The National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA), in association with the Government of India, will host the First Regional Conference on Access to Legal Aid on November 27 and 28.
To be held at the Supreme Court premises in New Delhi, India, the conference will be organised in collaboration with the International Legal Foundation (ILF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The event will also provide a platform for sharing best practices and identifying innovative solutions to improve access to justice in the participating countries.
The keys areas for deliberations include developing effective examples of people-centric justice systems, measuring quality of legal aid services, strategies for reducing pre-trial detention, early access to legal aid in criminal cases, legal aid in civil cases, sustainable funding mechanisms, child friendly legal aid, etc.
This Regional Conference follows a call made by the participants of the 2nd International Conference on Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems held in Argentina in 2016 for conferences to be organised at the regional level.
The Conference will pioneer the principle of equal access to justice for all, and highlight regional efforts to implement the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems 2012 and to further the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
It would reaffirm the critical role of the judiciary in ensuring access to legal representation and the government’s commitment to providing state funded legal aid services.
The focus will be on strengthening the frameworks on access to justice in the Global South.
This Conference will showcase India’s ‘Access to Justice’ framework which is one of the most developed in the world in terms of guaranteeing vast coverage of the population, promising universal access to legal aid for all forms of judicial and quasi-judicial legal processes and for advancing ‘Ease of Justice’.
It is a first-of-its-kind platform where the leaders of the two pillars of democracy – legislature and judiciary, will come together to accelerate the progress towards Sustainable Development Goals.
This will be a great leap from the previous international conferences on this subject matter where the Governments and Judicial organs have not participated.
The Conference includes a Chief Justices Roundtable on ‘Ensuring Equal Access to Justice for All in the Global South’ and a Ministerial Roundtable on ‘Advancing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development: Access to Justice – Global South’.
There will be three Plenary sessions and ten Parallel technical sessions.
The two-day event will bring together Chief Justices, Ministers of Justice, legal aid officers, policymakers, and civil society experts from 70 Africa-Asia-Pacific countries of the Global South to discuss the challenges and opportunities in ensuring access to quality legal aid services for the poor and vulnerable.
More than 200 delegates will participate in the two-day Regional Conference, including Chief Justices of Bangladesh, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nepal and Zimbabwe.
Besides, the event will witness participation from the Ministers of Justice from Kazakhstan, Nepal, Palau, Seychelles, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zambia.
Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar will grace the inaugural session on November 27, 2023, which will be presided by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, who is also the Patron-in-Chief of NALSA.
The event will witness the august presence of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Judge, Supreme Court of India & Executive Chairman, NALSA; Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Judge, Supreme Court of India & Chairman, SCLSC; Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State, Ministry of Law & Justice (Independent Charge); R. Venkataramani, Attorney General for India and Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa and former CEO, NITI Aayog.
President Droupadi Murmu will bestow her distinguished presence at the Valedictory session of the Conference on November 28. She will be joined by the CJI, along with Justice Kaul, Justice Khanna and Law Minister Meghwal on the dais.