Who are entitled to receive free legal aid? Assess the role of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in rendering free legal aid in India. (150 words)

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) was established under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes in India. The Constitution of India, under Article 39A, mandates free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of society to ensure equal justice.

Entitlement to Free Legal Aid

Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, lists the persons entitled to free legal aid:

  • Members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
  • Victims of trafficking or begar
  • Women and children
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Victims of mass disasters, ethnic violence, caste atrocities, floods, droughts, earthquakes, or industrial disasters
  • Industrial workers
  • Persons in custody
  • Persons with an annual income below the prescribed limit set by the respective State Government

Role of NALSA in Rendering Free Legal Aid

  • Legal Representation: NALSA provides representation by an advocate in legal proceedings for eligible persons.
  • Legal Aid Cells in Jails: NALSA has called upon State Legal Services Authorities to set up legal aid cells in jails to provide prompt and efficient legal aid to prisoners.
  • Lok Adalats: NALSA organizes Lok Adalats for amicable dispute resolution, providing an alternative to traditional court proceedings.
  • Legal Awareness: NALSA conducts legal literacy programs, school legal literacy clubs, and rural legal literacy camps to spread awareness about legal rights and entitlements.
  • Accessibility: NALSA has introduced initiatives like e-Lok Adalats, Legal Services Mobile Apps, and Legal Aid clinics to make legal aid more accessible.
  • Funding: NALSA distributes funding and grants to state legal services authorities and non-profit organizations to help them execute legal aid systems and initiatives.

In conclusion, NALSA plays a crucial role in providing free legal aid to the weaker sections of society in India, ensuring equal access to justice. By offering legal representation, spreading awareness, and organizing Lok Adalats, NALSA helps bridge the gap between the legal system and those who cannot afford legal services.

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