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Justice delayed is justice denied. This is the voice of many students or professionals when the number of cases keeps on rising without the fast disposal of cases. However, this is a different case from the topic to be discussed but relevant. When justice got delayed then we call it is justice denied. But, what about when justice got limited? Due to the lack of resources, some sections of the society like the poor, laborers, etc. are deprived of justice. To get justice one has to spend money and it becomes difficult for the people who hardly manage to get food for his/her family. The people who have good earning sources also try to avoid courts due to the expenses. There are court fees, lawyer fees according to quality, and other expenses. One may bear these expenses if he is assured to get justice within a stipulated time. At this juncture, the state has to put machinery which can ensure justice to those people who are otherwise have been deprived of it. This work to ensure justice or other legal services to poor people is performed by legal services authorities.
LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITIES
Legal services authorities are the bodies established by the government for the delivery of legal services to poor people. Providing legal services along with other basic amenities has become the responsibility of the welfare state. Legal services have been encompassed under Article 21 which ensures the right to life for the citizens. Article 39-A also directs the government to enable such policies or schemes which ensure equal justice and free legal aid. By considering these points, the government roll out many schemes and issued guidelines. Since the late 1950s, some state governments such as Kerala, Maharashtra provide legal aid to some extent. Central Law ministry also started a discussion on legal aid across the country. Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes was formed under the chairmanship of justice P.N. Bhagwati in 1980. In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted which was later on enforced in November 1995 with some amendments. The four-tired legal aid machinery along with committees in courts was established. The central authority, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), was constituted and other lower authorities at State, District, Taluka were also formed. One of the great features of NALSA is Lok Adalats which are constituted for the amicable resolution of disputes. The annual report 2019 of NALSA will be a good source to know the impacts of these legal services authorities.
ANNUAL REPORT 2019
The NALSA releases its annual report in which it maintains the services done in that specific year along with other things. It maintains the record of legal aid, legal awareness programs, Lok Adalats, victim compensation, etc. The figures are:
1. Legal aid & advice: 12.10 lakhs people got legal aid and advice in all the states/UTs in 2019.
2. Legal awareness programs: The legal Services Authorities conducted 1,96,728 awareness programs to aware citizens of their rights and duties under the law. 2,68,35,386 people attended these programmes.
3. Lok adalats: Four National Lok Adalats were held along with state Lok Adalats in which 59,17,932 cases were settled. Lok Adalats have the same powers which the civil court has. They help to reduce the costs and time involved in civil and compoundable criminal cases. Other than these, there are 337 Permanent Lok Adalats which disposed of 1,14,233 cases related to public utility services.
4. Mediation: 1,00,336 cases were settled through an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
5.Victim Compensation Scheme: Under section 375A of Cr.P.C., compensation is provided to the victims or their dependents who suffered injuries in certain heinous crimes. In 2019, the amount worth Rs.202.80 crores were disbursed under this scheme.
6. Other Initiatives: Legal Services Clinics in villages or jails, Legal Empowerment Camps in vulnerable areas, Legal assistance to the family members of the prisoners, etc. are the other initiatives for achieving the objective “Access to Justice”.
These are the services that the NALSA and the other authorities under its aegis provide to the weaker sections of the society.
The impacts of establishing legal services authorities can be seen throughout society. The impacts are following:-
1. Access to Justice: People who do not have enough resources would have left deprived of their rights if these authorities would have not been working. Prisoners in jails would have deprived of basic amenities and may even spend more time in jails. Access to justice eventually leads to belief in the judiciary.
2. Belief in Judiciary: The services provided by these authorities to the weaker or marginalized section of the society helps in strengthening the belief in the judiciary system of the country. What will be the consequence when people will start resolving their legal issues without the help of the judiciary. It can lead to the principle of an eye for eye justice which is seen in the marginalized sections of the society where people do not have enough resources to reach the judiciary. When the people feel exploited by the executive and the legislative then the people can reach the judiciary for relief.
3. Strengthening of Judiciary: Fast effective resolution of cases automatically strengthens the third pillar of democracy. Judiciary would have been left burdened with a number of cases. A strong and independent judiciary ensures the free flow of democracy.
4. Legal Literacy: Programmes undertaken by these authorities spread legal awareness among the common masses. School and college clinics help in the spread of legal knowledge among the youths. People who are legally aware also have meek chances to get exploited by the bad elements of society. They can properly use their rights and ask for rights from the government.
Along with these positive impacts, some challenges which are posed with the set up of these authorities are needed to be handled effectively. One of these challenges is the financial challenge. It needed to be handled effectively by the government for the proper functioning of these authorities. Another challenge is some sort of complex challenge. Article 50 calls for the separation of the executive from the judiciary. Judges appointed by the executive would subject to them the guidelines issued by the government. Proper functioning of these authorities for the benefits of the people would lay down a good example of executive and judiciary functioning together. On the other hand, some manipulations for some advantages for their benefits by executive and judiciary would ruin the purpose of establishing these authorities.
1. G.O.Koppell, Legal Aid in India, 8 J. of Ind. Law Inst. 224, 224-236.
2. Ishan v Vyas, Working of Statute of Legal Aid in India, Legal Service India, http://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l55-Working-of-Statute-of-Legal-Aid-in-India.html (last visited Feb. 21, 2021).
3. Dept. Of Justice, Annual Report 2019 (2019), https://nalsa.gov.in/library/annual-report-2019.