2018 : Year Of Great Accomplishments For National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has had a year of great accomplishments in 2018, highlighted by a number of important initiatives to expand and improve the delivery of free legal services to marginalized sections of society. This included providing legal aid and advice to people across various classes such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women, children, transgenders, people in custody, persons with disability, industrial workmen, victims of trafficking, mass disasters, violence, floods, droughts, earthquakes and industrial disasters. Following is the list of various legal services programs and activities carried out by NALSA over the past year:
- Legal aid and assistance: Legal aid and assistance was provided to 14.41 lakh people, including 2.35 lakh women, 93,091 SCs, 88178 STs, 450 transgenders, 681 victims of trafficking and 4.4 lakh victims of natural/industrial disasters etc.
- Legal Awareness Programmes:1,76,706 legal awareness programmes were held across the country by Legal Service Authorities on various legal topics such as women centric laws, child labour laws, fundamental rights and duties under the Constitution of India etc. to build public awareness and empower people to demand justice, accountability and effective remedies at all levels.
- National Lok Adalat: Under the aegis of NALSA, four National Lok Adalats were held across the country. Cases settled included matters relating to Negotiable Instruments Act, bank recovery cases, labour dispute cases, service matters, criminal compoundable matters, MACT, etc. A total of 58.82 lakh cases, including 32.72 lakh pre-litigation cases and 26.09 lakh pending cases were settled in National Lok Adalats.
- Lok Adalats (Other than National Lok Adalats): Apart from National Lok Adalats, State Legal Services Authorities also organized Lok Adalats periodically in their respective States. A total of 13.57 lakh cases, including 6.06 lakh pre-litigation cases and 7.5 lakh pending cases, related to Negotiable Instruments Act, bank recovery, labour disputes etc. were settled in such Lok Adalats. The success of this was celebrated by telecasting episodes in the name of 'Akele nahi hain aap' on Doordarshan. These episodes have been uploaded on YouTube and NALSA's website.
- Legal Services/Empowerment Camps: NALSA formulated a module for 'Legal Empowerment Camps', and such camps were organized across the country. It marks a departure from the traditional approach of spreading general legal awareness and orchestrates a model of true empowerment with the foundation of need-based analysis and focused action. The camps were organized with the broad objective of bridging the gaps in information and in access to citizen's rightful entitlements. During the year, 1521 camps were held and around 45.46 lakh people got benefitted from these camps. Efforts were made to identify poor, weaker and marginalized people and to connect them to their entitlements available under various laws and welfare schemes. Legal aid functionaries not only identified such people but also helped them in filing up forms relating to welfare schemes and completing the necessary formalities. A platform was provided where the beneficiaries and various government departments were brought at one place for facilitation and actualization of the rights of the weaker section of the society.
- Campaigns: Campaigns catering to different target groups were launched in the previous year. This included -
(i) Campaign for women prisoners – This campaign was devised and implemented for women prisoners and children accompanying them in jails. The key achievements of the 10 day campaign initiated from 17th May, 2018 were: -
- The teams had one on one interactions with 91% of the women prisoners, i.e. 14,788 women prisoners.
- 2,088 camps were held inside the jails across the nation, wherein women prisoners were made aware about the availability of free legal services, amongst other legal rights. 2,942 women prisoners were provided legal aid.
- Legal process was started in case of 623 women convicts, for filing their appeals against conviction.
- The campaign also saw the selection of 450 women inmates to be trained as Para Legal Volunteers ("PLV's").
- 5,089 women inmates were imparted training in vocational skills and other educational courses.
- The teams also identified 71 cases of children suffering from illness while residing with their mothers inside jails.
- 145 women inmates were found to be pregnant, and accordingly were made aware about their legal rights. In certain cases, bail applications were also filed on their behalf.
- To secure the health rights of women and their children, 987 medical camps were held in collaboration with the Health Department. 11,127 inmates and their children benefitted from medical aid.
(ii) Door to door campaign – This campaign aimed at making the weaker and marginalized sections of society aware about existence of legal services institutions and availability of free legal services. During this Campaign -
- 66,010 villages/ urban areas were covered.
- 39.68 lakh persons were informed about the availability of free legal services.
- 3.91 lakh people who were in need of free legal services were identified, and legal services were provided to them.
(iii) Campaign for Convicts - This pan India campaign was launched to address the issues faced by convicts, such as lack of legal information and their legal rights as well, to meet the objective of securing their rights of appeal. The key achievements of the campaign were: -
- 88,372 convicts were made aware about the availability of free legal services.
- 808 convicts who required free legal aid for filing their appeals in Sessions Courts were identified. Process has been started to file their appeals. Around 425 appeals have already been filed.
- 2505 convicts who required legal aid for filing appeals in High Courts and 1,333 in Supreme Court were identified. Legal process has been initiated to file appeals in such cases. Around 764 appeals have already been filed in the High Courts.
- 20,725 convicts were apprised about the status of their appeals.
- Legal Literacy Clubs in Schools: The State Legal Services Authorities were provided with the target to open a minimum of five Legal Literacy Clubs ("LLC") in each district. To this effect, 4328 LLC's were opened from January to December 2018 across the country, in order to endow children with legal literacy and rights awareness.
- Legal Services Clinics: 23793 Legal Services Clinics, including 1,128 Jail Legal Services Clinics across the country are providing legal assistance in the form of advice, drafting of applications, replies etc. Legal assistance was provided to around 14,30,380 people, including 2,55,836 inmates through these Legal Services Clinics.
- Digitization of Legal Services Clinics: In furtherance of the Digital India Movement and to render effectual legal services, around 696 legal services clinics in jails across the country were digitized. Moving forward, this digitization shall provide information with regard to next date of hearing, status of bail applications, trials, appeals, petitions of the prisoners in an expeditious manner.
- Digital Cinema and LED Monitors: Taking help of digital cinema, NALSA launched an awareness campaign in movie theatres in order to make the general public cognizant of the availability of free legal aid. A remarkable number of around 52 crore people were targeted when the NALSA theme song, reflecting primarily on the availability of free legal services, was played in theatres from January to February in 2018. Awareness about socio legal issues was also created through installation of LED monitors at the front offices of District Legal Services Authorities. 796 LED monitors were installed in the Front Offices of the DLSAs.
- Documentary Film and Coffee Table Book: 2018 was a year of reflection of the achievement of milestones in the legal aid movement and initiation of the legal services programs. To this effect, NALSA launched a documentary film titled 'Nyay Shashatikaran Ek Yatra' and prepared a coffee table book.
- Access to Justice and Remedies for People living in Far Flung Areas: NALSA launched a project 'Access to Justice and Remedies for People living in Far Flung Areas' on pilot basis at Leh and Kargil, with the objective of facilitating filing of petitions, appeals, etc. in the High Court. The objective of the project is to provide access to remedies for people living in far-flung areas by facilitating their access to High Courts for filing of petitions and appeals etc., and making use of telephonic and video communication, wherever possible, in updating litigants about their cases and facilitating interactions with lawyers representing them at the High Courts. Front Offices of District Legal Services Authority shall work as collection counters where litigants can submit their appeals, petitions, replies and responses to be filed in the High Court, along with the copies of documents, affidavits etc.
- Internship programs: NALSA also organized internship programs for law students from law schools across the country. These law students witnessed an opportunity to get hands on experience by making field trips to jails, observation homes, mental hospitals, district courts, mediation centers' etc.
- Training Programmes: For capacity building of panel lawyers, NALSA has prepared three training modules. Training Module Part 3 was released in the year 2018. The Legal Services Institutions conducted 1175 training programmes for the panel lawyers this year. Similarly, for training of the PLV's, 1538 training programmes were conducted.
- Strengthening court based legal services: To strengthen and improve court based legal services, the following steps have been taken:
- Amendments in NALSA (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations, 2010 ("Regulations"): Amendments in Regulations have been approved for ensuring the selection of capable lawyers, facilitating engagement of senior lawyers and changing the structure of monitoring committees to Monitoring and Mentoring Committees.
- Front Office Guidelines: To ensure that legal aid beneficiaries do not have to run from one place to another, front office guidelines have been devised and circulated by NALSA to make front office as 'One Stop Centre' for legal aid beneficiaries. Some of the key features of the guidelines are:
- Maintaining daily cause list of legal aided cases
- Daily updating of the proceedings of the legal aid cases
- Legal Aid Helpline number was to be made fully functional in front offices
- Feedback to be given to legal aid beneficiaries about the status of their cases
- Legal advice and assistance
- Drafting of applications, notices, replies etc. on behalf of the aid seekers
- Victim Compensation:
- To bring uniformity in payment of compensation to women and children who are victims of crime, NALSA constituted a Committee in view of the directions given in Nipun Saxena Vs Union of India [Writ Petition (Civil) 565/2012] to prepare Model roles for victim compensation. The committee prepared the model compensation scheme.
- 10191 applications were disposed of under the Victim Compensation Schemes during the period .
- An amount of INR 156.65 crores was awarded as compensation to the victim of crimes.
To summarize, the year 2018 was marked as a year of great endeavours for NALSA, having far-reaching outcomes. The aforementioned legal services programs and activities that NALSA undertook helped vulnerable and marginalized groups to better understand and exercise their rights and entitlements, resolve their disputes peacefully, and seek remedies for grievances, thereby enjoying equal protection of the law. This year witnessed adoption of new approaches that undertook comprehensive assessments of legal needs and access to justice to understand the needs and priorities as well as to identify best ways to organize systems to respond to the realities on the ground. Legal empowerment became NALSA's cornerstone the preceding year by undertaking activities, initiatives schemes and programmes which provide access to legal information and assistance with legal or justice-related issues, thereby playing a key role in upholding human rights, including social and economic rights.
Yet another focus area was ensuring equal access to justice, protecting the rights of women and persons with special needs, such as children, people with disabilities and persons belonging to other minority groups. Such legal empowerment played a crucial role in enabling people to navigate the justice system, to make informed decisions, as well as to obtain judicial remedies. In addition, inclusivity was taken into account by bringing far-flung areas within the umbrella of NALSA's reach and providing them with legal assistance.
Lastly, steps were also taken to bolster the framework as well as the infrastructure providing court-based legal services. It is indeed noteworthy to mention that these activities have laid down an impressive road map for the years to come.