Context: The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has released around 11,077 undertrials from prisons nationwide as part of the mission to decongest jails following the COVID-19 pandemic.

More about the news:

  • NALSA 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.
  • Similarly, necessary assistance is being provided to the convicts. 
  • 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.

About NALSA:

  • It has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free legal services to weaker sections of society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes .
  • The aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities.
  • Nyaya Deep is the official newsletter of NALSA.
  • Mission Access Justice to All: A Vision 2020 document issued by NALSA.
  • Composition:
    • As per section 3(2) of Legal Service Authorities Act, the Chief Justice of India shall be the Patron-in-Chief.
    • Second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman,  to be nominated by the President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  • The NALSA Act also proposes, in every State, a State Legal Services Authority and in every High Court, a High Court Legal Services Committee have been constituted.
  • District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees have been constituted in the Districts and most of the Taluks to provide free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
  • Persons eligible for getting free legal services include
    • Women and children
    • Members of SC/ST
    • Industrial workmen
    • Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster.
    • Disabled persons.
    • Persons in custody
    • Persons whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 1 lakh (in the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee the limit is Rs. 5,00,000/-).
    • Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings or beggars.
  • Constitutional Provisions for providing free legal aid:
    • Article 21 of Indian constitution, the right to free legal aid or free legal service is a fundamental right.
    • Article 39A of constitution, added through 42nd Amendment Act (along with articles 39, 43A, 48A), provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all.
  • Legal aid as a human right:  Is envisaged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.