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National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

What to study?

For Prelims: NALSA- composition, establishment, functions and reports.

For Mains: Need for and significance, challenges present and measures needed to make them more effective.

Context: NALSA has released a report on number of undertrials released during the lockdown period.


  • Legal services institutions have intervened to release 42,529 undertrial prisoners as well as 16,391 convicts on parole to de-congest prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The highest number of undertrial prisoners released was 9,977 in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 5,460 in Rajasthan and 4,547 in Tamil Nadu, 3,698 in Punjab and 3,400 in Maharashtra.


There are 1,339 prisons with approximately 4,66,084 inmates. The rate of occupancy at Indian prisons at 117.6%.


The Supreme Court observed in March that physical distancing, an effective measure to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, would be difficult in prisons.

Further, the court issued guidelines, formed committees and asked the legal services authorities to work together and release undertrial prisoners and those on bail and parole to bring the prison population down.

About NALSA:

NALSA has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free legal services to weaker sections of society.

The aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities.

‘Nyaya Deep’ is the official newsletter of NALSA.


As per section 3(2) of Legal Service Authorities Act, the Chief Justice of India shall be the Patron-in-Chief.

Second senior-most judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.

Important functions performed by NALSA:

  1. Organise Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
  2. Identify specific categories of the marginalised and excluded groups and formulates various schemes for the implementation of preventive and strategic legal service programmes.
  3. Provide free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for the poor and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in any court or tribunal.

State and district legal services authorities:

In every State, State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State. The State Legal Services Authority is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.

In every District, District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.

Need- Constitutional basis:

Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability.

Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all. Legal aid strives to ensure that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden and weaker sections of the society.


Prelims Link:

  1. Who appoints Patron-in-Chief and executive chairman of NALSA?
  2. Eligibility criteria?
  3. Who heads state and district legal services authorities?
  4. Constitutional provisions in this regard?

Mains Link:

Discuss the roles and functions of NALSA in ensuring free legal aid to the poor and needy.

Sources: the Hindu.