Udayavni Special

Law Ministry tele-consultation service now addressing queries related to pandemic, lockdown

Team Udayavani, May 24, 2021, 1:03 PM IST

A Law Ministry tele-consultation service launched to help rural residents get pre-litigation legal advice from a panel of lawyers is now receiving calls from people seeking solutions to problems arising out of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown in various parts of the country.

People have been calling various local centres of the tele-law scheme seeking solutions to various issues such as police highhandedness in implementing Covid-appropriate behaviour and discrimination being faced by health workers and their families who are wrongly accused of being carriers of coronavirus.

When people call up the service’s local centre, they are put through the panel of lawyers who answer their queries.

According to details provided by the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry, advocate Khrawkupar Kongjoh, a panel lawyer with the tele-law service for Meghalaya, was asked by a beneficiary from Chockpot Bazar of South Garo Hills about the necessary measures required to put an end to discrimination and stigmatisation of health workers and their families as ”corona carriers”.

Similarly, advocate Suhaila Ali of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh was asked by a resident of Yangoora village in Ganderbal district on how to apply for concession to the electricity department as he has received a massive electricity bill and, having lost his job due to the pandemic, is not in a position to pay the amount. A query on a government scheme to provide assistance to street vendors who have lost livelihood due to lockdown was raised before advocate Swati by a resident of Kabaria Tola, Namtara village in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh.

Advocate Manzoor Ahmed was consulted by a resident of a village in Baramulla about any government scholarship as the family is unable to pay the school tuition fees due to lockdown and how to approach the school authorities to resolve his grievance.

There were many calls on violence against women due to confinement within their families, said an official of the Department of Justice.

Lockdown measures have also brought to the surface new concerns flagged by people.

According to the department, queries and concerns on ”misuse” of police power and imposing fines on people for not wearing mask, powers of local task force constituted in village to restrain the movement of the citizens during lockdown, retrenchment of employees due to downsizing in the company amidst pandemic without due notice, property disputes and family feuds due to displacement and migration amongst siblings, information on applying for e-pass for inter- and intra- state movement are being raised.

Queries on the type of vaccination to use and vaccine hesitancy are also being asked by the rural population to the team of panel lawyers engaged under the ‘Tele-Law: Reaching the Unreached Programme’, department officials said.

Launched in 2017 by the Department of Justice in 1,800 Common Service Centres, tele-law service has been expanded to cover 50,000 Gram Panchayats across all states and union territories in the country, including all 117 Aspirational Districts.

Serving as a unique e-model to provide legal advice and consultation through tele or video conferencing facilities available in Common Service Centres situated at Gram Panchayats, the platform continues to experience a surge in beneficiaries seeking legal advice, even amidst the pandemic, the department said.

It facilitates free of cost advice to the persons entitled to free legal aid as provided under section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Others can avail the benefit at Rs 30 per consultation.

Since 2017 it has enabled advice to over eight lakh beneficiaries in the country on various matters that include property disputes, domestic violence, denial and information of various entitlements under central and state welfare schemes, matters related filing of FIR, bail, banking recovery matters, cheque bounce cases and service matters.

Between 2021 and 2026, the tele-law programme is proposed to be expanded to over 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats and would aim to address over 90 lakh legal advice at the grassroots.

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