New Delhi, Jun 30 (PTI) Over 600 districts in the country will have Legal Assistance Establishments (LAE) to provide free legal aid and video-conferencing facility to poor undertrials and convicted prisoners by July this year.

Supreme court judge Justice Dipak Misra, who is the Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), said the LAEs, equipped with video-conferencing facility, have become operational in 13 states including Delhi, Gujarat and Bihar where relatives can hold consultations with the inmates and panel lawyers to seek redressal of the grievances.

He also said that the present strength of 54,000 para legal volunteers, engaged to provide legal assistance to poor jailed inmates, would be raised to 79,574.

Elaborating further, Justice Misra said NALSA, with the help of National Informatics System (NIC), has developed a master software in which State Legal Services Authorities and District Legal Services Authorities would feed data of each individual prisoner within their jurisdiction, with regard to their being represented through a counsel in the court.

The software would contain details including name of the jail, prisoners, date from which he or she is in custody, the offence and important fact whether the inmates are represented by a lawyer or not.

If an inmate is unrepresented, then the district legal services authority would provide him a panel lawyer, he said.

“The purpose behind this is sacrosant that no under trial or convicted prisoners shall remain in jail without getting legal aid. He or she must have a lawyer to represent him and he or she must be aware of the status of his or her case,” Justice Misra said.

The software will also contain the details such as the status of the case, next date of hearing and the fact as to whether the udnertrial is entitled to get bail under the CrPC provision which provides for grant of statutory bail if he or she has completed half of the jail term provided for the offences alleged.

He said details are being collated after taking informations from each jails in the country and they may be put in public domain later.

So far, over 500 persons have visited LAE centre in New Delhi “to seek legal aid and general information”, he said, adding, similarly, 126 persons have visited LAE centre in Gujarat to enquire about the cases of their inmates and seek legal advise.

NALSA would inaugurate LAE centres on July 4 in states and union territories like Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, Chandigarh, Goa, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

LAE centres would become operational by July 15 in seven states including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Telengana, Justice Misra said, adding LAE at Tripura would be operational by July 31.

NALSA had on June 28 launched a web application for providing free legal services to prisoners so as to ensure that no inmate goes unrepresented in court.

“The application shall make the legal services system more transparent, will be universally useful for all the relevant authorities to monitor the grant of legal aid to the prisoners in order to ensure that absolutely no prisoner goes unrepresented right from the first day of his production in the court,” NALSA had said.

“All the information can be generated state-wise, district-wise and also in respect of each jail,” it had said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.