Justice NV Ramana
Justice NV Ramana

Legal Services Authorities have done tremendous work during the pandemic: NALSA Chairman Justice Ramana

The observation was made during the release of the "Handbook of Formats: Ensuring Effective Legal Services" prepared as part of NALSA’s commitment to improve the quality of legal services by strengthening documentation.

Shruti Mahajan

NALSA Chairman Justice NV Ramana on Thursday released the ‘Handbook of Formats: Ensuring Effective Legal Services’ in a webinar that also saw him commend the work undertaken by the Legal Service Authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Handbook was released in the presence of the Executive Chairpersons of State Legal Services Authorities, Chairpersons of High Court Legal Services Committees and Member Secretaries of all State Legal Services Authorities, Chairpersons and Secretaries of District Legal Services Authorities.

In his keynote address, Justice Ramana highlighted the troubles faced by the legal system, especially during this pandemic. He pointed out that while Supreme Court and High Courts are functioning through video conferencing, trial courts are still not working. But now "we have to work with constraints", Justice Ramana added.

Commending the work put in by the Legal Services authorities in this scenario, Justice Ramana said,

"The Trial Courts have yet not started functioning. The High Court and the Supreme Court are working through videoconferencing. But in spite of the same, the Legal Services Authorities have done tremendous activities during the prevailing pandemic by adopting the latest technology."

The pandemic and consequent lockdown have given rise to a number of issues, the Judge pointed out. Cases of domestic violence and child abuse have gone up and at a time like this when the victims cannot reach the Courts, the importance of a One Stop Centre is magnified, the NALSA Chairman underscored.

"Persistent efforts have been taken to provide legal assistance, through teleservices of female Panel Lawyers in every district. In other matters, petitions have been filed under the Domestic Violence Act."
Justice NV Ramana

Another area of focus in which the State Legal Authorities have had a huge role to play was to assist High Powered Committees of various States in undertaking efforts to reduce overcrowding in prisons to prevent spread of the contagion.

While all the legal aid work is carried out, it is also important to document these efforts and to chart out a uniform format for the same.

The Handbook released by Justice Ramana on June 4 is a crucial step in standardizing and bringing uniformity in the use of formats, it was noted in the keynote address.

Justice Ramana also highlighted the tough future we have before us owing to the pandemic and the plethora of issues that will be faced by the Legal Services and the system. He concluded by urging everyone to stay committed in the challenging times.

"This pandemic has presented before us, multiple emerging issues. The most predominant one is that of reverse migration. Massive reverse migration will invariably lead to increase in poverty, inequity and discrimination. This pandemic has also affected rights of women, children and senior citizen. This calls for a persistent and target orientation action plan, which we all have to work out together. The future is going to be challenging, let's stay committed... Let these challenging times not paralyse you, like all dark nights this too shall pass."

The welcome address was delivered by the Member Secretary of NALSA Ashok Kumar Jain and a brief overview of the handbook was provided by Madhurima Dhanuka, Programme Head, Prison Reforms at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

The Handbook is prepared by NALSA in collaboration with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and is seen as a step towards NALSA’s commitment to improving the quality of legal services by strengthening documentation and reporting by Legal Services Institutions across the country.

This handbook will enable NALSA to analyse trends and patterns emerging from the data documented through the standardized format and will help in the identification of issues at the micro level.

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