The Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee
Brief History since 1987
The Gauhati High Court Legal Aid Committee with its office at the Gauhati High Court (Principal Seat) came into being in the year 1987, constituted by the Government of Assam and chaired by the then Hon'ble the Chief Justice Mr. Justice P.C. Reddy with the very purpose to assure and secure equal justice for all, specially to the weaker section of the society irrespective of caste, creed and race. It was the need of the hour to take cheap and speedy justice to the door-step of the economically poor and the needy.
It was not a bed of roses in the beginning to translate the very spirit of the sacred assurances of the Constitution provided in Article 38- A because of multifarious reasons.
Since inception, the Gauhati High Court Legal Aid Committee provided legal aid and services to thousands of underprivileged people who would otherwise have had to spend time and money on conventional litigation. The Lok Adalats saved them against all odds.
The first ever Lok Adalat at the Gauhati High Court and third in a series in the High Courts in India, was held in 1988 with great success which was followed by District level Lok Adalats at every district headquarters of Assam as well as in the other six States of the North East Region. The Committee dealt with all civil disputes and those criminal cases that could be compounded i.e. compromised on mutual negotiation. Thousands of cases including Motor Accident Claim cases and cases involving family matters as well stood disposed without procedural hassles.
Under the able guidance of different Hon'ble Judges of the Gauhati High Court at different times, the Gauhati High Court Legal Aid Committee, with the good Samaritan zeal and missionary spirit of its Executive Secretary Mr. Paritosh Banik, disposed of innumerable cases at the district level in all the seven States of the North Eastern Region. More than Rs. 18 Crores was awarded in the MAC cases till 1996 December disposing of more than 30 thousand cases- both civil and criminal- from 1987 to 1996 December. The respected architects who were mainly responsible for taking the success of the High Court Legal Aid Committee of the Gauhati High Court to its pinnacle, were the then Hon'ble Chief Justices (Retd.) P.C. Reddy, K.N. Saikia, A. Raghuvir, U.L. Bhat, Late Justice B.L. Hansaria, S. Haque, R.K. Manisana Singh, Justice V.D. Gyani among others.
The Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee was constituted in the year 2003 by the Assam State Legal Services Authority vide notification No. ASLSA. 135/2003/1393 dated 05.11.2003 with the following members (a) Hon'ble Mr. Justice Amitava Roy, Judge, Gauhati High Court, Guwahati, as Chairman and (b) Advocate General, Assam, (c) Chairman, Assam Administrative Tribunal, (d) Chairman, or any other Member of the Assam Board of Revenue, (e) The Secretary to the Govt. of Assam, Legislative Department, (f) The Registrar General, Gauhati High Court, (g) The President, High Court Bar Association, Guwahati, (h) Sri N.C. Das, Sr. Advocate, Gauhati High Court, Guwahati, (i) Sri Kamal Agarwal, Advocate, Gauhati High Court, Guwahati, (j) Smti. Nilima Kakati, Joint General Secretary, Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samity, G.N. Bardoloi Road, Guwahati- 3, and (k) Smti. Rina Bora, Debadaru Path, Dispur, Guwahati-6 as members.
The Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee has been holding Lok Adalats, at the High Court level in the cases involving the poor underprivileged groups of people after its constitution. The last Lok Adalats organized by the Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee in the Gauhati High Court were held on 15.09.2007. On that day, three Lok Adalats presided over by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Amitava Roy, Hon'ble Mr. Justice H.N. Sarma and the Hon'ble Mr. Justice H. Baruah were held simultaneously. As many as 117 cases out of 479 referred to Lok Adalats were disposed of by way of counseling and an amount of Rs. 89,43,333 was awarded as compensation.
That apart, the Committee has been rendering prompt and free legal services to the persons entitled to legal services under the provisions of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 through empanelled competent Advocates including Sr. Advocates on request and at its cost. The Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee in collaboration with the District Legal Services Committee, Sonitpur District, organized a seminar on 'Alternative Dispute Redressal Mechanism and its Utility in the backdrop of Legal Services Authorities Act, Rules and Regulations framed thereunder' at Tezpur on 22.09.2007. The legal aid counsel of Sonitpur District, prominent citizens of the District, law students, law teachers, members of the Tezpur Bar Association including its president Mr. H.K. Sharma and members of the District Judiciary and some voluntary organizations from the District participated in the seminar. The key note address in the seminar was delivered by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Aftab H. Saikia, Judge-in-Administrative Department as well as the Chairman of the Assam State Legal Services Authority. The Hon'ble Mr. Justice Amitava Roy, Chairman, Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee, Hon'ble Mr. Justice B.K. Sharma, Judge, Gauhati High Court also participated and highlighted the purpose and utility of the alternative dispute redressal mechanism.
The Committee associates and actively participates in general in all the projects, schemes and ventures undertaken by the Assam State Legal Services Authority under the Act.
For the purpose of sensitization of the common people in respect of the benefits under the Legal Services Authorities Act. Sri H.K. Sarma, Registrar (Admn.) and the Secretary, Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee actively participated in a seminar on 21.08.2007 organised by 'Legal Cell for Human Rights', an NGO, and deliberated upon the provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and shared his experiences with a number of NGOs gathered at the seminar from the North-Eastern States except Sikkim. The Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee participated in the 1st and 2nd All India Meet of the High Court Legal Services Committees orgainsed by NALSA, New Delhi in the year 2006 and 2007 respectively.
The Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee also organized a workshop on 'National Cooperation Dialogue for Development of a Policy for Equitable Access to Justice in North-Eastern Region' on 31.03.2007 at Assam Administrative Staff College, Guwahati, Assam under National Legal Services Authority.
In the 2nd All India Meet of the High Court Legal Services Committees, the Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee suggested, with reference to Section 8 of the Assam State Legal Services Authority Rules 1996, that for fulfillment of the objectives of the Legal Services Authorities Act, the Secretary should be a person without any additional burden so that he can devote his full time and energy with a view to translating the objectives of the Act into action. At present, as per aforesaid Rule, an officer of the High Court not below the rank of Joint Registrar should be appointed to the post of Secretary and as such the Secretaryship of the officer of the High Court is in addition to his duty in the substantive post of Registrar/ Joint Registrar.
The Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee has been trying its best to meet the objectives of the Legal Services Authorities Act with limited resources. The response to its vigilant and timely remedial initiatives is visibly encouraging as the litigating yet indigent masses are increasingly turning to the alternative disposal modes- the avowed objectives of the Act and the constitutional goal.
Gauhati High Court Legal Services Committee