The author of this blog is Sarvesh Kasaudhan B.A.LL.B 1st year Lloyd Law, College Greater Noida.

The Legal Service Authority Act has been authorized in 1987 to provide free legal services to weaker sections of society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana, judge, Supreme Court of India is the executive chairman of this authority. Mr. Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, The Chief Justice of India is Patron-in-chief of this authority. In every state, this authority has been constituted as the State Service Authority Act to give policies and free legal services to help people and conduct Lok Adalatas in their state. Like the same in every district also it is there as District Service Authority Act to implement legal service at the district level.  The introduction of Lok Adalats gave some focus on the topic of the justice dispensation system and succeeded in providing a supplementary forum to litigants for conciliatory settlements. The act was finally enforced on 9th of November 1995 after certain amendments were introduced by the Amendment Act of 1994. Mr. Justice R.N. Mishra, former Chief Justice of India played a key role in the enforcement of the Act. The legal aid means providing an arrangement in society so that the administration of justice becomes easily accessible and each and everyone should hold it legally- the poor and illiterate too. It deals with legal aid to poor, illiterate who don’t have access to courts. One should not be a litigant to seek aid by means of legal aid to be available to any person in common.

Provision of Legal Service Authority Act:
In the above paragraph, it is clearly defined about the main objectives and the aim of authorizing this act and its role among one and all. Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity and provide free legal aid by suitable legislation. According to section 2(1)(a) of the act, legal aid can be provided to a person for a ‘case’ which includes a suit or any proceeding before a court. Section 2(1)(aaa) defines the ‘court’ as a civil, criminal and revenue court and includes any tribunal or any other authority constituted under any law for the time being in force, to exercise judicial or quasi-judicial functions. Section 2(1)(c) i.e. ‘legal service’ includes the rendering of any service in the conduct of any case or other legal proceeding before any court or other authority or tribunal and the giving of advice on any legal matter. According to Section 2(1), Legal Service Authorities examined the criteria of an applicant and the existence of a prima facie case in his favor provide him counsel at State expense in connection with the case. The person to whom legal aid is provided is not called upon to spend anything on the litigation once it is supported by a Legal Service Authority.

Functions of NALSA:
The functions of the National Legal Service Act are as follows:-
1.      Establishing Lok Adalats in all districts in the country for disposal of pending matters as well as disputes at the pre-litigation stage.
2.      Establishing permanent Lok Adalats for government departments, Statutory Authorities and Public Sector Undertakings for the disposal of pending cases.
3.      Start up of NGOs for legal literacy and legal awareness campaign and also appointment of ‘legal aid counsel’ in all the courts of magistrate.
4.      Use of Lok Adalatas for disposal of cases and publicity of legal aid facilities among all, including jails also.
5.      Locating counseling and conciliation centers in every districts and emphasis on competent and quality legal services to the suffering one’s.
6.      Preparation of judicial officers in regard to legal service functions and programs and also publishing the official newsletter of NALSA i.e. ‘Nyaya Deep’.
7.      Enhancement of income ceiling to rupees fifty thousand per annum for legal aid before Supreme Court of India and to rupees twenty-five thousand per annum for legal aid up to high court.
8.      Step by step framing rules for refund of court fees and execution of awards passed by Lok Adalat.

All the State Legal Service Authorities are taking steps to establish the centers which would prove immensely useful for settling legal disputes at the pre-litigation stage and would also help legal services functionaries to find out as to whether a person approaching them for legal aid has or not a prima facie case in his favor which is pre-requisite for the grant of legal aid. The authority is keen to develop and promote a culture of conciliation instead of litigation in the country so that the citizens of his country prefer to resolve their disputes and differences across the table in a spirit of goodwill and brotherhood. NALSA also wishes to ensure that even the weakest amongst the weak in the country does not suffer injustice arising out of any abrasive action on the part of state or private person.

Criteria for Legal Aid:
Under section 12 of the Legal Service Authority Act, 1987 every person who has to file or defend a case shall be entitled to legal services under this act if the person follows certain points. So the persons who are entitled legal services under this act are:-
·          member of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe
·          Victim of trafficking in human beings or beggars
·         Women or children
·         Victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster
·         The person in custody, or custody in protective homes
·         Person whose annual income is less than 9 thousand rupees as prescribed by the state government and 12 thousand rupees as prescribed by the central government
·         Mentally ill or disabled person
Legal Service Authorities after knowing the condition or criteria of an applicant and the existence of a prima facie case in his favor provide him counsel at state expenses, pay the required court fees in the matter and support all other expenses that are related to the case of that victim. Once the Legal Service Authority starts supporting by providing the legal aid the victim then he/she should not spend any amount reliable to the case.

Case Related:
 “Abdul Hassan and National Legal Services Vs Delhi Vidyut Board and others”
The petitioner filed a wit petition before Delhi High Court for the restoration of electricity at his premises, which was disconnected by Delhi Vidyut Board on account of non-payment of bill. The fact was not only limited to DVB but also other state agencies like DDA, MTNL, GIC, and several other bodies. Court notices were directed to be issued to NALSA and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Anil Dev Singh passed the order giving directions for setting up of permanent Lok Adalat. Article 39A of the constitution of India provides for equal justice and free legal aid.

 Then it is clear that the state is ordered to secure a legal system that promotes justice on an equal basis. It is emphasized that the legal system should be able to deliver justice on an equal base and provide free legal aid to occupy that helps for securing justice are not denied to any citizens by means of any type of disability.