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Why in news?

  • The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has said that around 11,077 undertrials have been released from prisons nationwide as part of the mission to decongest jails following the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • NALSA said it had been providing assistance to prisoners who were eligible to be released on parole or interim bail under the relaxed norms, through its panel lawyers.
  • Till now, responses received from 232 districts reflect that around 11,077 undertrials and 5,981 convicts have been released.
  • It said the local legal services authorities are actively assisting the high-powered committee, constituted in pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court, for identifying undertrials who could be released on bail during the present scenario.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

  • National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) was formed on 9 November 1995 under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
  • Its purpose is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates (defined in Sec. 12 of the Act), and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of cases.
  • The Chief Justice of India is patron-in-chief of NALSA while second senior most judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.
  • There is a provision for similar mechanism at state and district level also headed by Chief Justice of High Courts and Chief Judges of District courts respectively.
  • The prime objective of NALSA is speedy disposal of cases and reducing the burden of judiciary.

Basis for formation

  • Article 39A of the Indian Constitution contains provisions for free legal aid to the weaker and poor sections of the society in order to ensure justice for all.
  • Also, articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all.
  • Therefore, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) was constituted for the provision of free legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy and amicable resolution of cases.

Lok Adalats

  • Lok Adalats are alternative mechanisms for dispute resolution.
  • They are organized in order to settle the civil & criminal compoundable cases in the pre-litigation stage and those cases which are pending in the courts in an amicable manner.
  • They are organized under section 19 of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 and are given statutory status under the Act.
  • The Legal Services Authority Act has been amended in order to provide for a mandatory pre-litigation mechanism for the cases related to Public Utility Services, thereby establishing Permanent Lok Adalats with jurisdiction over Public Utility Services.
December 2023