FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

1. What is Legal Services ? 13. What is the constitution of Sikkim State Legal Services Authority (SLSA)?
2. What is free Legal Aid? 14. How does Sikkim SLSA spread legal awareness/legal literacy?
3. What are the modes of providing free legal aid? 15. What are the functions of Sikkim SLSA?
4. Who are entitled to free legal aid? 16. What is Lok Adalat?
5. Is free legal aid provided in every type of case(s)? 17. What are the types of cases that are settled in the lok adalats?
6. How should one apply for free legal aid? 18. What are the advantages of settlement of case in lok adalat?
7. What if the person in need of free legal aid is illiterate? 19. Are there lok adalats in the High Court level?
8. Can one obtain the benefit of free legal aid for the purpose of filing bail applications? 20. Are there other forms of alternative dispute resolution forums?
9. Is free legal aid confined only to criminal cases? 21.What is Mediation?
10. Is free legal aid confined to the cases before the subordinate Courts?
11. Where should one approach for obtaining free legal aid?
12. Who are Para-Legal Volunteers (PLVs)?

Answer1:

Legal Service means giving of any service in the conduct of any case or other legal proceeding before any Court or other Authority or Tribunal. It also includes the giving of advice on any legal matter.

Answer2:

Whenever a person is required to approach any Court of law/Tribunal for: (a) enforcement of his right, (b) to redress his grievances, (c) to defend his case etc.;

or

Whenever a person is required to approach any Office for receiving the benefits that he is entitled under the law;

or

Whenever a person is in need of any legal Advice/Consultation;
if such person(s) is unable to engage an Advocate due to economic or other disabilities, or such person(s) is unable to approach the concerned Office due to social, educational or other disabilities;
the State Legal Services Authority would engage/provide an Advocate to such persons from the panel of Advocates maintained by the State Legal Service Authority. The fees of such Advocates, typing/copying charges and other miscellaneous charges would be borne by the State Legal Services Authority. This is Free Legal Aid.


Answer3:

The modes of providing free legal aid are:

    • payment of Court fees, process fees, expenses of witnesses and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings.

    • representation by an Advocate in legal proceedings.

    • supply of certified copies of judgments, orders, notes of evidence and other documents in legal proceedings.

    • preparation of pleadings, memo of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings;

    • drafting of legal documents, special leave petition etc.

Answer4:

Not every person is entitled to free legal aid. There are certain conditions. The following persons are entitled to free legal aid:

(i)         a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe; or

(ii)        any person in receipt of annual income less than Rs. 1 lakh; or

(iii)       a woman or a child; or

(iv)       a victim of trafficking in human being or beggar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution; or

(v)        a woman or a child; or

(vi)       a mentally ill or otherwise disabled person; or

(vii)      a person under circumstances or undeserved want, such as being a victim of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocities, flood, drought, earthquake or  industrial disaster; or

(viii)     an industrial workman; or

(ix)       a person in custody (arrested person/under trial prisoner), including custody in juvenile home or a protective home within the meaning of Section 2(g) of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 or psychiatric hospital.

Answer 5:

No. Free legal aid is not given in the proceedings relating to following cases: 

(i)         defamation,

(ii)        malicious prosecution,

(iii)       election,

(iv)       economic offences and offences against social laws (such as Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956) etc.

Answer 6:

A person falling under any of the category (mentioned in Q.5)  should ideally submit the duly filled and signed application form either at the Office of Sikkim SLSA or to the nearest DLSA or TLSC. The form can be downloaded from this website itself or can be obtained from the Office of Sikkim SLSA at Gangtok or nearest DLSA/TLSC. Once the complete form along with the supporting documents is received, free legal aid would be provided to the applicant forthwith.

 For the persons in custody, a verbal prayer for free legal aid can be made to the concerned Court where such persons (under trial prisoners) are produced. The concerned Court would immediately engage a legal aid Counsel for such persons.

Answer 7:

Such persons can be assisted by Secretary of DLSA/TLSC, panel Advocate etc. Now we have started the scheme of “Para Legal Volunteers” (PLVs). The PLVs who are stationed in the villages can gather necessary information of such applicants and fill up the forms for them. The applicant is required to affix an initial or thumb impression on the same. 

 

Answer 8:

Yes, free legal aid is available for the purpose of filing bail applications also. In every criminal Court, there is a Remand Advocate appointed by the Sikkim SLSA. Whenever a person in custody is produced before the criminal Court, the Remand Advocate would represent such person (if he/she does not have a private lawyer) and as per the circumstances of the case, would file bail applications for such persons.

Illustration/Example: “A” is arrested by Gangtok police for an offence of theft. “A” has to be produced before Judicial Magistrate or Chief Judicial Magistrate within 24 hours, if the investigation is not complete within the said period. There would be a Remand Advocate present in the Court of Judicial Magistrate or Chief Judicial Magistrate when “A” is produced. Gangtok police files an application for police remand or judicial custody of the accused person. At this juncture, the Remand Advocate can make objection to the remand or can file application for bail on behalf of “A”.

 Answer 9:

Absolutely not. Legal aid is provided equally in civil cases to persons falling under the category (mentioned above at Q.5). The benefit of free legal aid in civil cases extends in waiving off the Court fees.

Answer 10:

No, free legal aid is not confined to cases before the subordinate Courts. Legal Aid is provided to the needy from the lowest Court to the Supreme Court of India. Legal Aid Counsel represent such needy persons in the High Courts and also in the Supreme Court of India.

Answer 11:

One can visit the following offices for obtaining free legal aid:

(i)  In the Sub-divisional level, there are Taluk Legal Services Committees (TLSC). Civil Judge-cum-Judicial Magistrates are the Ex-Officio Chairpersons of TLSCs.

(ii)  In the District level, there are District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA). District and Sessions Judges of the respective districts are the Chairpersons of DLSAs. 

(iii)  In the State level, there is State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) at Gangtok.        

(iv)  In the High Court, there is High Court Legal Services Committee, and

(v)   In the Supreme Court, there is Supreme Court Legal Services Committee.

Apart from the above, a needy person can get in touch with the PLVs of their area. The PLVs would guide them to the nearest Legal Services Office.

Answer 12:

PLVs are a group of volunteers raised by the State Legal Services Authority after providing them with basic legal training. They are selected from different walks of life, such as: retired teachers, retired Government servants, NGOs, self help groups, aganwadi workers, panchayats, educated prisoners with good behaviour and serving long term sentences. Since they work in the grass root level, they act as a bridge between the Legal Services Authorities and the public so as to ensure that legal aid reaches all sections of the people.

Answer 13:

Sikkim SLSA consists of the following:

(i)         Chief Justice of the High Court as Patron-in-Chief

(ii)        Judge of the High Court as Executive Chairman.

(iii)       District & Sessions Judge as Member Secretary.

(iv)       Other Members consisting of the Advocate General, Secretary of Finance, Legal Remembrancer-cum-Law Secretary, Director General of Police, Sr. Advocates, Secretary of IPR, Social Welfare Department, DOP, RMDD etc.  

Answer 14:

Judicial Officers in every district conducts legal literacy/awareness camps twice every month. PLVs, NGOs, police etc. coordinate with the Judicial Officers for organising such awareness camps. This apart, legal awareness is generated by Sikkim SLSA by opening legal aid stalls in fairs/melas, publication in local newspapers, radio/FM, local TV cable, workshops, seminars, training etc.

Answer 15:

The functions of Sikkim SLSA are multifarious. However, the basic functions includes:

(i)         providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities of securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities;

(ii)        organising Lok Adalats; and

(iii)       generating legal awareness/literacy amongst the masses.

    Answer 16:

    Lok Adalat is a non-formal and alternative dispute resolution forum wherein the dispute of the parties are settled amicably by way of compromise. There are two conciliators in every lok adalats of which one is a sitting or retired Judge and the other member is a person selected from social workers, specialised in particular field etc. 

Answer 17:

The following types of cases can be settled in the lok adalats:

(i) Any case of civil nature and

(ii) Compoundable criminal cases.

One can approach the lok adalat even at the pre-litigation stage (i.e. before a case is filed in the Court of law). If a case falling under the above category is pending in the Court, the concerned party may request the Court to have the matter referred to the lok adalat.

Answer 18:

There are many advantages of settlement of a case in the lok adalat, some of which are as follows:

(i)   the cases are determined with utmost expedition. The parties would save their time.

(ii)  there is no fees to be paid in the lok adalat. The parties are not required to engage any Advocate. Even the Court fees paid by the parties would be returned, if the case is amicably settled. Thus, the parties would be saving their money.

(iii)  since the award of lok adalat is prepared on the basis of compromise between the parties, they would maintain their friendly relationships. 

(iv)  an award passed by the lok adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil Court. It is final and binding on all the parties to the dispute. No appeal would lie to any Court against the award. There is finality to the litigation.

Answer 19:

Yes, there is lok adalat in the High Court level. In fact, there is lok adalat right from the taluk level to the Supreme Court level. At the taluk, there is Taluk lok adalat. At the district, there is district lok adalat. At the High Court, there is High Court lok adalat and at the Supreme Court, there is Supreme Court lok adalat.

Answer20:

Yes, apart from the lok adalats there are other forms of alternative dispute resolution forums, such as arbitration, conciliation and mediation.

         

                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Answer 21:

Mediation is a non-binding negotiation process in which a neutral third person facilitates the parties to the dispute in arriving at a mutually acceptable settlement. The process is informal where the outcome of the dispute is controlled by the parties themselves. The entire process is confidential. Civil cases, matrimonial and family disputes are best suited for mediation.

 

 

Compiled by:

Karma Wangchuk Bhutia,

  Member Secretary,Sikkim SLSA.
 
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