Sikkim: National Legal Services Day observed in Gangtok

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Sikkim Mail
Gangtok: November 10, 2011

Marking the ‘National Legal Services Day’, acting Chief Justice, High Court of Sikkim, Justice Sonam P Wangdi called upon a meeting at High Court Conference Hall and laid down the important facets of the State Legal Services Authority and its successful functioning with the state government.

The august gathering attending the conference had Chief Secretary, Karma Gyatso, Power Minister, Sonam Gyatso Lepcha, Secretary Human Resource and Development Department, C S Rao, Director General of Police Jasbir Singh, Secretary Social Justice and Welfare Department, R Telang, Joint Election Commissioner C P Dhakal amongst other representatives of various departments.

The agenda of the meeting was to review the activities of the Sikkim State Legal Services Authority (SSLSA), revision of “Sitting Fees” for the “Other Person” constituting the Lok Adalats and publication of booklet for school children in “Lessons In Law” by SSLSA on the basis of one published by Himachal Pradesh SLSA.

Speaking about the services of SSLSA, Chief Justice Sonam P Wangdi stated that primary service is to provide legal aid. Talking about the inception of the ‘National Legal Services Day’, he said that the need arose when it was realized that there has been no improvement in the state of the people. The guaranteed
rights have not percolated down to the poor and the needy and it was then that in 1987 under Section-4 of the State Legal Parliamentary Act 1987, State Legal Services Act 1987 was formulated on 9th November 1987. Proudly submitting that Sikkim was the first state to implement the act, frame rules and regulations of the same in 1995. Not only that many states then went ahead to adopt the rules and regulations formulated by Sikkim State Legal Services Authority, for example Karnataka and Gujarat to name the few, he stated.
Stating the importance of holding the conference instead of a function to mark the day is to have a review of the works done by SSLSA so far and the consequences of the rules and regulations underlined earlier, while also accepting new ideas from the members attending the conference. At present Chief Justice S P Wangdi is the Executive Chairman of the SSLSA.

While reviewing the activities of the SSLSA, Chief Justice stated that the primary service so far was to provide free and competent legal aid. The income ceiling for those entitled for this service has been raised from Rs. 75,000 to Rs.1 Lakh. It was also informed that in the past legal aid through various legal aid clinics
would reach only to accessible places but since last one year the endeavor of the authorities is to reach out to people in the far flung areas of state as well.

Besides, awareness and sensitization training programs have been undertaken by the SSLSA. In the efforts to widen the activities of SSLSA, during national conferences, crucial issues concerning children, women, human and juvenile rights have also been undertaken. Speaking of Juvenile homes Chief Justice stated that Sikkim is in dire need for a decent Juvenile Home as the one in Gangtok is in despicable condition. In addition to one in the capital, the districts should also cater for Juvenile Homes, he added. Juveniles should not be treated as criminals, for which they need a positive environment generating home and not jail he reiterated. This sensitive issue has been brought up earlier and now needs a serious thought over its implementation; he suggested and urged the police department to cooperate. Urging compliance over the issue justice Wangdi moved over to the other agenda’s. Stating the apathy of certain districts where there are no courts to settle disputes, he stated that SSLSA is working in the direction to fill these loopholes and ascertain that access to justice for all is implemented. SSLSA will address disputes in these areas with the help of Lok Adalats he submitted. Speaking about the creditable efforts undertaken by SSLSA, he added that Consumer Awareness Programs, Health Related Programs have also been addressed to.

Stating further, Chief Justice submitted that a training program is envisaged for the police officers, civil servants where resource persons will be invited from outside the state.To this DGP, Jasbir Singh submitted that when most of the police staff is busy in attending various training programs, there tends to be a paucity of man power for the core jobs and this issue needs to be settled, he urged.

The second agenda involving the sitting fees payable to the other persons as contained in section 19(2) (b) of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and for non-official members in terms of Regulation 5 of SSLSA had been fixed and brought to notice of all members. Where eventually after debating over the rates all members settled down for the designed rate list by SSLSA.

Speaking on the importance of awareness generating amongst students, CJ Wangdi stated that children from an early age should be made aware of their constitutional rights and laws concerning them. For which following the footsteps of Himachal Pradesh SLA, even Sikkim is adopting introduction of literature of the
same. Secretary Education C S Rao gave his compliance and also submitted that in the new academic year it will be added as not a subject but as an added curriculum, and the third agenda laid in front of the house was accepted by all the members present.

Secretary Social Justice and Welfare Department, R Telang, stated before the house the need to take up issues related to buying land for the juvenile home under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme ICPS at the earliest. Child labor he stated is another issue and so is generating awareness of the law related to taking care of old parents. He added that for this sensitization of child welfare centers and juvenile justice committee members a training program needs to be devised and Justice second the idea. Chief Justice High Court S P Wangdi also expressed his gratitude and appreciation towards the support and cooperation granted by the state government in granting of funds for SSLSA operations.



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