Chief Justice of India Justice P. Sathasivam Friday urged the legal fraternity that would operate Village Legal Service Clinic to nurture the culture of conciliation instead of litigation so people could settle their disputes outside the court.
He said this while inaugurating Village Legal Service Clinic being set up by the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA). To start with, NALSA is setting up 2,648 Village Legal Service Clinics with the target on one such legal clinic in a taluka or sub-district.
The move is to make people living in villages aware of their legal rights so they can benefit from social welfare schemes like Below Poverty Level (BPL) card, election card, Aadhaar card, gas connection, old-age pension, etc.
Cautioning that the task being undertaken by NALSA is not easy and those involved in Village Legal Service Clinic would require not just legal knowledge, Chief Justice Sathasivam said the villagers were deeply ingrained in their customs and culture and to succeed with them would require more than legal knowledge.
NALSA executive chairman Justice R.M. Lodha said nomenclatures like Legal Aid Clinic or Legal Aid Service Clinic were misnomers and what is being targeted is setting up of legal care centres on the lines of primary health centres in every village.
Justice Lodha described “ignorance and illiteracy” as twin diseases that have to be faced while imparting legal awareness at the grassroots level in villages.
“Not having any idea of legal rights, they do not know how to enforce it,” Justice Lodha said, adding because of their ignorance, they do not anticipate the legal knots and also do not find any legal help.
Justice Lodha said he would like the District Legal Service Authority to hold field surveys to get a feel of the people needing legal help. He said no citizen should starve of justice.
Supreme Court Legal Services Committee chairman Justice A.K. Patnaik said by imparting legal awareness at the village level, “we will go a long way in getting (them) the benefits of social welfare schemes and really empowering them”.