Now, Free Legal Aid for the Poor at the Pre-Arrest Phase from NALSA
India's national legal aid service is now to offer free legal representation to the needy from the pre-arrest stage itself. This could substantially help reducing the number of undertrial prisoners in India.
Justice N V Ramana on Monday held a video conference with executive chairmen and member secretaries of all State Legal Services Authorities and discussed several issues including ways and means of providing competent legal aid to the needy.
Justice Ramana, who is the senior most judge of the Supreme Court after Chief Justice S A Bobde and the Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), discussed implementation of legal aid defence counsel system and said 17 districts have been selected for implementing the system on a pilot basis.
NALSA is the nationwide agency which enables the provision of free legal aid to those who cannot afford it.
Most importantly, it was decided that NALSA would now provide free lawyers to needy people from the pre-arrest stage onwards.
Previously, those who appeared in court without a lawyer were assigned legal representation from NALSA by the judge presiding over the case. Now, rather than wait until the case reaches court, the needy will be given legal representation from the pre-arrest stage; that is, from the moment they are taken to the police station.
Ideally, if implemented correctly, and depending on the quality of service offered, this could reduce the immense number of undertrials in India, which as shown by recent NCRB data, is a serious issue that needs immediate redressal.
"Focusing on the campaign of providing legal assistance at the pre-arrest, arrest and remand stage, the Executive Chairman, NALSA emphasized the need to provide effective legal aid to the needy people right from the stage he is called to the police station, train lawyers in law relating to pre-arrest, arrest and remand so that they effectively represent clients," the press release said.
It also highlighted the need to regularly identify convicts who require legal aid for filing appeals.
"Measures such as timely filing of appeals, co-ordination with High Court Legal Services Committees and Supreme Court Legal Service Committee, regularly identify undertrials who need legal aid for filing bail applications or representing them before trial courts and strengthen jail Legal Aid clinics with properly trained lawyers and PlVs were addressed," said the release.
NALSA said the campaign will be implemented in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi and will be expanded to other states in the near future.
It said that next year five national Lok Adalats will be held on second Saturdays of February, April, July, September and December which would be focused on identifying old pending matters and resolving them.
The video conference discussed NALSA-devised campaign to identify convicts in jails whose appeals have not been filed and whose incarceration has exceeded their awarded sentences.
The campaign is meant to expeditiously provide legal aid to convicts who have not engaged private lawyers to file their appeals and to ensure that such appeals are filed expeditiously through legal services.