Speaking at the inaugural session of the first All India District Legal Services Authorities meet, the PM recently said that ease of justice is as important as ease of doing business and ease of living. At the event, the PM urged the judiciary to speed up release of undertrials who are being held in jails awaiting legal counsel.
About the ‘National level meet of District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs)’ –
- The first-ever national level meet of DLSAs was organised from 30th-31st July 2022 at Vigyan Bhawan by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
- The meeting deliberated on the creation of an integrated procedure in order to bring homogeneity and synchronisation across DLSAs.
- Under the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987, in every District, the District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District.
- It is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.
- The 676 DLSAs of the country are contributing towards reducing the burden on courts by regulating the Lok Adalats conducted by NALSA.
About the ‘National Legal Services Authority’ (NALSA) –
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which came into force on 9th November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
- The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the second senior most Judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
- Article 39A of the Constitution provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity. Article 14 and Article 22 (1), obligates State to ensure equality before law.
- It must be noted that the role played by NALSA and its networks is very much relevant to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal-16, which seeks to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
Highlights of the Prime Minister’s speech –
- Concern over undertrial prisoners —
- The PM emphasised the need to reach out to the weakest sections of society and provide them access to justice.
- He urged the judiciary to speed up the process of release of undertrials as India prepares to celebrate 75 years of Independence.
- According to the ‘Prison Statistics India‘ report (2020) of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were as many as 4,88,511 prison inmates, with 76% or 3,71,848, being undertrials.
- The DLSAs can take up the responsibility of providing legal assistance to undertrials and the district judges (chairmen of the district-level undertrial review committees) can expedite the release of undertrial prisoners.
- DLSAs are mandated to hold weekly meetings of undertrial review committees to discuss progress.
- It also reviews additional cases and plan next steps, including filing bail applications in High Courts and the Supreme Court if necessary.
- The PM praised the NALSA, which has launched a campaign to give legal aid to prisoners.
- Ease of justice is as crucial as ease of living and doing business —
- Today, only a small percentage of India’s population can access the legal system when they are in need.
- This is due to the fact that majority lack legal awareness and necessary means to approach the courts.
- Justice should not be restricted to socio-economically privileged classes and it is the responsibility of State actors to ensure a just and egalitarian social order.
- In this context, access to justice serves as a tool for social emancipation.
- The PM appealed to the judiciary to make use of technology in the justice delivery system, as India is at the centre of a digital revolution.
- The PM credited the judiciary for embracing technology by holding —
- Virtual courts as part of the e-Courts Mission.
- 24-hour courts for offences such as traffic violations.
- In addition, video conferencing infrastructure is being expanded in the courts for the benefit of the public.