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Call for paralegals to be appointed to institutions

Monday 10 April 2006, by NARRAIN*Siddharth

Would like to see them operate in every village: Mani Shankar Aiyar

Gram Sabhas, National Legal Services Authority, State Pollution Control Boards can benefit Demand for legal aid centres for women to appoint them Trained paralegals from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa want their role legitimised

NEW DELHI: Participants at the first National Convention of Paralegals organised here by the Indian Institute of Paralegal Studies (IIPLS) demanded that paralegals be appointed to assist institutions, including Gram Sabhas, Vigilance Committees under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), State Pollution Control Boards, and revenue authorities.

The 600 trained paralegals from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Orissa gathered here demanded that legal aid centres for women run under the Department of Women and Child Development appoint paralegals. They said the government should implement the recommendations of the National Commission for Women (NCW) on the procedures regarding the appointment of paralegals as judges and counsellors in family courts. They called for legitimising the role of paralegals in community policing, community-based mechanisms and non-formal alternative dispute mechanisms.

For the poor

Addressing the meeting, Union Minister of Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar said he would like to see paralegals operating in every village in the country. Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed said paralegals were important for those who could not access instruments of justice, including members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, unorganised labour, women, and the urban poor.

Supreme Court lawyer S. Muralidhar said NALSA should involve itself in formalising a system of paralegals. He stressed the importance of the role of legal services in addressing the problems of the country’s disadvantaged. "The NALSA Act mentions specifically that the NALSA’s mandate includes organising legal aid awareness camps in slums, rural areas and labour colonies. But how many legal aid authorities actually organise camps in slums?" he asked.

Nupur from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) said the qualifications laid down for a "nyayadhikari" under the recently-proposed Gram Nyayalaya Bill should be changed to give recognition to existing community-based mechanisms. She suggested that the proposed "nyayadhikaris" be remunerated by the NALSA to ensure that they are made accountable for their decisions. She said the Bill should be modified to enable domestic violence cases to be heard at the place where the victim resides when she is filing the case.

See online : The Hindu

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