December 29, 2023
Upholding Legal Services: Justice Sanjiv Khanna Nominated as Executive Chairperson of NALSA
- The recent nomination of Justice Sanjiv Khanna, the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, as the Executive Chairperson of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) underscores the commitment to providing accessible legal aid to the marginalized in society.
Understanding NALSA’s Role:
- Established under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, NALSA serves the vital function of offering pro bono legal assistance to the disadvantaged sections of society. A core objective of NALSA is the expeditious resolution of cases, thereby alleviating the burden on the judiciary.
- Leadership Structure: NALSA operates under the patronage of the Chief Justice of India, with the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court serving as the Executive Chairman. Situated at the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi, NALSA oversees the coordination of legal aid initiatives.
- Organizational Framework: At the state and high court levels, legal services authorities and committees have been established to extend these services. This hierarchical setup includes District Legal Services Authorities and Taluk Legal Services Committees to implement NALSA’s policies effectively. These entities facilitate free legal services and conduct Lok Adalats to resolve disputes amicably.
- Empowering through Literacy: NALSA, in collaboration with State Legal Services Authorities, conducts legal literacy programs, enhancing awareness of legal rights among the populace.
Scope of Free Legal Assistance:
- The spectrum of services covered under free legal aid is extensive, encompassing various facets of legal proceedings:
- Financial Support: Covering court fees, process fees, and associated charges in legal proceedings, ensuring access to justice without financial constraints.
- Legal Representation: Provision of legal counsel during legal proceedings to advocate for the underprivileged.
- Document Assistance: Facilitating the procurement and supply of certified copies of orders and documents crucial to legal proceedings, easing the bureaucratic process.
- Preparation Support: Assisting in the preparation of appeals, paper books, and document translation, simplifying the complexities of legal procedures.
- The eligibility criteria for availing free legal services are broad, encompassing individuals belonging to various vulnerable categories:
- Women, children, and marginalized communities like SC/ST
- Industrial workers and victims of various disasters
- Persons with disabilities or those in custody
- Individuals with an annual income below specified thresholds
- Underpinning the existence of NALSA are constitutional provisions, notably Article 39A, which mandates free legal aid for the marginalized. Additionally, Articles 14 and 22(1) ensure equality before the law and a legal system fostering justice and equal opportunities for all.
- The nomination of Justice Sanjiv Khanna reaffirms the commitment to upholding constitutional provisions and extending legal aid to those in need, thereby fostering a more equitable and accessible legal framework for all.