CHANDIGARH —The India Justice Report-2019 by Tata Trust though does not paint a rosy picture about country’s legal aid system yet Chandigarh has done well in this matter. The Chandigarh Legal Authority has done well in all the indicators—budgets; human resources; diversity; infrastructure and workload. The report states that in as many as 22 states and union territories there are fewer than 10 Paralegal volunteers (PLVs) per one lakh people. PLVs are the backbone of legal aid system Legal aid and advice is rendered by impanelled by lawyers while PLV reaches out to people and connect the needy with legal aid institutions.
While talking to member secretary Mahavir Singh, SLSA, Chandigarh said that the authority has a battery of 32 PlVs, of these 18 were women PLVs against a population of around 12 lakhs. He further revealed that the number of beneficiaries has a testimony to the effectiveness of the tool. He further revealed that it had provided legal aid to 209 persons in custody; 317 women; 145 children; 47 SC and 120 general in 2019. He had also revealed that there were a number of success stories credited to it PLVs.
The authority has succeeded in settling 100 percent labor dispute compared to 45 percent in 2015. The authority has recorded an increase of 13,438 case in 2016 compared to 2015 and it has taken up 42563 disputes of various nature in 2016. The authority also has taken up various steps to provide relief to women and minors besides workers in unorganized sectors.
Under India’s legal aid law, there should have been a paralegal volunteer at the police station and the family should have been offered free legal aid to file a case. But there are hundreds of cases that could not get free legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 who also receive inadequate help.
He further said that NALSA was putting emphasis that the number of PLVS shall be in proportion to the requirement. Across India, just over a third (36 percent or 24,999 of 69,290) of PLVs are women, the report said.
But in states such as Bihar and UP, where the proportion of women PLVs is 22.3 percent and 24.2 percent, respectively, women could face challenges in filing cases.
Nearly 80 percent of India’s population qualifies for legal aid, but since 1995, only 15 million have been providing legal services and advice by the Legal Services Institutions (LSI) established under the Act. Lack of human resources within the legal aid system, low awareness about the availability of legal aid, shortage of women paralegals, and a lack of monitoring make it difficult for victims to access legal aid.
Those eligible for legal aid include those below the poverty line and without the financial means to hire a lawyer; differently-abled people; those belonging to the scheduled castes or tribes; those with mental illness; victims of mass disaster or ethnic violence; and persons in custody, according to the India Justice Report 2019 by Tata Trusts, released in November 2019.
The report compared 18 large and mid-sized states (with a population of 10 million and above, where more than 90 percent of India lives) and seven small states (with a population of up to 10 million) based on four pillars of the justice system: police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid.
As of 2018, there were 664 DLSAs and 2254 sub-divisional legal services committees set up across 668 judicial districts of the country.
( By Y.S. RANA )