This novel approach to make the poor and needy, women facing sexual assault, harassment or domestic violence, physically challenged, acid attack survivors and destitutes aware about availability of completely free quality legal assistance is a milestone decision in the 25-year existence of National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa).
Justice Lalit said Nalsa has held talks with Bar Council of India (BCI), which grants recognition to law colleges and prescribes the curriculum for law courses, and that BCI has agreed to make changes in the curriculum that would enable the final year law students to act as paralegal volunteers for at least six months.
There are 530 law colleges recognised by the BCI. If each law college has 50 seats in the final year course, the 530 colleges would provide a healthy paralegal force of over 26,000 students, who can fan out to the hinterland and educate almost the entire rural population in a matter of months about their right to free legal aid.
Justice Lalit said Nalsa, in collaboration with state, district, taluk legal aid services authorities, paralegal volunteers and NGOs, would try to reach out each of the 6.65 lakh villages at least three times during the 45-day long campaign, which would end on the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru on November 14.
The Nalsa chairman also said the quality of legal aid has been a sore point for the last 25 years and promised a substantial improvement in the next few years. Litigants in just 1% of three crore pending cases avail free legal aid.
He said it required established lawyers and designated senior advocates in the Supreme Court and the high courts to do three cases of poor litigants pro bono every year to make a huge difference to the quality of free legal aid available to the marginalised section. Even President Ram Nath Kovid, while launching Nalsa’s 45-day long pan-India awareness programme on Saturday, agreed with Justice Lalit and advised the senior advocates to give back to the society by taking up more and more cases pro bono.