LGBTQ Rights and Protection in India overall with special focus at work
Ignorance of the law is no excuse [ignorantia Juris non-excusat]. Even a layman is expected to have a basic understanding of the law and his rights and responsibilities. This empowers individuals to defend their rights and contribute to the pursuit of justice. Legal awareness, also referred to as 'legal consciousness,' refers to an individual's understanding and knowledge of the law. It involves educating people about the law, its creation, application and the concept of the rule of law. A person can demand justice only when he is aware of what is just and unjust according to the law. Knowledge of the different organs and machinery of the legal system encourages individuals to take action against injustice.
Article 39A of the Indian Constitution, which was inserted by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 provides that "The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities."
Importance of Legal Awareness:
Ø It increases awareness regarding legal rights and remedies which in turn improves access to justice. It is particularly important for marginalized communities, such as women, children and rural residents, as they face multiple barriers to access legal support.
Ø It ensures that people are aware of their legal rights and responsibilities, including key legal concepts like equality before the law and protection from discrimination.
Ø It encourages legal compliance by educating people about their legal responsibilities and the consequences of noncompliance.
Ø Legal awareness empowers people with the knowledge and tools they need to report corruption and other forms of misconduct, resulting in a reduction in corruption.
Legal Awareness Initiatives in India:
Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987:
This Act establishes a system of legal aid and advice in India, and also sets up legal aid boards at the state and district levels to provide legal services to citizens. The Act was enacted to enforce the provisions of Article 39A of the Constitution. Section 12 of Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, provides provisions for free legal aid to certain categories of people.
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA):
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to monitor and evaluate implementation of legal aid programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available under the Act. It coordinates the activities of the state and district legal services authorities and also conducts legal aid and awareness campaigns across the country.
Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms, which provides provisions for resolving disputes outside the traditional court system. It is a forum where disputes/cases pending in a court of law or at the pre-litigation stage are amicably settled. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 has given statutory status to Lok Adalats. It aims to provide quick and affordable justice.
Legal Aid Clinics and Legal Aid Cells:
The government has established legal aid clinics across the country. These clinics and cells provide free legal assistance in civil and criminal matters to poor and marginalised people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to represent them in any Court, Tribunal or Authority and also educate people about their rights and responsibilities under the law. A lawyer manning the legal aid clinic, like the doctors who provide health services to the people of the community at the primary health care centre, provides legal services to the people. The emphasis is on basic legal services such as legal advice and assisting in the drafting of notices, replies, applications, and petitions, among other things.
Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness Programme (LLLP):
This programme aims to empower the poor and vulnerable segments of society to seek and demand justice. It also seeks to strengthen the institutional capacities of key justice service providers so that they can better serve the poor and disadvantaged. The Department of Justice has developed a scheme on Access to Justice called 'Designing Innovating Solutions and Holistic Access to Justice (DISHA),' which will be implemented from 2021 to 2026. DISHA's main goal is to implement a Pan-India Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness Programme.
Legal Literacy Clubs:
The government has also set up legal literacy clubs in schools and colleges. These clubs are designed to educate young people about the legal system and their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Students Legal Literacy Club may organise debates, discussions, essay competitions, poetry competitions, and painting/cartoon drawing competitions on legal literacy and awareness issues on Legal Services Day, Constitution Day, Annual Day, Children Day etc. It gives students a platform to learn about legal issues, discuss them, and take part in legal awareness campaigns.
National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms:
This mission was started in August, 2011 with 'the twin objectives of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears in the system and enhancing accountability through structural changes and by setting performance standards and capacities.' It includes several initiatives such as the setting up of more courts and legal aid clinics, as well as training programs for judges and legal professionals.
National e-Courts Project:
The e-Courts project was initiated on the basis of the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary-2005, which was submitted by the e-Committee (Supreme Court of India), with the goal of transforming the Indian Judiciary through ICT enable courts. This project aims to improve access to justice by making the court system more efficient and transparent. It involves the use of technology to digitize court records and make them available online, as well as the setting up of e-courts in different states across the country.
Legal awareness is crucial for maintaining law & order and justice in the society. It empowers individuals and communities with the knowledge and understanding of their rights and obligations and the means to seek remedy when they are violated. In India, where laws are quite complex, legal awareness plays an even more crucial role. It is imperative that the government, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders work together to create legal awareness programmes and initiatives that are inclusive and accessible to everyone.
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