Legal Aid should give confidence to underprivileged of system leading them to the temple of justice: Justice Lalit

Legal Aid needs to give confidence to everyone, especially the underprivileged, that the system can lead them to the temple of justice in the most professional manner, Chief Justice of India designate, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said on Sunday.

Formally launching the full time engagement of lawyers for legal services delivery under the Legal Aid Defence Counsel System (LADCS), Justice Lalit said the two-day event was organised for capacity building and sensitisation of Member Secretaries and officials of State Legal Services Authorities on the recently-launched digital initiatives of NALSA, including e-prison portal and NALSA platforms.

Justice Lalit, who is also the Executive Chairman of NALSA, launched the programme in 365 District Legal Services Authorities during the hybrid event, organised at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.

The concept was recently introduced by the National Legal Services Authority, in line with the ‘Public Defender System’.

He said this marks the beginning of the time of action because the theories have been learnt and the time was ripe enough to meet the challenges.

He emphasised on the meaning and need of LADCS in improving legal aid delivery mechanism. He recounted the features of LADCS and two other major achievements of NALSA. 

First, the ‘Pan India Awareness and Outreach Campaign’ spreading over a period of 42 days where the goal was to visit every village at least thrice. The idea was not merely to pay a visit, but leave an imprint, a seed in every village for it to germinate and later bear fruits.

Justice Lalit further impressed on the fact that the reason for the success behind Lok Adalat was the presence of legal services institutions in the minds of every person. Every now and then, the Lok Adalat had improving figures, which was a milestone.

He said the third Lok Adalat, which was conducted on August 13 in all 35 States and Union Territories except Delhi breached the one crore mark, thus creating history.

However, this was not the time to become complacent because when people became aware, their expectations automatically rose. They would expect from the system to give them solace, which was the test of legal services institutions and this was where the practical would begin, he added.

Justice Lalit highlighted the fact that over 70 percent population was below the poverty line, but only 12 percent opted for legal aid. The population between 12 to 70 percent were forced to opt for private lawyers.

"Litigation is like a bleeding wound, the more you let it bleed, the more you will suffer," said the CJI designate.

This was especially true in case of  criminal cases, which were not thrust by choice, but a person was forced by his circumstances, which was why the reaction time was very less and consequently, the person got sucked in a trap, for which he had to sell or mortgage his properties, he added.

As per Justice Lalit, "Legal Aid needs to give confidence to such people that the system can lead me through this door to the temple of justice and that I will be taken care of in the most professional manner.

"We need a mechanism, where reports are received every now and then, so that a constant check is ensured and  confidence between the legal aid seeking community and the legal services institutions is established. To achieve the best monitoring possible, it is of grave importance that the right person is selected, someone who must be worthy enough to be reposed with confidence," he added. 

While harping on LADCS, Justice Lalit mentioned that dedicated offices will serve the aforesaid purpose and since it has already started, well begun is half done. While giving his piece of advice, Justice Lalit said that the Member Secretaries have to be constantly vigilant as they are the catalyst. 

He said lke a catalyst serves its purpose in a chemical equation, on similar lines the Member Secretaries were catalysts facilitating the synthesis of legal aid and lawyers. The gap between 12 to 70 percent need to be bridged.

Justice Lalit further said that as a catalyst, the Member Secretaries should not remove themselves from the process immediately, rather have a bird’s eye view over the entire process because that would ultimately yield results.

Then comes the course correction, in case one finds that the results are not achieved, he added.

The CJI designate applauded everyone associated with the legal aid movement for their achievements in the past 15 months,  living up to the challenges and coming out with flying colours.

He also appreciated NALSA’s tableau hosted on the Republic Day, 2021 and the launch of postal stamp.

He motivated everyone to do their work to the best of their capabilities and said success will automatically follow.

After introducing the concept of LADCS as a pilot project in 13 districts of 13 different states, NALSA evaluated the success and satisfaction level of legal aid seekers and decided to introduce the same with modifications in all districts.

The event focused on three main portals, made for the ease of citizens, legal aid and NALSA. Puneet Sehgal, Director, NALSA; Ashok Jain, Member Secretary, NALSA, among others, were present on the occasion.