Poor to get free-of-cost legal aid, govt urges lawyers to offer pro bono service
The poor and marginalised sections may soon get free legal aid if they can’t afford to pay a lawyer.
All that they have to do is to approach the common service centres (CSCs) to be set up across the country by the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA) where para legal volunteers would connect a panel of lawyers with clients through video conferencing facilities.
Litigants from marginalised communities, including members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, women, children, senior citizens, persons with low income and persons with disabilities, acid attack, drug abused, human trafficking victims, prison inmates can apply for legal aid and advice from the lawyers who register themselves offering free services.
For this the Union minister of law and justice Ravi Shankar Prasad launched a website -- doj.gov.in ---- in New Delhi on Thursday for the lawyers to register themselves for pro bono service.
The minister said that the lawyers who offer free legal help to marginalised communities would be considered for elevation as judges on a priority basis.
The government expects many eminent lawyers to join what it calls pro bono movement.
“There is a defined structured policy in US and South Korea for the lawyers volunteering to help the people. There are proper legal aid rules for the lawyers opting to help others. In India too, lawyers help others, but there was no structured format for this. This issue we have addressed now,” said Prasad who launched three legal aid and empowerment initiatives of the Department of Justice – ‘Pro bono legal services’, ‘Tele law service’ and ‘Nyaya Mitra scheme’- on Thursday.
The ‘Pro bono legal services’ initiative is a web-based platform, through which interested lawyers can register themselves on website doj.gov.in to volunteer pro bono services for the underprivileged litigants, who are unable to afford it.
Through this online portal, litigants from marginalised communities (including members of SC and ST, women, children, senior citizens, persons with low income and persons with disabilities) can also apply for legal aid and advice from the pro bono lawyers.
Through the second initiative, launched by the minister, the Department of Justice and NALSA are partnering with CSC- E- Governance Service Limited for mainstreaming legal aid to the marginalised communities through CSCs. This initiative, called ‘Tele Law’, would be launched across 1,800 panchayats in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, North Eastern States and Jammu & Kashmir.
It is aimed at facilitating delivery of legal advice through an expert panel of lawyers – stationed at the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA).
The project would connect lawyers with clients through video conferencing facilities at common service centres, operated by para legal volunteers. For this purpose, this initiative would also play a pivotal role in empowering 1000 women para legal volunteers.
The minister said that using common service centres for mainstreaming legal aid services for the marginalized at the panchayat levels would ensure that legal aid reaches populations which remained untouched due to geographical challenges and/or lack of infrastructure.