H.P State Legal Services Authority, which was constituted in December 1995, has been playing an important role in providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society in the state. Authority is organising Lok Adalats to secure that the operation of legal system provides justice on the basis of equal opportunity, and Around four lakh cases were taken during the period from December, 2013 to August, 2016 out of which 2,64,748 cases were settled by holding 3799 Lok Adalats.
Permanent Lok Adalats have been constituted in the state at Dharamshala, Mandi, Shimla and Una and Mobile Lok Adalats are also being organised in the state which helped in settling many cases.
Organising Lok Adalats is the main function of the Authority, which are being organised in 109 courts from High Court to sub-division level. Besides, National Lok Adalats and Lok Adalats for pre-litigation matters are also being organised periodically in the state.
Legal aid is being provided to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. From the period between April, 2015 to March, 2016 as many as 1611 people were benefited through legal aid. Legal literacy camps is another activity of the Authority which are being organised in remote areas, industrial zones, hospitals, fairs and jails etc. to spread legal awareness so that more and more people could come forward for taking legal aid.
A panel of legal practitioner for providing legal aid has been maintained at sun-divisional, district and High Court legal services committees. At present, 956 lawyers have been appointed in the state for this purpose.
In order to provide easy access to legal services, Legal Aid Clinics (village legal care and support centres) have been opened in 2628 gram panchayats in the Panchaya Bhavans at suitable places for cluster of villages. These centres are being manned by a retainer lawyer and Para Legal Volunteers who are being imparted training in a phased manner. Besides legal advice, these centres are also offering other services like preparing application for job card, awareness under MNREGs scheme, helping villagers in drafting petitions, representations and filling up applications for various benefits under government schemes.
Legal awareness is also being spread by legal literacy camps in every nook and corner of the state in which the focus of discussion is mainly on domestic violence, sexual abuse of women and children, juvenile justice, gender discrimination, sexual harassment at work place, protection and maintenance of senior citizens and parents, child marriage Act, dowry, poverty alleviation schemes, mediation and consumer rights etc. The Authority has also published four text books in Hindi and English languages for the students of 9th and 11th standards to provide them a general idea about the constitution of India and its functioning, particularly on the fundamental rights and duties, judicial system and alternative dispute resolution etc.
With an aim to ensure speedy delivery of justice, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) centres are also being set up in the State. Construction work of ADR centres at Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Dharamshala, Reckongpeo, Nahan, Shimla and Una are under progress.
The State Government has also given powers to the Gram Panchayats to settle small disputes under few sections of Indian Penal Code of both civil and criminal in nature.
The legal services clinics have been established in all the district and sub-jails in the state which are being manned by the Para Legal Volunteers and retainer lawyers. Special cells have been set up exclusively for the students from North East at Solan, Hamirpur and Dharamshala.