You have been with the State Legal Services Authority for the past three years. How has the journey been?
It’s been a learning experience. While working with the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), I learnt about the problems of the underprivileged people who are unable to approach the courts of law. As these people are from the lower strata of the society, their level of awareness is very low. While dealing with these underprivileged people for three years now, it has become easier for me to understand their problems.
Can you share some of your experiences?
Everyday has been a new day. We have new experiences everyday. We provide various types of legal services. One
of them is permanent lok adalats, while we also provide counselling to needy people at a pre-litigation stage. We
also provide counselling to reunite couples in divorce cases. We have achieved success in many divorce cases and have prevented several couples from separating. In one of the cases I vividly remember, the sons of a family were not taking care of their old parents. There were a lot of misunderstandings among all the members of the family. I suggested the daughter-in-law to celebrate the birthday of her father-in-law with the whole family and the grandchild. In the next counselling session, the grandchild was on his granddad’s lap. They thanked me for solving their family dispute.
How would you define services rendered by SLSA?
In a short and crisp manner, we can define the services provided by us as a way of bridging the gap between the funds available with the government and authorities concerned and the layman. The central and state governments have initiated numerous schemes to uplift tho people belonging to the low economic classes. However, owing to lack of awareness and literacy, the underprivileged people are not aware about the schemes. Hence, we act as a bridge to provide them the required information.
Can you elaborate on it?
Among our various schemes, we have started para-legal clinics at various colonies like Indira Colony and Hallomajra. At present, there are 10 such clinics being run by us in different parts of the city. As a part of this exercise, we provide free legal aid to those belonging to schedule castes and tribes so that they can get justice in courts.
What do you have to say about the slum colonies in and around the city?
We all live in the upscale areas of the city. But when I visited one such colony, Indira Colony, I was shocked to see
the poor living conditions of the people there. In the outskirts of the city, there are 30 colonies or villages and
they have converted into slums. In Indira Colony alone, there are 500 jhuggis that accommodate a population of 5,000 people. As a part of our legal services, we adopted this colony. After conducting a survey, we realised that no child from this colony was going to schools. Most of the children were rag-pickers. The children who had joined school, left within a year. We started an open school in this area and gave morning and evening classes. After hard work of many months, we were able to admit 27 children in regular schools.
What lessons have you learnt?
I have learnt much more about law and have become more sensitive towards those belonging to underprivileged sections of the society. There were so many things we never knew. For example, the Victim Assistance Scheme. According to the scheme, which was introduced in Chandigarh in 2012, it is the duty of the trial court to provide compensation to the victim of a crime. In case the accused cannot pay the compensation, the amount will be paid to the victim from the state exchequer. Protecting the rights of the victim is the responsibility of the state and failing to do so, state should provide the compensation.