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‘Absence of timely legal help to poor affects credibility of justice system’

IANS | New Delhi |

Absence of timely help to poor and illiterate Indians affects the credibility of the legal system and the rule of law, Chief Justice of India J S Khehar said here on Saturday.

He highlighted the importance of para legal volunteers (PLV) who, the CJI said, have enabled ordinary and helpless people to avail the benefits of the legal system.

"In the absence of timely help to most Indians, the credibility of the legal system and the rule of law comes under severe strain," he said, stressing that the poor and illiterate Indian were the main clients of the justice system.

Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who also spoke at the two-day National Meet of para legal volunteers here, emphasised the use of technology in providing access and administration of justice.

Inaugurating the two-day national meet, the CJI said the service to poor was a "super divine duty" being carried out by the volunteers, which was more than the "divine duty discharged by the judges".

The last-mile connectivity for a villager under the PLV scheme was not the lawyers but the PLVs working under the competent legal authorities which impart awareness of laws and legal system to them, he said.

When the disputes are such that they are beyond the capacity of these volunteers who have basic training in law, they approach the nearest legal services authority for a dispute settlement mechanism like Lok Adalat, mediation or more formal legal remedies.

"These volunteers trained under the 2009 para legal volunteer scheme act as filters relating to the number and nature of disputes that need to be formally and institutionally dealt with by the legal services. Para legal volunteers save time and money of the poor, the official administration and the courts," Justice Khehar said.

Lauding NALSA's poverty alleviation scheme, he said it ensured that the benefits of various anti-poverty schemes of the central and the state governments actually reach the intended beneficiaries.

Emphasising the need for restructuring its approach and design, the CJI favoured skill-driven PLVs who can properly research and investigate facts or laws related to a case.