New Delhi (ILNS): Congratulating the legal aid functionaries for their sincere dedication on the 25th National Legal Services Day, Hon’ble Justice N. V. Ramana, Judge, Supreme Court of India and Executive chairman of NALSA said: “Today is a historic day in the legal aid movement of India.
“This year marks the completion of 25 years since the establishment of the National Legal Services Authority. In recent times, we have faced numerous challenges, due to the pandemic. With the help of all of you, with innovative ideas, we attempted to overcome these problems. We could not have been successful in our endeavour without the wholehearted contribution of all the dedicated individuals who turn the constitutional vision of access to justice, into a reality. On this occasion, I express my deep appreciation for the continuing support from all Legal Services Institutions across the country,” he said.
The journey of Legal Services in India has come a long way. The Legal Aid System in India is special due to many reasons, the primary of which being the sheer number of people it caters to. The Legal Services Act of 1987 entitles women, children, SCs & STs and Persons with Disabilities with free legal aid, irrespective of their income. This besides other categories of eligible persons including victims of natural and manmade disasters, victims of human trafficking, industrial workmen, and anybody with an annual income as prescribed the Central or State Governments. This makes around 75 percent of the country’s population eligible for free legal aid.
The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 was enforced on November 9, 1995. In these last 25 years, Legal Services Authorities have gone from strength to strength in creating a more inclusive justice system. Under the guidance of the NALSA, 36 State Legal Services Authorities, 658 District Legal Services Authorities, 2277 Taluka Legal Services Committees, 39 High Court Legal Services Authorities, 47,000 Panel Advocates, and 50,000 Para Legal Volunteers are working across the country to facilitate access to justice for all.
NALSA’s vision of creating a justice delivery system that is accessible to the weak and marginalised sections is reflective in its various programmes ranging from the victim compensation schemes, Lok Adalats, Legal Services Clinics, and Social Justice Litigations.
These efforts are constantly evolving and adapting as per the current needs, exemplified best by the introduction of E-Lok Adalats during the ongoing pandemic.
In the last 5 years alone, Legal Services Authorities have provided legal aid and advice to close to 50 lakh beneficiaries.
On the occasion of Legal Services Day, various programmes were organised across the countries by SLSAs and DLSAs under the aegis of NALSA. These programmes were primarily targeted at the making people aware of the availability of free legal services and other functions of Legal services authorities.
These were attended by judicial officers, panel lawyers, PLVs and other Stakeholders. While the Delhi SLSA launched 9 projects for the marginalised sections, Chhattisgarh conducted 100 Legal Awareness Programmes, and Andhra Pradesh conducted a mega virtual Lok Adalat. In Arunachal Pradesh Nagaland, and Madhya Pradesh, Legal Awareness initiatives were undertaken to make the people aware of free legal aid services entitled to them, whereas Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Kerala organised a series of Webinars.
44 Legal Awareness camps were also conducted in Haryana. Several SLSAs also observed the celebrations in prisons, to make inmates aware about their legal rights.