Sucheta Dalal :One man's call to change the world
Sucheta Dalal

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One man's call to change the world  

November 14, 2007

One man’s call to change the world. Fresh out of Law school here is Sandeep Jalan urging people to do their bit for the world by using the instrument of law.

Our pride in belonging to a generation that for the first time since the genesis of man has set foot on another planet, cannot however, disguise the awful truth that it may be easier to travel to the moon than to erase from the surface of the earth, the image of evitable poverty. It is pathetic and equally obscene to talk about GDP or the economic progress of India when a mass section of society still dont have access to clean drinking water or toilet facilities let alone food and shelter. It is frustrating to see people admiring or criticizing Sachin or Shah Rukh Khan amidst glaring and apparent inhuman sufferings.

 

According to statistics, 5000 Children die due to malnutrition and related preventable disease every day, yes every day; every other minute a child born is deprived of motherhood for lack of adequate medical facilities. The loss of motherhood to a new born just cannot be quantified or imagined.

 

The writer seeks to unveil an opportunity for every good man to do their bit for the society.

 

There are some issues which come close to everyone’s heart. There are occasions when one feel concerned or disturbed but clueless. Families which include tender aged children and infirm old aged, living on the Footpath of metro cities like Mumbai is not surprising but is disturbing nevertheless.

 

Incidents of gross violation of human rights are reported in the media and most of those remain unaddressed setting up precedents for further such violations. Violation of human rights can simply be defined where an individual or a section of the society is unlawfully deprived of his life or dignity of life.

 

There are some legal provisions with the help of which one, by spending some of his not so precious time, can effectively help the people in distress.

 

There are two powerful Statutes which come into picture, they are The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 & The Legal services Authorities Act, 1987.

 

The basic objective of The Protection of Human Rights Act is to ensure Life and dignity of Life to every individual which is itself guaranteed to every individual by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Every individual, whether he is Citizen of India or not can avail the benefit of the provisions of the Act. The Commissions are chaired by Retired Chief Justice Of India or the retired Chief Justice of the High Courts and other persons of special knowledge and of high integrity.

 

Any individual, who is unlawfully, so deprived of his life or liberty or dignity of life, may approach the National Human Rights Commission or the State Human Rights Commission, which are constituted under this Act.

 

Help of legal expert is not required at all and simple hand written application incorporating the facts and causes is suffice to redress the grievances.

Very few people are aware of their legal rights and about their enforcement in Human rights Courts. The Act also envisages that any individual on behalf of the victim may approach this Commission for the redressal of the grievances of immediate victim.  There is no fee to be paid.

 

The Commission has enormous powers to give relief to the victims including monetary compensation.  The Commission, if necessary, may approach the High Court or Supreme Court on behalf of the victim to give him/her justice.

 

The role of a good man begins with making a simple application to the Commission on behalf of the victim. In most of the cases the news reports are self evident and self explanatory and it is suffice to write in the application, requesting the Chairperson of the Commission to take notice of the news reports and do justice.

Section 12 of the Act makes it obligatory on the Commission to take notice of every application so received. However, it is necessary that the victim must be so acquainted that an application has been filed on his behalf with the Commission so that he can follow up. For this, a copy of the application can be sent to the editor of the Newspaper requesting them to convey the same to the victim. The good man if he so desires can always follow up the progress in his application with the help of Right to Information [RTI] Act.

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Now we come to another Statute and that is The Legal services Authorities Act, 1987. The preamble[Basic Objective] of the Act reads as follows- An Act to constitute legal services authorities to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker section of the society, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities……….

 

The National Legal services Authority at the National level, The State Legal services Authority in each State and The District Legal services Authority in each of the districts has been constituted under this Act; The State Govt. may constitute Taluka Legal services Authority in each of the Taluka of the district. The Supreme Court Legal services Committee and The High Court Legal services committee in each State have also been constituted.

 

The Authorities are chaired by Chief Justice of India, Chief Justice of the High Courts and other senior Advocates.

 

The National Legal Services Authority has been entrusted with wide ranging powers and functions. Among others they include-

·        take necessary steps by way of social justice litigation[PILs] with regard to consumer protection, environmental protection or any other matter of special concern to the weaker sections of the society ….

·        organize legal aid camps in rural areas, slums or labour colonies for educating them as to their rights…..

·        take appropriate measures for spreading legal literacy and legal awareness amongst the people and in particular to educate weaker section of the society about the rights, benefits and privileges guaranteed by social welfare legislations and other administrative programmes………

 

With the aid of this Act, a concerned citizen can do extraordinary things.

 

We all witness in our daily life, the deprived section of the society i.e. the pavement dwellers, street children, and many other apparent inhuman indignities. Needless to say, no welfare schemes of the Govt. or welfare legislation reach to these pavement dwellers or street children. Apart from the fact that these pavement dwellers live in sub human conditions, they are a positive menace and potential threat to vehicular movement. Besides, they frequently become victims of speeding vehicles and it is nearly impossible to conclude who was at fault. Ultimately, a pavement dweller loses his life and motorist is branded a criminal, though he may be innocent.

 

We all read in newspapers and in electronic media the poor people fighting for their rights who may have perhaps been deprived of or thrown out of their land. The acquisitions of agricultural land for SEZ are the most common protest we all read now these days. Everyday we read so much about poor people becoming victim of Govt. apathy, and corruption.

 

It goes without saying that all those who live on the street or those who are dispossessed of their land are not aware of their legal rights and at the same time they do not have access to quality legal assistance.

 

At times, there is a feeling of helplessness as one lack expertise, in resources, and time- to help those in distress.

 

Not any more.

 

One may write a simple letter to the National Legal Services Authority. Apprise them of the factual position. Usually news reports are self evident and self explanatory and is suffice to write in the application, requesting the authorities to take steps as per the provisions of the Act.

 

Hence, we may be having the best of the legal minds fighting for the cause of the weaker section of the society even without moving from our chair. However, a miracle cannot be expected from these legal services authorities and it may not be so easy to make these Legal service authorities function or deliver. These authorities are not accustomed to these kind of applications and they may take time to respond. One needs to ensure that the powers that be, act on the application. RTI Act can be instrumental in follow up.

 

We would effectively be able to help to all those weaker section of the society who need help, who are ignorant of their rights, and to whom the benefit of welfare schemes doesn’t reach.

It pays……..by at least a sense of fulfilment, to spend some of our energy for the downtrodden section of the society around us.

 

 

I think almost all social issues can be entrusted to these Legal Services Authorities and the Authorities can be compelled to act as per the provisions of the Act. They are duty bound to embark upon Social action litigation [PILs] concerning issues of environment pollution [River pollutions]; Consumer protection [Unfair Trade Practices by Corporates or Multinational companies]; and issues relating to weaker section of the society.

 

Lending voice to the under privileged around us has never been so easy and commanding.

 

However, a master key is required to unlock the potential of these Legal provisions and that is concern for humanity.

 

Each Indian has a duty to save himself and his country in a similar fashion. This is not convincingly done. What we do and what we are capable of doing may solve all our problems, said Mahatma.

One should stop wasting his time in criticizing the system or talking about corruption as it doesn’t help in improving the same.

 

I am willing to address queries or confusion, if any.

 

Last but not the least, for poverty anywhere is threat to prosperity everywhere.

 

Contacts:

 

The National Human Rights Commission [NHRC]

Faridkot house, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi-1.

Tel- 011 23385368. Fax- 011 23384863, 23386521.

 

National Legal Services Authority [NALSA]

Member Secretary,12/11 Jamnagar House,Shahjahan Rd,New Delhi-110011.

Phone- 011-23386176, 23382778;

Fax- 011-23382121.

 

The writer has just completed graduation in Law from Mumbai University and is a member of BHUMI Foundations and Janhit Manch.


-- Sucheta Dalal



 



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