The government today said it has started ‘Tele-Law’ to facilitate free legal consultation service across 1,000 common service centres in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as a ‘Pilot Project’.
In the first phase, the ‘Tele-Law’ scheme will be tested as a pilot across 500 Common service Centres (CSC) each, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to understand the challenges and make necessary corrections to the scheme before it is scaled up and rolled out across the country in a phased manner.
Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial.
This article describes the development of legal aid and its principles, primarily as known in Europe, the Commonwealth of Nations and the United States.
A number of delivery models for legal aid have emerged, including duty lawyers, community legal clinics and the payment of lawyers to deal with cases for individuals who are entitled to legal aid.
Legal aid is essential to guaranteeing equal access to justice for all, as provided for by Article 6.3 of the European Convention of Human Rights regarding criminal law cases.
Especially for citizens who do not have sufficient financial means, the provision of legal aid to clients by governments will increase the likelihood, within court proceedings, of being assisted by legal professionals for free or at a lower cost or of receiving financial aid.
Legal aid has a close relationship with the welfare state, and the provision of legal aid by a state is influenced by attitudes towards welfare. Legal aid is a welfare provision by the state to people who could otherwise not afford counsel from the legal system.
It also helps to ensure that welfare provisions are enforced by providing people entitled to welfare provisions, such as social housing, with access to legal advice and the courts.
In the effort to make legal aid easily accessible to the marginalised communities and citizens living in rural areas, the Government of India has launched the ‘Tele-Law’.
The Ministry of Law and Justice partnered with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to provide legal aid services through its Common Service Centres (CSC) at the Panchayat level, spread across the country.
‘The cost of service will be available for free to individual legal consultation seeker under the scheme’, CSC e- Governance Services India’s CEO Dinesh Tyagi had said earlier.
At present, there are about 2.5 lakh Common service Centres (CSCs) that are authorised to provide internet-based government service to people in rural area. Under the scheme, a portal called ‘Tele-Law’ will be launched, which will be available across the CSC network.
Tele Law will enable people to seek legal advice from lawyers through video conferencing available at the CSCs. Additionally, law school clinics, District Legal Service Authorities, voluntary service providers and Non-Government Organisations 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.
Providing free legal aid to the underprivileged may now earn extra credit for a lawyer who aspires to become a judge. “The Narendra Modi government was of the considered view that credible and transparent free legal aid to the poor should also be a vital component in considering the elevation of a lawyer as a judge”, said the Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad indicated that the component of pro bono legal service may constitute a part of the Memorandum of Procedure a guideline for selection of high court judges being revised by the Centre.
The ‘pro bono’ legal service is a web based platform through which interested lawyers can register themselves.
The department of justice has launched the online application for this initiative on its website doj.gov.in. Through this portal, litigants from marginalised communities can apply for legal aid and advice from the pro bono lawyers.
‘Nyaya Mitra’ is aimed at tackling the ailing cases which are hanging fire for over a decade. Currently over 2.4 crore cases are pending in the district and lower judiciary, of which nearly 10% are more than 10 years old. Under the scheme, a retired judicial officer or executive office with legal experience will be designated as ‘Nyaya Mitra’, justice facilitator. The project would be operated out of district facilitation centres, housed in CSCs.
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) will provide a panel of lawyers from state capitals, who will be available through video conferencing to provide legal advice and counselling to the applicants, across the 1,000 CSCs.
“Tele Law will fulfil our commitment to ensure access to justice & empowerment of the poor. The CSCs and Para Legal Volunteers will offer easy legal advice to litigants in rural India making them digitally and financially inclusive,” Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.