Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability. Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all. Legal aid strives to ensure that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden and weaker sections of the society.
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
NALSA is located at New Delhi. In every State, State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State. The State Legal Services Authority is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
In every District, District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.
Free legal services entail the provision of free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for those poor and marginalized people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority.
Provision of free legal aid may include:
Eligible persons for getting free legal services
The sections of the society as enlisted under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act are entitled for free legal services, they are :
Free Legal Services can be availed from:
A person in need of free legal services can approach the concerned authority or committee through an application which could either be made by sending in written form,or by filling up the forms prepared by the said authorities stating in brief the reason for seeking legal aid or can be made orally in which case an officer of the concerned legal services authority or a paralegal volunteer can assist the person.
A person can also apply online for getting Legal Aid to any Legal Services Institution in the country by filling up the Legal Aid Application form available online at NALSA’s website. To access the online application, click here .
Various SLSAs/DLSAs/SCLSC/HCLSCs/TLSCs also have application forms available on their websites.
Lok Adalat is a forum where the disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/compromised amicably. The Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Under the said Act, the award made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be the decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal lies before any court against its award.
Nature of cases to be referred to Lok Adalat
Provided that any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under the law shall not be settled in Lok Adalat.
How to get the case referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement
A) Case pending before the court:
B. Any dispute at pre-litigative stage
The State Legal Services Authority or District Legal Services Authority as the case may be on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to any pre-litigation stage matter refer such matter to the Lok Adalat for amicable settlement.
Source : NALSA
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