District Legal Services Authority
"Legal Aid scheme was first introduced by Justice P.N. Bhagwati under the Legal Aid Committee formed in 1971. According to him, the legal aid means providing an arrangement in the society so that the missionary of administration of justice becomes easily accessible and is not out of reach of those who have to resort to it for enforcement of its given to them by law" the poor and 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. Legal aid should be available to the poor and illiterate. Legal aid as defined, deals with legal aid to poor, illiterate, who don't have access to courts. One need not be a litigant to seek aid by means of legal aid. Legal aid is available to anybody on the road.
The introduction of Lok Adalats added a new chapter to the justice dispensation system of this country and succeeded in providing a supplementary forum to the litigants for conciliatory settlement of their disputes. In 1987 Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted to give a statutory base to legal aid programmes throughout the country on a uniform pattern. This Act was finally enforced on 9th of November, 1995 after certain amendments were introduced therein by the Amendment Act of 1994. Hon. Mr. Justice R.N. Mishra the then Chief Justice of India played a key role in the enforcement of the Act.
An Act to constitute legal services authorities to provide free and competent legal Service to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organise Lok Adalats to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity.
Criterion for providing legal aid
Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 prescribes the criteria for giving legal services to the eligible persons. Section 12 of the Act reads as under:-
Every person who has to file or defend a case shall be entitled to legal services under this Act if that person is -
- a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;
- a victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;
- a woman or a child;
- a mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;
- a person under circumstances of undeserved want such as being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster; or
- an industrial workman; or
- in custody, including custody in a protective home within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (104 of 1956); or in a juvenile home within the meaning of clause.
(j) of section 2 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (53 of 1986) or in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987 (14 of 1987); or
- in receipt of annual income less than rupees nine thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the State Govt., if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court, and less than rupees twelve thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the Central Govt., if the case is before the Supreme Court."(Rules have already been amended to enhance this income ceiling).
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 or 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. As per section 2(1)(c) '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.
Legal Services Authorities after examining the eligibility criteria of an applicant and the existence of a prima facie case in his favour provide him counsel at State expense, pay the required Court Fee in the matter and bear all incidental expenses 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 Services Authority.
District Legal Services Authority. -
- The State Government shall, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, constitute a body to be called the District Legal Services Authority for every District in the State to exercise the powers and perform the functions conferred on, or assigned to, the District Authority under this Act.
- A District Authority shall consist of-
- The District Judge who shall be its Chairman; and
- Such number of other members, possessing such experience and qualifications, as may be prescribed by the State Government, to be nominated by that Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
- The State Authority shall, in consultation with the Chairman of the District Authority, appoint a person belonging to the State Judicial Service not lower in rank than that of a Subordinate Judge or Civil Judge posted at the seat of the District Judiciary as Secretary of the District Authority to exercise such powers and perform such duties under the Chairman of that Committee as may be assigned to him by such Chairman.
- The terms of office and other conditions relating thereto, of members and Secretary of the District Authority shall be such as may be determined by regulations made by the State Authority in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
- The District Authority may appoint such number of officers and other employees as may be prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court for the efficient discharge of its functions.
- The officers and other employees of the District Authority shall be entitled to such salary and allowances and shall be subject to such other conditions of service as may be prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
- The administrative expenses of every District Authority, including the salaries, allowances and pensions payable to the Secretary, officers and other employees of the District Authority shall be defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund of the State.
- All orders and decisions of the District Authority shall be authenticated by the Secretary or by any other officer of the District Authority duly authorised by the Chairman of that Authority.
- No act or proceeding of a District Authority shall be invalid merely on the ground of the existence of any vacancy in, or any defect in the Constitution of, the District Authority.
- Functions of District Authority. -
- It shall be the duty of every District Authority to perform such of the functions of the State Authority in the District as may be delegated to it from time to time by the State Authority.
- Without prejudice to the generality of the functions referred to in subsection (1), the District Authority may perform all or any of the following functions, namely: -
- Co-ordinate the activities of the Taluk Legal Services Committee and other Legal Services in the District]
- Organise Lok Adalats within the District; and
- Perform such other functions as the State Authority may [***] fix by regulations.
Particulars about District Legal Services Authority and Sub-Divisional Legal Services Committees
I. Andaman & Nicobar Islands District Legal Services Authority
- District Judge, Andaman & Nicobar Islands - Chairman
- Chairman, Zilla Parishad, Andaman & Nicobar Islands - Member
- District Magistrate, South Andaman - Member
- Superintendent of Police (District), South Andaman - Member
- Govt. Pleader, Andaman & Nicobar Islands - Member
- Superintendent, Juvenile Home, Port Blair - Member
- Chief Judicial Magistrate, Port Blair - Secretary
II. South Andaman Taluka Legal Services Committee
- Civil Judge (Sr. Div.), Port Blair - Chairman
- Pramukh Panchayat Samiti, Port Blair - Member
- Sub-Division Officer, South Andaman - Member
- Dy. S. P., South Andaman - Member
III. North & Middle Andaman Taluka Legal Services Committee
- Civil Judge (Jr. Div.), Mayabunder - Chairman
- Pramukh Panchayat Samiti, Mayabunder - Member
- Sub-Division Officer, Mayabunder - Member
- Dy. S. P., Mayabunder - Member
IV. Car Nicobar Taluka Legal Services Committee
- Civil Judge (Jr. Div.), Nicobar District - Chairman
- Sub-Division Officer, Car Nicobar - Member
- Dy. S. P., Car Nicobar - Member
V. Nancowry Taluka Legal Services Committee
- Civil Judge (Jr. Div.), Nicobar District - Chairman
- Pramukh Panchayat Samiti, Campbell Bay - Member
- Sub-Division Officer, Nancowry - Member
- Dy. S. P., Nancowry - Member