A brainstorming to strengthen legal services for vulnerable communities is slated in Hyderabad on the weekend

In situations where the law tends to favor the rich and the powerful, it becomes equally if not more important to protect the rights of the weaker sections of society in the quest for justice.

Free legal aid has been made into a right under the Legal Services Authority Act of 1987 by constituting the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

As per the Section 12 of the Act, every person who has to file or defend a case shall be entitled to legal services if that person is a member of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, a woman or a child, a mentally ill or otherwise disabled person, an industrial workman, in custody, in receipt of an annual income below a prescribed amount, a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, draught, earthquake or industrial disaster.

How many such persons are able to access or receive free legal aid is anybody’s guess. But to strengthen the engagement of the Legal Services Authority at the state, district and taluk level in advancing the legal entitlements of vulnerable communities such as women in sex work, injecting drug users and sexual minorities, the NALSA is conducting a seminar in Hyderabad on June 22.

It seems some legal help has been provided to marginal communities at the district level and some of the best practices by District Legal Services Authority in partnership with community based organizations and para legal volunteers will be showcased during the seminar. The occasion is also expected to be used to spread awareness and strengthen the community’s access to the schemes being provided by the Legal Services Authority.

The topic around which the meeting will be held is ‘Legal Aid and Education for Marginal Communities and those Most-at-Risk of HIV’.

It is expected to be attended by executive chairperson and Member Secretary of five State Legal Services Authority, district chairpersons and secretaries from the District Legal Service Authority of five states. Over 75 community-based organisations, 22 civil society organisations, project directors of State AIDS Control Societies, academicians and government are expected to be present.

NALSA was constituted in 1995 to bring uniformity to legal aid programmes throughout the country. As the apex body NALSA lays down the policies and principles for providing legal services under the provisions of the Act. It also disburses funds and grants to the State Legal Services Authorities and NGOs for implementing legal awareness and legal aid.