Justice UU Lalit, Supreme Court Judge and the Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority has said that a legal aid defence counsel system will soon be implemented in at least 350 districts in the country.
In the process of strengthening and making legal services more professional, NALSAR has envisaged a legal aid delivery-based model i.e Legal aid Defence Counsel System for proving legal aid in criminal matters in Session Courts on the lines of the public defender system.
Its main objective is to provide quality legal services in criminal matters to eligible persons and to professionally manage and implement legal aid systems in criminal matters.
In most countries, Legal Aid Delivery Models are a combination of the Public Defender System, Assigned Counsel System and Contract Services System. Examples of diverse legal aid delivery systems can be found, among other countries, in Israel, the Republic of Moldova, Sierra Leone, South Africa and the United States of America. A number of jurisdictions have adopted a public defender scheme with offices throughout the country including Argentina, Chile, Georgia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, the Republic of Moldova and South Africa.
SCOPE OF WORK
Legal Aid Defence Counsel System will involve lawyers. The system would be dealing exclusively with legal aid work in criminal matters. Lawyers engaged in it shall not be taking any private cases. It will create institutional capacity to effectively provide legal aid to the needy in the criminal justice system.
Legal Aid Defence Counsel Office shall be dealing exclusively with legal aided matters in criminal matters, and at the first instance, in Sessions Courts. It shall not be dealing with civil matters. Primarily, the following legal services shall be provided through the Legal Aid Defence Counsel Office to accused/convicts:
- Legal Advice and Assistance
- Conducting trials and appeals in Sessions Courts.
- Handling Bail applications in Sessions Courts
- Any other legal aided work related to Sessions Courts
HOW DOES IT IMPLEMENT
In the first instance, the Legal Aid Defence Counsel System was conceived to be implemented on pilot basis for providing legal aid in criminal matters in Sessions Courts in a few districts before expanding it in a consolidated and improved manner to other districts.
The districts may be chosen based on the following criteria:
- A total number of criminal cases in the district
- Economically and socially disadvantaged populations
- Geographical factors such as access to rural areas
A pilot project to provide free legal aid defence services to those accused or convicted in criminal cases had been inaugurated by Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Vikram Nath at the Surendranagar district court. The panel includes a chief legal counsel, who has a minimum of 15 years of practice, an additional chief counsel with a minimum of 10 years of practice and an assistant legal aid with experience ranging from one to three years.