Freedom at last - thanks to state-backed legal aidJune 29th, 2011 - 12:28 pm ICT by IANS
Chandigarh, June 29 (IANS) He was acquitted but Ravi Kumar, incarcerated in Burail jail here on charges of reckless driving, had no clue. Not till the State Legal Service Authority (SLSA) stepped in to let him know and also ensured that he walked out a free man two months later than he should have.
Ravi Kumar, an inmate of the Model Jail at Burail, was acquitted by the court of the additional district and sessions judge here April 8 but saw freedom only on June 17. He spent an extra two months due to wrongly issued warrants and was let out only after the “amended” orders were received by jail authorities.
He is not the only one to have benefited from legal aid rendered by the SLSA.
SLSA member secretary Jagdeep Jain told IANS: “The legal aid cell in the Model Jail renders advice and assistance to the inmates irrespective of the nature of the allegation against them. The ultimate objective is to help the inmates in getting access to justice.”
The union territory of Chandigarh was the first state or union territory in the country to set up a Legal Aid Cell inside the Model Jail, Burail. The SLSA set up the cell in November 2001 to provide free legal assistance to needy inmates.
A decade later, SLSA has provided legal aid to over 5,000 beneficiaries, including nearly 4,300 of those in custody.
The SLSA has also intervened to help terminally ill patient Kesar Singh, who suffers from leukaemia.
“As per the directions of the Supreme Court in the cases of terminally ill patients, his case is being followed to help him get bail,” Jain said.
“The main function of the legal cell at the Burail jail is to provide free legal services to every accused in jail who faces the peril of losing his liberty and who is unable to pay the high fee of an advocate.”
Those eligible for free legal help include persons with disability, members of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, victims of human trafficking or beggars, industrial workers and women or children as well as those with an annual income of less than Rs 50,000.
The SLSA has been providing lawyers to the inmates through state funding. Financial assistance for expenses like court fees, documentation and other incidentals connected with litigation are also paid for.
“The free legal aid cell is a good facility for inmates who cannot afford to engage lawyers privately. Many people are availing themselves of this facility,” lawyer Rajesh Sharma told IANS.
The high-security Model Jail at Burail has over 650 inmates, including 26 women.
The SLSA has also started the para-legal volunteer scheme in the jail with two trainers who visit the jail regularly to give information to the inmates regarding their rights and the legal aid cell.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: allegation against, beggars, free legal assistance, free legal help, free man, ill patient, inmates, jagdeep, jail authorities, jain, kesar, legal aid, leukaemia, member secretary, peril, reckless driving, slsa, terminally ill patients, union territory, victims of human trafficking