Sreya Kanugula & Sameeksha Dubey
DLSA is formed under Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free and legal aid and services to the weaker sections of this society to make sure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
Legal Services Authorities are statutory bodies that are formed or constituted in the various states of India by the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Justice P.N. Bhagwati formed DLSA under the Legal Aid Committee formed in 1971.
Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution deals with the provision of providing free legal services to the citizens of India. The provision is applicable to the citizens if they are unable to bear the expenditure of the legal services. It also helps the defendant in a case by appointing a lawyer in order to act for him in legal aspects.
Section 2(a) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 states that the term ‘district authority’ means a District Legal Services Authority which is constituted under Section 9 of the Act. The DSLA is a statutory body organized at the district levels in order to provide effective monitoring of legal aid programmes and their composition. The provisions related to DLSA are dealt with under Section 9 and Section 10 of the Act.
District Legal Services Authority is constituted in every District so that there must be proper implementation of Legal Aid Programmes and Schemes in the District.
Composition of DLSA
The composition of DLSA is mentioned in Section 9(1) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Its states that the DLSA is a body that shall be constituted by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court. It shall be constituted in every District in the State in order to exercise the powers and perform the functions which are assigned under this Act.
Sub-section 2 of Section 9 explains the members required for the functioning of DLSA. It provides that a District Authority requires the district judge as its chairman. It shall also consist of such number of other members who have the experience and qualifications as prescribed by the State Government. The members possessing such requirements may be nominated by the Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Section 9(3) of the Act mentions that the State Authority shall appoint a person in consultation with the Chairman of the District Authority to exercise the powers and perform the functions under the Chairman as may be prescribed by him. The person to be appointed shall belong to the State Judicial Service not lower than rank than that of a Subordinate Judge or Civil Judge posted at the seat of the District Judiciary as Secretary of the District Authority. Assistant Commissioner of the concerned District acts as the Member Secretary of the District Authority.
The number of officers and other employees may be appointed by the District Authority as the State Government prescribes to do. The appointment must be done in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court. Sub-section 5 of Section 9 of the Act has this explanation.
Terms of Office of Members
Section 9(4) deals with the terms of office and it explains that the terms of office of members and the Secretary and other conditions in its relation of the District Authority may be determined by the regulations made by the State Authority in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Salary and Allowances
Sub-section 6 of Section 9 of the Act has the mentioning of the above matters. The mentioned section states that the officers and other employees of the District Authority are entitled to salary and allowances and shall also be subject to such other conditions of the services as the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court prescribes it. Section 7 deals with the administrative expenses of every District Authority which also includes salaries, allowances and pensions payable to the members. It explains that the matter of administrative expenses of the Secretary, officers and other employees of the District Authority shall be paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the State.
Orders and Decisions
According to Section 9(8), all the decisions and orders of a District Authority shall be attested by the Secretary or by any other officer of the District Authority who is duly authorized by the Chairman of that authority. Sub-section 9 of the mentioned section makes it clear that the any act or proceeding of a District Authority shall not be invalid merely on the ground of the existence of any vacancy or defect in the Constitution of the District Authority.
District Legal Aid Fund
Section 17 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 deals with the provisions of establishing fund in order to perform the activities of DLSA. Sub-section 1 explains that a fund called the District Legal Aid Fund shall be established by every District Authority and it must be credited to-
(a)All the sums of money paid or any grants made by the State Authority to the District Authority for the purposes of this Act.
(b)Any grants or donations that may be made to the District Authority by any person with the approval of the State Authority.
(c)If any other amount is received by the District Authority under the orders of any court of from any other source.
Sub-section 2 mentions about the various expenses which is to be dealt with the help of a District Legal Aid Fund.
The DLSA is interested in the below-mentioned activities:
DLSA helps in providing free and competent legal aid in the nature of counselling and legal advice as well as free legal services in the conduct of cases before Courts and Tribunals.
It organizes regular Lok Adalats for the pending cases of all types every as well as special Lok Adalats for special categories of cases every month. The costs and delays are limited with the help of Lok Adalats and they also ensure speedy justice overcoming legal technicalities.
The responsibilities of pre-litigation dispute resolution through conciliation mechanism is also undertaken by the DLSA. It is done by establishing Permanent Lok Adalats in each district where the matters relating to Public Utility Services are taken up for settlement.
DLSA is also engaged in spreading Legal Awareness among the public, targeting particularly the beneficiaries of social legislation and the public at large on various issues of legal importance.
For rendering free legal aid to under trial prisoners whose cases are pending in the Courts, a special endeavor is made.
A Legal Literacy Classes in colleges, jails, and Legal Awareness programmes for women and children in need of care and protection are organized by DLSA.
Beneficiaries of Free Legal Aid and Services
There are various categories of people to whom free legal aid and services are provided. They are as follows:
DLSA provides it to a member of Schedule caste or Schedule tribes.
A victim of human trafficking or beggar as mentioned under Article 23 of the Constitution also falls under this category.
It also includes women or children.
Some disabled people with respect to vision, locomotion, hearing, and mental problems are also entitled to it.
It also includes a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake, or other industrial disasters.
An industrial workman is also included under this.
It also includes a person in custody including juveniles.
Lastly, a person with an annual income of less than Rs. 9,000 or other such higher amount as prescribed by the State Government when the case is before any other court than Supreme Court and less than Rs. 12,000 or other such higher amount as prescribed by the Central Government, if the case is before the Supreme Court are also included under this category.
From where the free legal aid can be availed?
SC Legal Services Committee, 109, Lawyers chambers, SC of India, New Delhi for cases of Supreme Court, State Legal Services Authority, High Court Legal Services Committee which is situated at High Court Complex in every HC for the cases of High Courts and District Legal Services Authority situated in the District Courts Complex in every District.
There are several mentioned areas where the legal aid and services are available. They are as follows:
All the civil cases dealing with the property dispute, matrimonial dispute and matters dealing with the custody of a child, labour and service matters, compensation in motor accidents, consumers disputes under Consumer Protection Act, etc.
Cases dealing with the criminal offences.
Cases dealing with the violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India are also included.
Cases of great public importance.
Where legal aid and services are not available?
All the cases dealing with the defamation.
It also include cases of contempt of court or perjury.
Cases and proceedings related to any election.
Cases dealing with the proceedings with regard to economic offence also fall under this category.
It also include with all the cases dealing with the offence covered by social legislation such as complaint against untouchability etc. The legal aid may also be granted by the Chairman of the concerned authority even in such proceedings in an appropriate case.
Functions of District Authority
The functions of DLSA are provided in Section 10 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Sub-section 1 mentions that every District Authority is bound to perform such functions of the State Authority in the District as may be stated by the State Authority. The following sub-section explains that the District Authority may perform all or any one of the following functions:
DLSA may coordinate with the activities of the Taluka Legal Services Committee and other legal services in the District.
It may organize Lok Adalats within the Districts.
It also perform such other functions as the State Authority may fix by regulations.
Section 11 provides for the functioning of DLSA in coordination with Central Authorities. It states that in the discharge of its functions under this Act, the District Authority shall act in coordination with other governmental and non-governmental institutions, universities and others engaged in the work of promoting the cause of legal services to the poor and shall also be guided by such directions as the Central Authority may give to it in writing.
Procedure for Legal Aid
The following procedure must be followed for the getting legal aid and services. They are:
A written application mentioning in brief the grievance or the cause for which legal aid is sought should be filed before the office of Chairman of DLSA.
If an applicant is an illiterate, the Secretary or an officer of the concerned Authority shall record his verbal submission and obtain his thumb impression or signature on the prescribed form available in the Office of the chairman of the DLSA.
Execution of an affidavit by the applicant in the prescribed format as to his eligibility criteria for seeking legal aid.
The secretary of DLSA may examine the applicant to verify the facts stated in the affidavit and for information necessary for deciding the eligibility criteria.
The application shall be processed as early as possible.
When Legal Aid can be withdrawn?
There are 6 conditions under which the legal aid may be withdrawn. They are as follows:
The legal aid may be withdrawn if the aided person is found to have sufficient means.
Cases where the legal aid is obtained by fraud or misrepresentation.
If the aided person does not cooperate with the Committee or Authority.
When the legal practitioner other than the one assigned by the DLSA is engaged by the aided person.
If the aided person engaged dies during the proceedings except in civil proceedings.
The legal aid may also be withdrawn in the case where the application for legal aid is found to be an abuse of the process of law or of the legal services.
Therefore, DLSA is constituted in every district to ensure the proper implementation of legal scheme and also to solve the cases by the constituting permanent as well as special Lok Adalats. It is a good step towards helping the needy people who are unable to bear the expenses and the defendant of a case who is unable to bear the expenses of legal practitioners.