Our duty to ensure that no one is deprived of legal assistance: Uday Umesh Lalit
Neither transgender people, nor people with disabilities, nor those in financial difficulty – no one should be deprived of legal assistance, Supreme Court Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday.
“This is a forum where leadership is at the heart of the matter, and if they are distinguished people who matter most in their respective fields, it is through you that I want to convey the message of associating myself with the legal aid frameworkâ¦ Lending your talent to those who need legal aid. It’s only a percent or two of your work, but it will give a feeling of confidence, âsaid Judge Lalit, who is set to become Chief Justice of India in August 2022.
Now is the time for the leaders of the company to use their capacities to ensure that no one is deprived of legal assistance due to financial or other disability, he said. He also spoke of the need for a society where a transgender person should not be discriminated against, including the right to be buried in a common cemetery, and prisoners who end up with depression should receive counseling. to have hope beyond their punishment. .
“If we consider it our duty that no one is deprived of legal assistance simply because of a financial or other handicap, then as fellow citizens, for an inclusive configuration, the motto of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) – the supreme body providing legal aid to the marginalized – will be successful if we contribute in any way possible, âJustice Lalit said.
Later, interacting with HT’s national legal editor Utkarsh Anand, Judge Lalit, who is also the president of NALSA, spoke about the challenge of integrating transgender people into mainstream society despite the landmark ruling. of the Supreme Court of 2014 guaranteeing the third sex a legitimate place and legal recognition in society.
Recounting a case from Kanyakumari where local residents prevented transgender people from burying their dead, Justice Lalit highlighted how NALSA, through its state legal aid body, had the opportunity to ” ensure a separate burial site for transgender people.
âBut I would say it’s only half a success. A separate cemetery otherwise means maintaining your identity in a separate way. It should be part of the same (common) cemetery. Where inclusiveness takes place, we will see results every step of the way, âhe said.
Justice Lalit added that NALSA has paralegal volunteers who are transgender and some of them are the most knowledgeable when it comes to engaging with marginalized sections of society to raise awareness of their legal rights. and help them fight litigation before the courts.
Judge Lalit also spoke about how depression affects the psyche of criminals, causing them to commit more crimes, which makes counseling in prisons across the country important.
Sharing an example of his visit to a Secunderabad prison, the second-highest-ranking judge of the highest court said the proportion of prisoners who return to prison after committing other crimes was almost 6-7% . After counseling and psychological support to these detainees, this percentage was reduced to a negligible 1%.
âAs the sentence is handed down against the convicts, this person enters the realm of depression. They get so depressed that they lose confidence in everything. This depression is something that needs to be addressed, âJustice Lalit said, adding that NALSA will adopt such a model in its legal aid awareness program.
At the event, Justice Lalit further stressed the importance of virtual hearing of cases, which could reduce the wait for cases.
âIn the physical world, before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, the maximum number of cases settled on a given date was 1.4 million by Lok Adalats (amicable settlement of cases by mediation). By September 2021, we could have 4.2 million cases through Lok Adalats (using virtual mode). Hearing cases via a virtual platform establishes a four-way communication between the district legal services authority, incarcerated people, their relatives and lawyers, he added.
Judge Lalit said that NALSA has conducted several awareness campaigns to educate the masses about legal rights, covering 700 million people in 1.9 million villages across the country, as part of a recent six-week awareness program. from October 2 to November 14.
But “mere awareness will not guarantee everything,” he added. âThese rights must be framed and pushed to their logical conclusionâ¦ There must be trust established (in the minds of every person seeking legal aid), that even if I enter through the doors of legal aid, my case will not be shoddy, but managed with the same expertise and the same command (as it would have been the case) if I had to regularly engage the services of a lawyer â, he declared.
This confidence, Justice Lalit added, can only come if top senior lawyers are brought into the legal aid fold. “Once confidence in legal aid mechanisms is established, only then awareness (of legal aid) can bear fruit … If this flame is caught in the hands of seasoned lawyers, it will lead to its destination.” and will show us a greater light. ”
NALSA, under Lalit justice focused on providing better and more legal aid. Having been a prominent lawyer at the bar before his elevation to the Supreme Court in 2014, Justice Lalit began to take steps to involve top jurists in the provision of legal aid by forming associations with bars and law schools.
“It is a very worrying situation that out of the total pending cases in the country, only 1% of cases are under the belt of legal services authorities,” Judge Lalit said, explaining that this is at odds with the number of poor people in India. âWe have found, perhaps, that this is due to the lack of awareness and complete ignorance of the (legal aid) device. This chain of lack of awareness must be broken.