Friday, June 09, 2006

Mobile Legal Aid and Lok Adalat

Whenever we are in distress, we ask for help on certain helpline numbers such as we dial 100 to call police, dial 101 to call fire service and dial 102 to call ambulance. Likewise, we also keep some other specific helpline numbers on the tip of our fingers for special purposes. These are normally toll-free numbers accessible round the clock. Many a times, we are in need of urgent legal aid and we search for help. For this purpose, free legal advice and legal aid is available to the needy persons in Delhi at Helpline numbers 23070345 and 23073132 of Delhi Legal Services Authority. The Legal Helpline at the Head Office of the DLSA is manned by competent lawyers. It saves time, money and energy of the poor and saves them from financial exploitation. It has invoked tremendous response and thousands of people have utilised this service. Delhi Legal Services Authority has recently established The Permanent Legal Services Clinic on 10th March, 2006 and is working round the clock at its Branch Office at Room No. 54 to 57, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Place, Gole Market, New Delhi and is also accessible on Phone No. 23341111. Retired Judicial Officers, Police Officers, Psychologists and Social Activists have been engaged for rendering legal services to the public round the clock approaching the “Permanent Legal Services Clinic”. To foster this cause, Mobile Legal Services has also been launched on 8th March, 2006 in Delhi to provide legal services to the public at large at their doorstep to fulfill the motto of “Justice for All” in letter and spirit.

Pioneers in the field

Delhi is the 3rd state in the country to launch Mobile Legal Aid and Lok Adalat. But the credit goes to Justice J.N. Bhatt for his pioneering work in this field who established the first Mobile Lok Adalat in Gujrat and the second Mobile Lok Adalat in Bihar as Chief Justice of respective High Courts. While inaugurating the Mobile Legal Aid and Lok Adalat at Patna on 30.12.2005, Hon’ble President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam stressed the need to extend the service to other states of the country as well. He suggested that all Mobile Legal Aid and Lok Adalat spread in different parts of the country can be networked. The number of cases settled in each month can be presented. This will provide the transparency to the villagers and many will come forward for getting their cases settled. Eventually, speedy settlement of number of cases will bring down the pendency in the Courts and also provide the rural people the necessary peace in their mind which will enable them to apply their effort towards development tasks. Hence, this service will help the villagers living in remote areas of the country to get justice at their door steps without any trouble. These Mobile Legal Aid Clinics function round the clock and provide free and competent legal advice and justice to the needy citizens.

Last year, a similar system of Lok Adalat was successfully introduced by the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court for the on-the spot settlement of relief and compensation particularly for house reconstruction of the earthquake affected persons in the remote border areas of the state. The system ensured the timely payment of relief to all the people affected by earthquake.

Other states and union territories have also evolved similar system of providing legal services to the people in order to achieve the objective of providing ‘Access to Justice for All’ so that justice is not denied to citizens by reason of economic or other disabilities. Under the Legal Aid and Advice programmes, 82.51 lakh persons have been benefited through out the country upto September, 2005. Out of these, 12.75 lakh persons belonged to Scheduled Caste and 3.94 lakh persons belonged to Scheduled Tribe communities, 8.52 lakh women and about 1.27 lakh persons in custody were also benefited. About 4.86 lakh Lok Adalats have been held in different parts of the country upto September, 2005 which have settled 1.83 crore cases.
Constitutional Mandate

The Central Government, taking note of the need for legal aid for the poor and the needy, had introduced Article 39 (A) in the Constitution in February 1977. Thus in the Directive Principles of the State Policy, it is now enshrined that the Central and State Governments should ensure that the operation of the legal system promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity and shall in particular provide free legal aid for the poor and ensure that justice is not denied to them for economic reasons or other disabilities. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 was enacted to effectuate the constitutional mandate enshrined under Articles 14 and 39 (A) of the Constitution of India. Lok Adalat is organized by an authority created under the Legal Services Authority Act (Central Act 39 of 1987 as amended by Act 59 of 1994). It is organized for the courts within an area whenever there is necessity and when there are adequate number of cases required to be resolved by Lok Adalat.
Importance of speedy justice

Around 3.5 crore cases are pending in different courts of India and many of them have been in the courts for decades, still undecided. About six lacs persons are under trails in various jails. There are instances when persons have been languishing behind bars for their whole life and they are still not aware of the crime committed by them. Litigants have to face so much of time and money that at long last when a relief is obtained, it may not be worth the cost. Years lost don’t come back to individuals or their families. Therefore, the basic aim of the judicial system is defeated as “Justice delayed is justice denied”. Hence, there is an urgent need to ensure that no justice is delayed and the situation existing today is remedied soon.