Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all. In the year
1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament 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 on the basis of equal opportunity. The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to monitor and evaluate implementation of legal aid programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available under the Act.
In every State, a State Legal Services Authority and in every High Court, a High Court Legal Services Committee have been constituted. District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees have been constituted in the Districts and most of the Taluks to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to provide free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
Supreme Court Legal Services Committee has been constituted to administer and implement the legal services programme insofar as it relates to the Supreme Court of India.
Functioning of NALSA
NALSA lays down policies, principles, guidelines and frames effective and economical schemes for the State Legal Services Authorities to implement the Legal Services Programmes throughout the country.
Primarily, the State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees, etc. have been asked to discharge the following main functions on regular basis:
i. FREE LEGAL SERVICES
The Free Legal Services include:-
Persons eligible for getting free legal services includes:-
ii. LOK ADALATS
Lok Adalat is one of the Alternative Disputes Resolution Mechanisms. It 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 this Act, an award made by a Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal lies against thereto before any court.
iii. LEGAL AWARENESS PROGRAMMES
As a part of the preventive and strategic legal aid, NALSA through the State Legal Services Authorities, conduct legal literacy programmes. In some States, Legal Literacy Programmes are conducted every year in schools and colleges and also for empowerment of women in a routine manner, besides the rural legal literacy camps.