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Thanks to a novel initiative, legal nitty-gritty will be taught to students in government schools and colleges in Chandigarh so that they can help the poor and the needy get better access to justice.

Student Legal Literacy Clubs in these institutions will be a unique platform for spreading legal literacy among people who have no access to it.

The first of the clubs has already been set up at the Government Model Senior Secondary School in Sector 8 here. The National Service Scheme (NSS) coordinator at each school would head the club.

Pritinder Sodhi, NSS coordinator for the Sector 8 school, said: “The student community is a great observer of society. They know the harsh reality of all sections of society. We intend to train students so that an awareness campaign can be launched in a very big way to make a qualitative change in the lives of the common people.”

Each club, comprising students from Class 9 upwards, will have a minimum strength of 10 members and a maximum of 25 select students.”At least six literacy classes to train students would be held every year in every high school or college where the club has been established by the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA),” said Jagdeep Jain, member-secretary of SLSA.

“Representatives or advocates of SLSA will take classes to brief club members along with the teacher in-charge about the modus operandi of legal services offered by SLSA, pre-litigation settlement of disputes, Lok Adalats and alternate disputes redressal,” said Jain, who is himself a senior judicial officer.

The services of local judicial officers, administrative officers, experienced advocates and law teachers may also be availed of in the legal literacy classes, he said.The aim of the programme is to make member-students act as a bridge between people in need of legal aid and various bodies providing legal services.

“The primary function of the students would be spreading legal literacy awareness. They would identify people in need of legal services and refer them to the nearest legal services institution,” said Jain.

Students will be told about laws and welfare schemes of the government relating to women, children, labourers, people below the poverty line and those suffering from mental or physical disabilities.

This will also cover people otherwise remaining disadvantaged or marginalized in society.

Basic legal procedures in criminal cases like the first information report (FIR), arrest, bail and different forums available to litigants will be taught.SLSA has prepared reading material like leaflets in local language for empowering the student-members. Other teachers of the schools would also receive basic training.

“Student legal literacy clubs are to be formed with an idea to spread the knowledge of legal rights and duties among the illiterate, the poorer and the deprived sections. They will also give legal suggestions for their various problems. The legal literacy and legal services programme will be provided to students without causing any detriment to their study curriculum,” Jain added.

Renu Puri, principal of the government school where the first club has started, said: “The students who would be running the clubs would have to be trained first for them to disseminate knowledge.”

Each club is supposed to organise camps, hold rallies and make door-to-door visits in the neighbouring areas of the school to educate people about legal issues.

“Various complexities, which often crop up in cases of domestic violence and dowry-related violence, will be told to people, especially women. The volunteers would also offer legal counsel to victims,” an SLSA member said.

The clubs would be required to organize activities regularly and send the report to SLSA.

Chandigarh has nearly 110 government schools and 30 government colleges and other institutions. There are over 125,000 students in all these institutions.

The city, which is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, has a population of over 1.05 million. The literacy rate is 86.4 percent.

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