Aam Aadmi Legal Help Clinics
The Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) has offices in all six district court complexes in the National Capital Territory. It was able to provide legal aid to 1,03,087 cases between 2011-2015, averaging 20,000 cases per year. Although the service rendered by DSLSA was outstanding, it was not nearly enough to cover the requirement of such legal services for the people of Delhi. As such, a large number of needy people went without legal assistance or were forced to borrow large amounts or pledge their belongings or sell their valuables in the pursuit of justice.
This was in violation of the 222nd report of the Law Commission of India on access to justice which requires that “Equal opportunity must be afforded for greater access to justice. It is not sufficient that the law treats all persons equally, irrespective of the prevalent inequalities. But the law must function in such a way that all the people have access to justice in spite of economic disparities.”
The DSLSA, established by an act of Parliament, provides free legal aid to the following categories of people:
- Members of SC/ST
- Victims of Trafficking or Beggars
- Women or Children
- Persons with disabilities
- Victim of Mass Disaster/ Ethnic Violence Caste Atrocity/ Flood/ Earthquake or Industrial disaster
- Industrial Workmen
- In Custody/ Protective Home/ Juvenile Home/ Psychiatric Hospital/ Psychiatric Nursing Home
- Low Income (Annual Income < INR 1,00,000)
- Senior Citizen (Annual Income < INR 2,00,000)
- Transgender (Annual Income < INR 2,00,000)
In June 2016, DDC recommended that while the above categories of persons were eligible to avail of free legal services from the DSLSA, it was only advisably just that even persons excluded from the above list could avail of free legal services advice under the proposed Delhi Mohalla Legal Aid Scheme.
In order to fulfil the primary responsibility of the state to provide equal and fair access to justice, DDC made the following recommendations under the Delhi Mohalla Legal Aid Scheme to the Law Department, GNCTD:
- To set up Aam Aadmi Legal Help Clinics in every assembly constituency to provide free legal advice to each and every person who approaches the clinic.
- At least 1 (one) lawyer should be present at these Legal Help Clinics from 10 am to 6 pm for five days every week.
- The lawyer at these clinics shall be aided by a clerk and some secretarial staff if found necessary.
- Each clinic is equipped with a computer, printer, stationery, internet and office furniture for smooth functioning.
- The empanelment of 700 legal service advocates for the clinics through a similar recruitment process as adopted by the DSLSA.
- The state government shall bear the cost of the legal services. Each lawyer should be paid handsome remuneration to ensure lawyers of high-quality action. The recommended remuneration was INR 7,000-10,000 per lawyer per day.
- The role of the Legal Aid Clinic lawyer shall be restricted to legal advice including informing the citizen about his or her legal rights and the legal recourse available to them as per law. Legal Aid Clinic lawyers shall also draft necessary communications to governmental authorities wherever necessary. However, the lawyers shall not be required to draft any communication or notice to any non-government opposing party unless the beneficiary is either a senior citizen or a minor.
- Legal Aid Clinic lawyers shall record their opinion as to whether a dispute can be resolved through mediation or conciliation or through referral to a Lok Adalat. They shall also be required to prepare the necessary documentation for the initiation of the same.
- If the Legal Aid Clinic lawyer is of the opinion that such a dispute does not seem likely to be solved through mediation or conciliation, then the matter shall be referred to the DSLSA for filing in Court. However, the lawyer shall not act before any court for any beneficiary advised at the clinic.
- Legal Clinic lawyers shall be prohibited from charging any fees directly or indirectly from the beneficiaries of the clinic.
- Close coordination between the DSLSA and the Delhi Mohalla Legal Aid Clinics shall be established.
- A Governing Body shall be established under the Scheme.
- Independent feedback checks shall be organised to ensure proper dissemination of the services at the Legal Aid Clinic.
- Anonymity of persons approaching the Legal Aid Clinic shall be maintained as far as possible.
DDC submitted a detailed calculation of the financial implication of the scheme for the state government was calculated in the detailed report amounting to INR 22,26,00,000 per month for the development, maintenance and promotion of all 70 Mohalla Legal Aid Clinics with an over and above the expense of INR 3,00,00,000 per month for the governing body.