Legal Services Authorities (LSA) though optimistic in intentions has been unable to achieve its objectives. Critically analyze.(250 words)

Mentor’s Comment

  1. State  Legal Services Authorities (LSA) ‘s objectives.
  2. Give benefits of this act to vulnerable section.
  3. Show the shortcomings and how it has failed to achieve its objectives due to various reasons.
  4. Conclude suggesting some reforms in present architecture.

Answer:

Justice P.N.Bhagwati has rightly said that "the poor and the illiterate should be able to approach the Courts and their ignorance and poverty should not be an impediment in the way of their obtaining Justice from the Courts."  Right to free legal aid or free legal service is an essential right guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 14, 21, 39A and so on. In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act was enacted to give free and competent legal services to the person belonging to Schedule Tribe and Schedule Caste, woman, child, victim of human trafficking, differently abled person, industrial workman, and person in custody in a protective home and the poor.

Benefits-
1. It aims to Provide Free and Competent Legal Services to the eligible persons. According to NALSA, about 8.22 lakh people across India benefited through legal aid services from April 2017 to June 2018.
2. It aims to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes especially Mobile Lok Adalats.
3. It aims to organize legal awareness camps in the rural areas.

The major drawback of legal aid movement in India are as follows-
1. Opted for free legal aid because they had no means and resources to hire a paid private practitioner. They would never have approached for the legal aid services if they had the resources to engage private legal practitioners.
2. Women, in spite of being aware of the free legal aid services, chose to opt for the private legal practitioner because they could have better control over their lawyer and they lack faith and confidence over the quality of services offered under the legal aid system.
3. LAC (Legal Aid Counsel) spends an average of 1 to 10 hours per week on legal aid cases. On the contrary, around 58% LAC spend on an average of 20 hours and above per week on private cases.
4. The judicial officers claim that complaints were received against LACs for demanding money from beneficiaries.
5. Majority of judicial officers rated the overall skill set of a private legal practitioner as of fairly good quality and that of LAC as of moderately low quality.
6. Currently, the engagement of LAC is usually on an ad-hoc basis.
7. LAC can withdraw from an aided case by submitting a reason to member-secretary. In this scenario, a beneficiary has to go through the painstaking task of retelling their case history to newly allotted LAC.

Way Forward-
1. Front offices at the district level are being upgraded to make them one-stop centers for legal aid seekers and updating the record of legal aided cases.
2. Honorarium for a legal aided case should be at par with private cases, it will compel LAC to not withdraw or deny aided cases in middle.
3. Remuneration towards the empanelled lawyers should be increased every year. 
4. NALSA’s outreach programmes (like door to door campaigns) have made people aware of the legal advice and other forms of legal services such as drafting of applications etc.
5. The ‘Pro bono legal services’ initiative is a web based platform, through which interested lawyers can register themselves to volunteer pro bono services for the underprivileged litigants, who are unable to afford it.
6. ‘Tele Law’, is aimed at facilitating delivery of legal advice through an expert panel of lawyers – stationed at the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA). 

In a democracy, where rule of law is supreme; it is essential to ensure that even the weakest amongst the weak, poorest among the poor, in the country does not suffer injustice arising out of any abrasive action on the part of State or private person. As a way forward there is need to ensure capacity building for legal aid movement. This requires strengthening the skills of stakeholders of legal aid; law teachers, lawyers, law students, volunteers such as aaganwadi workers, Members of local panchayat etc to act as intermediates between rural people and legal service institutions.

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Bandari Sravya
1 year ago

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