“Access to Legal Justice A Challenge for substantial segment of Indian Population”, Mr. Ashok Kumar Jain, RSLSA during one-day Legal Workshop in Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University
“Access to Legal Justice continues to be a challenge for a substantial segment of the Indian population due to geographical, resource and infrastructure constraints”, said Mr Ashok Kumar Jain, Member Secretary of Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority during the One-day Legal Aid Workshop on “Multi-Stakeholder Discussion On Improving Access To Justice Through Legal Aid Initiatives”. The one-day legal workshop was organized by the Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University on 24th April, 2019.
Mr. Jain said, “Since legal representation is costly and out of reach for the disadvantaged, the need for legal aid arises. The problem has been compounded by the failure to mainstream legal-aid services, particularly for the marginalized sections at the local levels.”
He further said, “Marginalized communities, especially rural population; persons with low income- the rightful recipients of legal aid- are unable to avail it. India has an expansive history of legal aid, backed by decades of legislation, jurisprudential interpretation, and numerous state-funded programs. But the absence of a structured and economically viable format has hindered lawyers in actively offering legal assistance to those in need of it. The pro bono culture is still a work in progress. Most of the cases do not come out in the media press.”He believed that ignorance of what to do when faced with law-related is a common problem for dis-empowered people.
The workshop dealt with “Good Governance and Legal Aid – Civil Society Approach”, “Clinical Legal Education in Jaipur – Law School Approach” and Thematic Discussion on major challenges by legal aid and education initiatives and role of non-state actors. The workshop included stakeholders like NGOs (Abhyuttanam Society, Abhical Foundation, Elixir Foundation and Law Awareness Society) and Law Schools from different parts of Rajasthan and India.
“While legal aid is provided and organized by non-governmental organizations, law schools, bar associations, and also individual advocates, the demand for legal aid clearly exceeds the supply. India’s tremendous diversity; population; socio-cultural barriers; liberal laws and jurisprudence in relation to legal aid have made it a unique and challenging environment for meeting the demand for legal assistance.” Mr Jain said.
He cited Article 39A of the Constitution of India Part V [the Directive Principles of State Policy] with regards to the commitment of the State to promote justice on a basis of equality and providing free legal aid “to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability.” Mr. Jain discussed The Role of University-Based Legal Aid Centers in Ensuring Access to Justice in local levels and villages.
Mr. Saurabh Srivastava, Program Leader, Strengthening Village Level Institute, SM Sehgal Foundation, discussed about the foundation organized legal literacy camps at village level in different parts of the country, including Rajasthan. He talked about “Kanoon Ki Baat” programme being broadcasted at the local level to deal with the legal problems and solutions. The foundation also provides Digital Literacy and Life Skill Education at village level.
During the occasion, Prof HN Verma, Vice Chancellor of Jaipur National University, said that the University was looking forward to working with the Legal Service Authority and the Sehgal Foundation at the grassroots level. An Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Jaipur National University and the Sehgal Foundation. He expressed happiness and satisfaction that the Legal Aid Clinic of the Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University, situated right at the entrance of the university has been able to make its presence felt in rural areas of Rajasthan.
Prof TN Mathur, Director of Seedling School of Law and Governance, emphasized the importance of the legal aid workshop. He said, “The purpose of the workshop is to provide solutions regarding extending legal aid to marginalised sections of society as well as complement existing government authorities in their actions with different stake holders. We also have Legal Aid Cell to reach out to those people who are unable to reach the Clinic because of one problem or the other.”
Dr. Mithilesh Vishwakarma, Head of the Department, Seedling School of Law and Governance, gave the vote of thanks. He ensured the active participation of the Law students of Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University in Legal Aid Camps. He believed that spreading awareness about rights and facilitating access to courts is very much needed in today’s changing world scenario. He said that given the socio-economic nature of various issues, the remedy must involve interaction with the wider government machinery, with the legal system an essential part of this.