Chhattisgarh has taken the lead in the country in protecting the livelihood rights and assets of families of prisoners who were sole breadwinners. The state legal services authority has come up with legal aid clinics in jails to ensure such prisoners and their struggling families get quick legal assistance, whether civil or criminal.
The unique plan, implemented in Durg and Raipur in the second week of this month, will soon be extended to other prisons in the state.
“No serious thought has ever been given to such issues. Why should the right to livelihood guaranteed by our Constitution be snatched away from anyone or school going children become dropouts if the sole breadwinner of the family languishes in prison,” said Chhattisgarh high court judge and chairman of the state legal services authority, justice IM Quddusi.
“The initiative will provide quick legitimate relief. A team of para-legal volunteers (trained in the jail) and panel lawyers will be constituted to extend legal support,” he added.
The legal clinics in Raipur and Durg jails have 10 trained para-legal volunteers and two panel lawyers each.
If a Chhattisgarh resident is in prison in another state, the team will coordinate with legal services counterparts and intervene.
An aggrieved prisoner — unable to fend for family or protect property from being usurped — can lodge a complaint at the legal clinic and the jail superintendent will forward it to the police. A prisoner’s family can file the complaint too.
“Such complaints will be monitored by the legal aid clinic and pursued with support from the district legal services authority,” said justice Quddusi. The clinics will also take up issues of bail and parole.