The first toll-free number for legal assistance in Punjab was inaugurated by Supreme Court judge justice SS Nijjar at the legal literacy youth festival, a state-level function of Punjab State Legal Services Authority, at Guru Nanak Dev Bhawan here on Saturday.
There was a busy tone on the helpline number, 1968, during the first two attempts made by Justice Nijjar and it responded at the third attempt. Justice Nijjar commented in a lighter vein that the number was busy even before being inaugurated.
Replying to his query, the operator said the number became functional on Saturday morning and that she had already received 35 calls till noon.
Any person seeking legal assistance can call on 1968 and the call would be forwarded to the authority concerned in the respective district.
Justice Nijjar called upon the youth to come forward and extend help in creating awareness among the masses on the existing laws and the availability of legal services.
"Your dreams pave a way to your success as it happened with me. Thus each one of you should dream big in order to achieve the best," he said.
Justice Nijjar also laid the foundation stone of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) centre system. He said 22 ADR centres would be opened in the state; it would help in reducing the pressure on courts.
It is an initiative of the judiciary to try to settle the disputes amicably through ADRs instead of years-long litigations.
Punjab and Haryana high court chief justice AK Sikri said there were around 8 lakh cases pending in Punjab and Haryana and that there were constant efforts to reduce the pendency. He claimed that the disposal rate of cases was higher than the filing, which was a good sign.
Sikri emphasised the role of legal literacy clubs started in association with the youth, saying, "Justice is not just about providing a common man access to the courts but our focus is on providing them an access to justice, which can only be achieved by reaching out to people and creating awareness about the existing laws/rights."
All sessions judges of Punjab were present on this occasion, including Ludhiana sessions judge Gobinder Singh.