constituted in all states to give effect to the policies and directions of NALSA.
Since his appointment as executive chairman of NALSA, Justice Ramana has left no stone unturned to ensure that it treads a new path in providing legal aid to the underprivileged and the marginalised. After taking over on December 6, he released a “Vision 2020” document with its theme, “Absolute Justice for All”. Later, he did a video conference to spread the word about the need to focus on providing legal assistance at the pre-arrest, arrest and remand stages. He also said there was a need to provide effective legal aid from the stage when a person is called to the police station. He laid equal emphasis on training lawyers in laws relating to pre-arrest, arrest and remand so that they effectively represent clients. The conference also highlighted the need to regularly identify convicts who require legal aid for filing appeals.
The video conference also saw Justice Ramana discuss the implementation of the legal aid defence counsel system. Seventeen districts have been selected on a pilot basis. NALSA has envisaged the system for providing legal aid in criminal matters on the lines of the public defender system existing in some western countries.
In fact, as chairman of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, Justice Ramana focused on this at the all-India NALSA conference held in August in Nagpur. He said that one of the biggest problems hindering the success of legal aid was the lack of continuity, focus and accountability. A new system is thus being put in place and is aimed at assigning cases from the beginning to advocates whose sole focus will be on legal aid cases and whose performance will be more effectively reviewed.
Justice Ramana’s enthusiasm is infectious and those involved with him in this critical task are confident that with him at the helm, the weak and the marginalised will never feel disadvantaged in their search for justice.
Lead picture: Justice Ramana (extreme right) at a video conference with State Legal Services Authorities