Hon’ble Sh. Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed
Patron-in-Chief, J&K State Legal Services Authority
Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Service Authorities Act was enacted in the year 1997, whereas the Rules and Regulations there under were framed in the year 1998. Consequent upon coming into force of this Act, the activies of Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Aid and Advice Board were taken over by the State Legal Service Authority. Earlier, free legal aid was being provided to eligible persons in terms of the provisions of the J&K State Legal Aid and Advice Board Rules 1987. In 1997, SLSA Act was passed in order to Constitute Legal Services Authorities to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker section of the society to ensure their opportunity for securing justice are not deprived to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organize Lok Adalats to secure the operation of the Legal system, promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
Patron-in-Chief, J&K State Legal Services Authority
Executive Chairman J&K State, Legal Services Authority
In terms of S.3 of SLSA Act, State Legal Services Authority has been created, with Hon'ble the Cheif Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed as its present Patron-in-Chief. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir,Judge J&K High Court is presently Executive Chairman of the State Legal Services Authority, whereas Sh. R.N. Watal, Member Secretary of the Authority. Besides this, Presidents of Bar Associations Jammu/Srinagar, Advocate General, Secretaries to Home, Finance and Information Departments of Govt of J&K are the ex-offico members of the State Authority. The State Legal Services Authority besides being the Supervisory Authority over the District / Tehsil Legal Services Authorities/ Committees is obliged to lay down policies for making legal service avialable, make allocation of funds to other Authorities/ Committees, organise legal aid camps, encourage settlement of disputes by mediation and conciliation, conduct/organise Lok Adalats and related activities.
The State Legal Service Authority (SLSA) has constituted the High Court Legal Service Committee (HCLSC) in exercise of its power under S.6 of the Act. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey is the Chairman of the committee wheras Sh. Ajay Gupta Sub Judge J&k Highcourt and is the Secretary of the Committee. Members of the Committee have been nominated and the Secretary to the Committee has been appointed by Hon'ble the Chief Justice. The main function of the HCLSC is to provide legal services to the eligible persons, to conduct lok adalats for cases pending before Hon’ble High Court and to encourage the settlement of disputes by way of negotiation, arbitraton and conciliation. HCLSC is also duty bound to execute all those schemes and to launch all those programmes as are framed by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and State Legal Services Authority (SLSA).
Twenty Two District Legal Service Authorities (DLSA) have been constituted in the State of Jammu and Kashmir by the Government under S.7 of the Act. Each District Authority consists of the District Judge concerned as its chairman with Deputy Commissioner, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Senior Superintendent of Police, Cheif Judical Magistrate and Presidents of concerned Bar Associations as its members. Assistant Commissioner(AC) of the concerned District acts as the Member Secretary of the District Authority. District Authority besides organising Lok Adalats within the district, has to perform such functions as are assigned to it by the State Legal Services Authority.
There are 68 Tehsil Legal Service Committees functioning in the state at present that have been created & constituted by State Authority in terms of S.10 of the Act. Each Tehsil Committee comprises the Senior Subordinate Judge of the concernrd Tehsil as its chairman and Sub Divisional Magistrate, Dy Superintent of police, Tehsildar, Block Development Officer, Panchayat officer and President Tehsil Bar Association as its ex-offico members. The Naib Tehsildar of the concerned Tehsil acts as the Member Secretary of the Tehsil Commiittee. Tehsil Legal Services Committee has to coordinate the activities of legal services in the Tehsil, organise lok adalats within the Tehsil and perform such other functiona as the District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) assigns to it.
The important task before the legal service functionaries is to make the legal service law meaningful for those belongings to weaker and poor sections of the society, for whom same has been brought on the Statute Book. This can be done by educating the said sections of the society about the various provisions of the SLSA Act and the Rules and the Regulation framed there under. This underprivileged class of society has to be made to understand about the benefits of not only legal service law, but they also have to be made aware about all the social welfare legislations including the laws on Human Rights, the Fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and the provisions of the Right to Information Act etc. The downtrodden and the backward class of the society is to be told as how the settlement of the disputes in the Lok Adalat saves their time, money and energy, and how it not only maintains but improves the relations of the rival parties. It has to be made Known to them that negotiated settlement ends the animity between the fighting parties for all times to come, there being no appeal, no revision whatsoever. Unlike in a litigation before a regular court where parties to the dispute end up with animosity, anger and bad blood between them, in a negotiated settlement, relations of the fighting parties get improved and all the terrifying memories of the litigation are for- gotten for all times to come. The parties part with the spirit of good will and mutual trust with promise to meet again. Illiterate class of the society who are weak, backward and downtrodden are not expected to know that constitution has guaranteed to them some valuable rights which are fundamental in nature. Such of the rights as pertain to right to livelihood and right to live with dignity and honor etc. are very-very important for this lower class of society as we may call it. It is, therefore, very important to promote awareness among the masses about all these rights. It becomes imperative therefore, as is ordained in the SLSA Act and the Rules, to make the weaker sections of the society aware as to how shall they seek protection of their fundamental rights, and how are the Human Rights violation sought to be checked. To do this, we have to reach out to the door steps of the needy, to tell them all about this. Such class of the society needs awareness that in case they are not in a position to vindicate their such right, given their economic conditions, they shall be provided legal services and legal assistance, which will be entirely free. These people have to be enlightened as to how access to justice for all is possible and practicable. It is in this back ground that more emphasis is on convening of legal literacy and legal awareness programmes where the common people have to be informed that legal services is not a charity, but is a way to provide justice for all. Stress is on setting up of legal literacy and legal awareness camps in far-flung and remote areas of the State, to tell the common masses there that rich alone shall not have the right to enjoy the fruits of Justice but poor shall equally have the access to justice.