Building confidence about legal aid is key to ensuring justice: Justice UU Lalit at HTLS 2021
Supreme Court judge Justice UU Lalit on Saturday said awareness is important in bringing justice for those who cannot afford legal services and National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa) strives to further this purpose while speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS).
"Sometimes, people consider legal aid to be the last resort. However, confidence must be built that even if one enters through the legal aid, the case will be looked after with the same command," Justice Lalit, who is the executive chairperson of Nalsa, said at HTLS 2021.
Justice Lalit highlighted the achievements of the authority and also the need to improve the quality of legal aid.
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"We resolved to cover every village in the country at least thrice in six weeks. Since our network is always available, with para-legal volunteers reaching out to various sections of the population," the judge, who is in line to become the Chief Justice of India in August 2022, said.
Para-legal workers are acting as a connection between Nalsa and those seeking legal aid, Justice Lalit said.
As one of the issues facing the legal system, the judge pointed that of the total litigations, legal aid was provided only in 1 per cent of the cases.
“Out of all cases which are pending in courts, just about 1 per cent are under the belt of legal services. This means legal service is extended in only 1 per cent matters. This is disturbing," Justice Lalit said on the final day of HTLS 2021.
Mere awareness will not help, he said as he listed several ways to help the poorest seek justice. "Awareness does not guarantee everything. Awareness is just telling people what their rights are… Those rights need to be taken to the logical conclusion," he said.
The senior judge said lawyers must provide their service pro bono and law students should be brought in to bridge the gap. “To extend your services without charging anything is the ultimate extension of legal aid," he added.
Justice Lalit also highlighted how the coronavirus pandemic has brought about new avenues to further the scope of giving legal aid to people in every corner of the country.
"What Covid pandemic has taught us is that virtual platform is an excellent alternative in certain situations… For example, lok adalats have established contact through the virtual mode, there can now be meetings at the district level," he said.
"In July 2021, we could dispose off more than 29 lakh cases. In the next two months, next lok adalat (which was held in September this year) could dispose of 42 lakh cases," he added.
"If we consider that it is our responsibility that no one should be deprived of legal assistance due to financial or other disability, Nalsa’s motto ‘Vishwas Sabke Liye, Nyay Sabke Liye', can be possible only when all of us make our contribution.”