Article 39-A of our Constitution enjoins the state to provide free legal aid to ensure that citizens are not denied opportunities because of poverty or other disabilities. Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, which entered into force on 3.1.1977, orders the state government to provide equal justice and free legal assistance to any citizen suffering from economic or other disabilities. The 1987 Law on Legal Services is essentially aimed at providing free and competent legal services to the weakest sections of society in order to ensure that no citizen is denied the opportunity of obtaining justice because of economic or other handicaps, and organize Lok Adalats to ensure that the functioning of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunities. Article 39-A of the constitution empowers each state government to establish a body called the Legal Services Authority for the state to exercise its powers and exercise the functions conferred or assigned to a state authority under the legal services law. The Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority is located on the Madras High Court campus, at North Fort Road, in a “SATTA UDAVI MAIYAM ” building. The honorable executive president is the administrative head of state authority. District legal service authorities are located in district court buildings in each of the district headquarters. The district judge is the president of the District Legal Services Authority. The 1997 rules of the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority were defined in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 28 of the 1987 Legal Services Authorities Act.
Functions of legal services authority:
- National action plan to be executed by the authorities of the State legal services and the calendar of activities.
- Providing legal services to the poor and oppressed
- Lead Lok Adalats by identifying pending cases before subordinate courts, including High Court cases;
- Lead Lok Adalat for the pre-litigation business of banks and other institutions.
- Organization of macro and micro legal aid camps in villages to help people obtain essential state services.
- Legal literacy programs in schools and colleges to create legal awareness, obedience to the law and spread the philosophy of the rule of law among the younger generation
- Village legal aid clinics to be run by paralegals and lawyers
- Court-appointed lawyers are hired at Taluk, district and High Court levels to deal with legal aid cases.
Constitution of State Legal Services Authority:-
Section 6 of the Legal Service Authorities Act 1897 deals with the establishment of the state legal service authority. Who declares as follows,
A state authority includes:
- The chief judge of the High Court, who will be the chief patron;
- An acting or retired Supreme Court judge, appointed by the Governor in consultation with the President of the Supreme Court, who will be the Executive President; and
- The number of other members with the experience and qualifications prescribed by the state government, who will be appointed by that government in consultation with the president of the Superior Court of Justice.
Functions of Tamilnadu Legal services authority:
At the State Legal Services Authority, three counseling sessions are held regularly. Retired bailiffs preside over the council meeting and deal with parent issues in civil disputes.
DISTRICT AND TALUK LEVELS
All 167 district and Taluk level authorities have received the necessary mediation and counseling. Every working day, a panel lawyer sat in the office of the Taluk district authority or the Legal Services Committee, as the case may be, and did everything in his power to resolve disputes through mediation and conciliation.
The Authority has opened centers exclusively to deal with women’s issues throughout Tamil Nadu and, to date, 52 centers for applied women. In the city of Chennai alone, three centers for developed women. Women lawyers are regularly assigned to these centers to treat the grief of women with compassion.
MEDIATION CENTERS IN REMOTE VILLAGES
In order to further promote the concept of mediation and conciliation, the public authority has also extended its infrastructure to remote villages. Staff members and lawyers for the panel are delegated during the weekends to attend the mediation center which is located either in the panchayat council office or in the block development office in the village concerned. Requests are received from the public address and, if possible, are disposed of on the spot and if immediate redress is not possible, requests are presented to the nearest legal aid committee and are being processed.
- Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness
- Literacy camps
- Villages covered
- Legal literacy through folk songs and villupattu
- Video and audio cassettes for publicity.
- Release of booklets in vernacular languages.
- Film on lok adalat
- Meet with the press and electronic media.
Along with counselling and legal awareness it also performs functions regarding Lok Adalat, Pension adalat and prison adalat.
Guidelines for the operation of legal aid clinics:
- The Legal Aid Clinic may be open in law schools, in court premises if possible, in the premises of legal services authorities and in any other location that the state legal service authority may consider appropriate.
- District authorities or High Court committees can submit the sanction proposal and the opening of the legal aid clinic to the State Legal Services Authority.
- Non-governmental organizations, public charities, etc. may submit proposals directly to the State Legal Services Authority.
- Depending on the requirements, at least one law student studying in the final year and a lawyer can be in charge of managing the clinic. If the legal aid clinic is run and operated by law schools, the services of law teachers can be used in place of a lawyer. If the clinic is run by NGOs, it may not be necessary to have a law student in the clinic.
- The legal aid clinic must have at least a waiting room and a booth for meeting students, lawyers and people who need legal advice or information on the legal aspect.
- In the legal aid clinic, the law student and the lawyer can deal with different people at the same time. It is from this perspective that the law student will have the chance to learn and to have access to the elderly if necessary.
- Legal colleges can be sued to open, manage and operate legal aid clinics. Such a proposal can also be submitted by NGOs, public trusts, etc.
- Initially, the clinic can be open on working days with the exception of holidays from 2 p.m. at 18 o’clock. And schedules can be extended as needed.
- If a law school is authorized to operate a legal aid clinic, after completing the period of a calendar year after being certified by the director of the law school that the clinic has been operated continuously for a period of ‘a year, a subsidy of Rs. 20,000 can be sanctioned by the State Legal Services Authority to such a law college, for the work carried out the previous year. If the legal aid clinic is managed by NGOs, etc., in the same way, a grant of Rs. 10,000 may be sanctioned after receipt of their request. Costs of infrastructure, furniture, electricity, etc. must be supported by the college or institution that manages the legal aid clinic.
- Each authority that manages a legal aid clinic must prepare a panel of lawyers who can be studied at work in the clinic for a minimum of 4 hours. Law students may be sent by law schools under the signature of the college director. The legal services authority will pay Rs. 400 to the lawyer for each 4 hours of work in the legal aid clinic and the law student will be paid Rs.200 accordingly.
- Each legal aid clinic must maintain a register of people who visit the legal aid clinic and who have received help in the format prescribed by the State Legal Services Authority.
- The State Legal Service Authority or the District Legal Service Authority in the jurisdiction consulted by the Legal Aid Clinic is directed to the right to visit, verify and observe the operation of the Clinic juridical help.
STATISTICS OF SERVICE RENDERED BY TAMILNADU STATE LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY:
Lawyers appointed by state legal services to provide legal assistance which must be adequately paid for by the government. This encourages lawyers and also improves the quality of legal aid provided. The High Court can set up a pool of lawyers to provide legal assistance and give them a monthly salary as it is given to a bailiff. He can organize examinations and interviews for the selection of these lawyers. This ensures that only well qualified lawyers are selected from the pool. So lawyers will not have to worry about providing legal aid since they have gotten a monthly income from the states, but it will also help improve the quality. Legal awareness is a task that requires maximum attention. The authorities could offer internships to students of law or the humanities and entrust them with legal awareness-raising tasks. Each district legal service authority should visit all jurisdictional schools and educate students about different laws. The authorities wish to adopt innovative techniques such as the projection of documentary films, the installation of street plays in villages, blocks, etc. to promote awareness.
By – M.Preetha