TELE LAW FACILITY IN INDIA

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The government is planning to roll out the tele-law facility across all common service centers (CSCs), covering more than half of rural India, in the next financial year.

The service has been recently rolled out across 30,000 CSCs in 117 aspirational districts after seeing good demand for legal advice in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast, said CSC e-Governance Services CEO Dinesh Tyagi.

“We have just completed the rollout of the tele-law facility across all 117 aspirational districts. The service will be gradually expanded across all CSCs in India after impact assessment of the facility in aspirational districts. A nationwide rollout is expected in the next financial year,” Tyagi said.

TELE LAW SCHEME

The justice department had partnered with NALSA and CSC e-Governance Services for mainstreaming legal aid in 2017.

The tele-law scheme was launched on April 20, 2017. The ministry of law and justice partnered with the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), which anchors the Digital India program, to provide legal aid services through CSCs at the panchayat level, spread across the country.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

A portal called tele-law was launched, which is available across the CSC network. This will connect the citizens to legal service providers with the help of technology-enabled platforms.

Tele-law enables people to seek legal advice from lawyers through video-conferencing available at the CSC. Additionally, law school clinics, district legal service authorities, voluntary service providers and NGOs working on legal aid and empowerment can also be connected through the CSCs anywhere and anytime, in order to strengthen access to justice for the marginalized communities.

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) provides a panel of lawyers from state capitals, who will be available through video-conferencing to provide legal advice and counseling to applicants across CSCs.

A robust monitoring and evaluation system is also being designed, which will help in assessing the quality of legal advice provided and the ensuing benefit to those accessing it.

In addition to this, every CSC will engage a paralegal volunteer (PLV), who is the first point of contact for rural citizens and help them in understanding the legal issues, explain the advice given by lawyers and assist in further action required in cases as per the advice of the lawyer. The selected PLVs will be provided with relevant training to fulfill their responsibilities effectively.

A trained PLV will be available in a CSC for 10 days in a month under the scheme. These PLVs will help the applicant connect with a lawyer through the video-conferencing facility at the CSC and will keep track of the progress of the applicants’ cases and grievances and maintain a record. They will also submit the records maintained to the District Legal Service Authority every week.

In February, the government launched mobile apps for PLVs and Nyaya Bandhu (Pro Bono Legal Services) scheme.

This app enables the PLVs to perform on-field pre-registration of cases with a facility to seek an appointment from the panel lawyer on preferred date and time, in coordination with the village-level entrepreneur (VLE) at the CSC.

 

EFFECTIVE THE SCHEME

Till August, the seven Northeast states witnessed more than 39,000 cases being registered for tele-law and out of them, the advice was provided in 37,588 cases. Assam made the most use of the tele-law service, followed by Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

On the other hand, J&K saw 30,169 cases being registered with the service till August and advice provided on 20,949 cases.

In other states, a total of 18,372 cases were registered as of August and advice was given on 17,406 cases. Uttar Pradesh led the tally, followed by Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

 

NYAYA BANDHU

The justice department launched the Nyaya Bandhu (pro bono legal services) program in April 2017. It is aimed at fulfilling the department’s critical mandate of enhancing ‘access to justice’ for marginalized sections of the society and the state’s constitutional obligation of providing ‘free legal aid’ for all.

The program seeks to put in place an institutional structure that will promote the pro bono culture in India.

The term pro bono, short for “pro bono publico”, is a Latin term which means “for the public good”. In practice, the term is used specifically in the context of the legal profession - referring to the practice of giving voluntary legal advice to individuals and organizations that are unable to afford legal advice and / or cannot access legal aid.

On the one hand, the program would facilitate the delivery of quality legal assistance to marginalized communities. On the other hand, it would ensure that lawyers who volunteer their valuable time towards this public service are duly recognized for their contribution.

Using technology to enhance access to justice for all, the pro bono app will allow marginalized individuals (referred to as applicants), who need quality legal advice and counsel, to connect via a mobile application with ‘advocates’ who have volunteered their time and services on this platform.

 

NALSA

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.

In every state, a State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the state. The SLSA is headed by the chief justice of the respective High Court who is the patron-in-chief of SLSA.

In every district, a District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) has been constituted to implement legal services programs in the district. The DLSA is situated in the district courts complex in every district and chaired by the district judge of the respective district.