Action Plan 2015-16

MIZORAM STATE LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY

PLAN OF ACTION 2015-16

 

The State and District Legal Services Authorities in Mizoram have been working to carry out the objectives enshrined in Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, by providing free legal aid and in other ways, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.

 

As per the 2011 census, 94.4% of the population of the State belongs to the Scheduled Tribe category and would therefore fall within the categories of persons entitled to free legal aid under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The Action Plan for 2015-16 has been framed with a view to ensure that this large population receives the aid and services they are entitled to under the Constitutional scheme. The various components of the Plan are as follows:

 

A. The Implementation of the National Legal Services Authority (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations, 2010:

In order to ensure the effective implementation of the NALSA (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations, 2010 the panel of legal aid counsels has to be expanded and their work has to be monitored closely by the Courts. The State Legal Services Authority shall take steps to ensure that the large population which is entitled to free legal services, and in particular juveniles, is able to avail of services of a high quality in all parts of the State.

 

B. Monitoring Conditions of Children’s Homes, Shelter Homes, Observation Homes and Special Homes; Training Designated  Juvenile/Child Welfare Officers and Guidelines for Legal Services in Juvenile Justice Institutions:

The primary responsibility for the training of designated Juvenile/Child Welfare Officers attached to Police Stations and Members of Special Juvenile Units is with the District Legal Services Authorities. The State Legal Services Authority will take steps to provide the required guidance and directions to the District Legal Services Authorities for the training and shall monitor the programmes.

 

There are presently no short stay homes in Mizoram and neither are there separate homes for victims of crime. Children who are victims of crime are admitted to children’s homes and shelter homes. Juveniles in conflict with law are admitted to observation homes and special homes. The Legal Services Authorities shall visit these homes regularly to ensure that the highest standards are maintained in their upkeep and in the care of the children.

 

C. Visits to Jails:

The Legal Services Authorities shall visit the jails regularly to ensure the full implementation of the directions passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in R.D. Upadhyay v. State of Andhra Pradesh (AIR 2006 SC 1946), to ensure that under-trial prisoners in jails do not suffer in sub-human conditions and that they are provided the basic amenities, especially children of such prisoners who because of tender age are constrained to stay with their mothers till the trial concludes and sentence is undergone.

 

D. Legal Awareness Programmes; Engagement of a Suitable Brand Ambassador:

In view of the greater reach afforded by electronic media such as television and radio, and as it is more economical to use these forms of communication to disseminate information vis-à-vis traditional modes such as public gatherings or newspapers, the Legal Services Authorities will rely primarily on Doordarshan, All India Radio and Community Radio for their legal awareness programmes.

 

The formats will be documentaries, dramas, skits, speeches, talk shows and phone-in discussions. The programmes will focus on pertinent topics such as the Legal Services Authorities and their activities, Lok Adalats, Alternative Dispute Resolution, laws relating to women and children, consumer rights, labour and employees’ issues and matters pertaining to workers in the unorganized sector, motor accident claims, domestic violence, drug abuse etc.

 

A suitable brand ambassador, to whom the general public can relate and associate the values and purposes of the Legal Services Authorities with, will be engaged as a spokesperson to promote legal services activities.

 

The Legal Services Authorities will engage with the Press Information Bureau and with Field Publicity Officers of the Directorate of Field Publicity of the Government of India for the propagation of legal awareness and will take steps for their sensitization to relevant issues. The ongoing legal awareness campaigns in schools and essay competitions will also be continued.

 

E.  The NALSA (Legal Services to the Mentally Ill Persons and Persons with Mental Disabilities) Scheme, 2010:

Mizoram SLSA is pursuing the Scheme for the welfare of the mentally ill and those with mental disabilities who cannot secure their rights by themselves. A large number of children and even many adults with mental health problems have been placed or abandoned in shelter homes across the State. Many of these homes are being run by private persons or organizations on charitable lines; they do not receive assistance from the Government. The handouts on which they are run are unfortunately insufficient to meet the cost of the medical treatment and care many of the wards in the homes require.

 

One reason for the want of assistance from the State is the lack of sufficient documentation; records were not being maintained of the wards in these homes and they did not have disability certificates which would entitle them to the pensions or other assistance provided to disabled persons. The Legal Services Authorities will render assistance for the examination of mentally ill patients by Medical Boards, so that Disability Certificates can be issued in deserving cases. Thereafter, as per Para (2) in Part – II of the Scheme, they will thereafter get in touch with the Social Welfare Department of the State Government to help persons suffering from mental disabilities avail of all such beneficial schemes as have been formulated for their welfare.

 

The information collected in the course of the work will facilitate a study being undertaken by Mizoram University with the SLSA on the hardships faced by mentally handicapped or retarded persons, to determine the nature, extent and cause(s) for the same in the State, and to suggest remedial or ameliorating measures.

 

In order to have models which can be replicated across the State, Mizoram SLSA started with two homes in Aizawl District in 2014. The wards were assessed first by Clinical Psychologists from Mizoram University and then examined by specialists from the Health Department of the Government of Mizoram, who issued disability certificates to twenty-eight persons. Separate files were opened for each of the wards and the SLSA is proceeding by assisting in applications for disability pensions and other relief. It will also monitor the welfare of the mentally ill and disabled for timely intervention whenever it is necessary.

 

Apart from the medical and psychological aspects, an element of legal awareness is also involved as the caretakers of the mentally ill or disabled are often quite blind to the rights of their wards to receive proper care and supervision, and necessary information will therefore be provided.

 

F. Alternative Dispute Resolution:

Alternative Dispute Resolution is an effective tool to settle disputes and this kind of settlement is in keeping with traditional Mizo methods of resolving conflicts. Due to a lack of trained mediators and conciliators, Lok Adalats are the only means of Alternative Dispute Resolution presently being employed in Mizoram. The legal awareness programmes will attempt to increase knowledge of and acceptance by the public to the settlement of disputes by this means.

 

A list of suitable advocates and Judicial Officers who are willing to undertake the requisite training for certification as mediators is being compiled. The necessary training programme for mediators will be arranged.

 

G. NALSA (Legal Aid Clinics) Regulations, 2011 and the Scheme for Para Legal Volunteers; Use of Logos and Signboards; Use of the National Toll-free Telephone Helpline :

Para Legal Volunteers provide basic assistance to those who approach them. They help in filing reports with the Police in criminal matters.  In civil cases, Para Legal Volunteers have been seen to have a hands-on approach. They attempt to bring about conciliation, or advise people on how they may take legal recourse if a settlement cannot be reached.

 

There are presently 73 Legal Aid Clinics and 139 Para Legal Volunteers functioning in Mizoram. Steps will be taken for the Legal Aid Clinics to have uniformity in their appearance by the use of a common logo or sign board, to increase visibility so that the public can more easily associate them with the service provided.

 

The use of the National Toll-free Telephone Helpline (15100) would enhance the effectiveness of Para Legal Volunteers by allowing them to meet callers in distress in person, if necessary, to provide timely assistance. This would require an exchange device so that Para Legal Volunteers in the area from which the call originated can be connected to the caller by the Legal Service Authority receiving the Helpline call.

 

Three training programmes for Para Legal Volunteers under Mizoram SLSA have been conducted so far, in February and May, 2014 and in January, 2015. Regular workshops will be conducted by the Legal Services Authorities for the training of Para Legal Volunteers. Their work and the working of the Legal Aid Clinics will be monitored closely in order that the Scheme can achieve its objects.

 

H. NALSA (Legal Services Clinics in Universities, Law Colleges and Other Institutions) Scheme, 2013:

A Legal Service Clinic has been set up in the Mizoram Law College. It is proposed to open Clinics in the other institutions too.

 

The following will form the core monthly activities of the Mizoram State Legal Services Authority and District Legal Services Authorities for each month under the State Plan of Action, 2015-16:

  • Identification of District Legal Services Authorities under which panels of legal aid counsels have to be expanded for Courts and Juvenile Justice Boards, the empanelment of legal practitioners as panel lawyers and the monitoring of their work for the successful implementation of the National Legal Services Authority (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations, 2010;
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  • Training of Designated Juvenile/Child Welfare Officers; visits to Children’s Homes, Shelter Homes, Observation Homes and Special Homes to monitor the condition;
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  • Visits to Jails to monitor the condition and to conduct legal awareness programmes;
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  • Selection and engagement of a suitable brand ambassador for legal awareness programmes and to promote legal services activities;
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  • Formalization of agreements with Doordarshan, All India Radio and Community Radio for the broadcast of programmes;
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  • Sensitization of the Press Information Bureau and Field Publicity Officers of the Directorate of Field Publicity to legal issues for propagation;
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  • Preparation for and broadcasting of documentaries, dramas, skits, speeches, talk shows and phone-in discussions on legal issues;
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  • Legal awareness programmes in schools, community halls and other public places;
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  • Essay competitions for school children on fundamental rights and duties and other suitable topics;
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  • Visits to hospitals and homes for the implementation of the NALSA (Legal Services to the Mentally Ill Persons and Persons with Mental Disabilities) Scheme, 2010;
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  • Finalizing the list of persons to undergo training for certification as mediators and arranging the training programme to strengthen the Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism;
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  • Organizing Lok Adalats in the State Legal Services Authority and District Legal Services Authorities;
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  • Improving visibility of Legal Aid Clinics by the use of such common logos and signboards as might be specified by the National Legal Services Authority or designed by the State Legal Services Authority;
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  • Workshops for the training of Para Legal Volunteers and incorporating the use of the National Toll-free Telephone Helpline in their work;
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  • Opening of Legal Services Clinics in Mizoram University, colleges and other institutions.

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