Defence counsel for poor, state bound to secure egalitarian social order: SC judges

Supreme Court judge Justice U.U. Lalit on Saturday said that the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is going to establish a legal aid system in all districts for the poor, on lines of the public prosecutors’ office.

Justice Lalit, Executive Chairperson of the NALSA, was addressing the first All India District Legal Services Authorities Meet. He said that 350 districts have been selected in the entire nation, including 112 aspirational districts, which, according to the government, are to be given top priority.

The District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) office will function as a nodal office, having an interface with the needy undertrial, and defence counsel would be provided to the poor accused who cannot afford private lawyers, he added.

Referring to the 42-day Pan-India Awareness and Outreach Programme, Justice Lalit said in this programme, NALSA, through the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) and DLSAs, reached out to nearly all villages across the nation.

Another Supreme Court judge, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, while addressing the meet, said justice should not be limited to the socio-economically privileged sections and state actors should secure a just and egalitarian social order. He emphasised on the use of technology, which could reduce the digital divide by widening the reach.

Justice Chandrachud said: “19.2 million cases were heard on video conferencing by the high courts and district courts as of April 30. The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) has data of 17 crore decided and pending cases.”

Against the existence of graded inequality in the nation, he said justice ought not to be limited to the socio-economically privileged sections of our society and state actors should ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any section of the society due to social and economic disabilities.

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, who also addressed the meet, said NALSA has launched a campaign to identify undertrial prisoners who are eligible for release and recommend their cases to review committees. The campaign was launched on July 16, where DLSAs have been mandated to hold weekly meetings of undertrial review committees to discuss progress. He added they will also review additional cases and to discuss further action, which includes filing of bails in high courts and the apex court, if required.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana also addressed the meet and spoke on various issues associated with justice and emphasised on the release of undertrials incarcerated in jails and waiting for legal aid.

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