Justice UU Lalit, who will become the next Chief Justice of India in August next year, spoke to NDTV about how efforts are being made to ensure that legal aid becomes more accessible and affordable.
Justice Lalit is the Executive Chairperson of the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA), a body which provides free legal services to eligible candidates across India and organises Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of cases.
"Every common person of the country should feel that legal aid is accessible. We are establishing legal aid clinics even in remote corners of the country and are taking a range of measures to create awareness about these resources. Since post offices are a very common point of contact in rural areas, post offices now display information that every suspect or accused is entitled to free legal aid, which can be secured through legal aid services clinics. A toll-free helpline number is also displayed there," Justice Lalit told NDTV.
"Women comprise half the population of this country. Many of them face harassment and exploitation. We have state and district level legal authorities for their help. We have paralegal volunteers who sometimes even include ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers who can communicate better with the women and make them aware about legal aid," Justice Lalit said.
To commemorate 75 years of Independence, NALSA carried out a six-week pan-Indian legal awareness and outreach campaign that ended on November 14. Talking about it, Justice Lalit said, "As part of this campaign we reached out to over 19.5 lakh villages. We had one lakh teams in Uttar Pradesh alone."
Justice Lalit himself visited 13 states, from Ladakh to Kanyakumari.
On being asked about his message to young law students across the country, Justice Lalit said, "Law students should learn to help the needy. These students should get into legal aid while studying their courses. There should be an internship in this domain. We contacted the Bar Council of India with the idea that every law college should adopt three nearby talukas and send their law students as participants in legal outreach programmes. The Bar Council of India has accepted this suggestion and has given us the list of colleges. Fresh talent will lead to new ideas every year. When these students become lawyers the idea of legal aid is more deeply rooted for them and they are likely to contribute more to the cause."