Member Secretary of Meghalaya State Legal Services Authority, Noor Ain Khan today said that there are 11 district legal service authorities in all the districts of the state with its primary objective being to ensure free legal aid and services to the weaker section of the society.
Stating that the legal service authority is not confined only to court proceedings but deals with any issue that has a potential of becoming litigation where it intervenes and ensures that the weaker section is not deprived of the benefit or at any disadvantage, Khan said that 130-panel lawyers in the state are handling around 408 cases of which 407 are criminal cases including 1 civil case and 10-panel lawyers in the High Court who take up cases free of cost for people who cannot afford lawyers at the High Court Level.
He informed that there are eight functional front offices in different districts of the state that has provided legal assistance to 924 people including assistance to 573 remand cases from January to date.
“Under the Meghalaya Victims Compensation Scheme 2019, 153 victims recommended by the District Legal Services Authority have received compensation through the State Legal Services Authority to the tune of Rs 45, 95,000 in cases involving sexual offenses and Rs 11, 00,000 have been paid in cases under penal law,” he said.
To sensitize people about their rights, duties, and benefits of different Government schemes, he said that the State and District Legal Services Authority has been able to reach out to 1670 women, 449 children, 272 senior citizens, and 134 persons with mental and physical disabilities through their outreach and sensitization programmes.
He said that the extensive campaigns have also been carried out at the grassroots level and there are 233 Para legal volunteers engaged who are paid Rs 250 per day who reach out to people at the lowest level.
“We have 70 Legal care and support centers in various districts that have benefitted 567 people from January till date and we carried out an extensive campaign in villages and covered about 62 villages in West Jaiñtia Hills and East Khliehriat and almost 1000 people specifically with regards to the POCSO cases,” he said adding that crimes are increasing but looking the other way round people are becoming more aware of their rights and coming forward and filing FIRs and crimes that was always there are being reported.
He also said that the State legal authority also took out relief work when the COVID pandemic was at its peak and reached out to 727 families and distributed 825 kg of rice in very remote villages.
Meanwhile Khan today informed that in compliance with the Supreme Court order to decongest jails given the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 400 prisoners involved in petty crimes have been released on bail.
Informing that the High Powered Committee whose purpose is to decongest the jail given the COVID pandemic, he, however, said that the under trial review committee headed by the district judge in each district who constantly visit the jail and keep on monitoring that those people who are incarcerated and under detention and if they served there sentence more than half under detention are identified and released.
“We have released more than 400 prisoners involved in petty crimes but there is no laxity when it comes to serious offenses and this does not come under the ambit of the HLC,” he added.