The Indian law minister, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad (he also holds the Information Technology portfolio) announced three initiatives to enable access to justice for the poor, with a focus on rural areas. The objective of these initiatives, namely promoting pro-bono legal services, tele-law and Nyaya Mitra or Legal Friend/ Facilitator, is to provide free legal aid to those who currently have limited access to lawyers and legal information and advice. Digital technology will play a key role in these initiatives.
At the launch, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Good governance will not come about completely unless there is justice delivery. And for this delivery to be expeditious, access to justice is important.”
The government is going to launch a tele-law pilot project in 1800 villages across the country. Paralegal volunteers posted at the Common Service Centres (CSCs) to provide pre-litigation advice. CSCs, which are under the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MeITY) are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
The Nation Legal Services Authority (NALSA) will coordinate with the state legal service authorities to provide immediate preliminary legal advice when required, through video-conferencing at the CSCs. The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) provides free legal services to the weaker sections of the society, in order to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
Pro bono legal services
Lawyers interested in providing free legal services can now register on the Department of Justice (DoJ) website and provide information related to their areas of expertise and practice.
This information will be used to create a database assisting the Department of Justice in identifying lawyers providing pro bono services and could be utilized to connect the lawyers and those seeking legal aid. The government has also proposed to include and recognize pro bono legal assistance provided by lawyers as a yardstick to be considered for appointment to appropriate positions.
The government also plans to launch a mobile app to connect those seeking legal aid and those who are willing to give legal aid. UNDP India (United Nations Development Programme) will assist the Department of Justice in developing an interface for the application.
The government plans to appoint retired judicial officials, who already know the system, as Nyata mitra or legal facilitators. They will be posted in districts with the maximum number of cases (both civil and criminal) pending for over 10 years, identified through the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDC). Nyay Mitra will coordinate among judiciary, litigants and government to help in speedy disposal of cases.
This article is primarily based on videos of Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s speech on his Twitter page.
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