Para Legal Volunteers
During the year 2009 National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) brought out a scheme called the Para-Legal Volunteers Scheme which aimed at imparting legal training to volunteers selected from different walks of life so as to ensure legal aid reaching all sections of people through the process of Para-Legal Volunteers Scheme; ultimately removing the barriers into access to justice. The Para-Legal Volunteers (PLVs) are expected to act as intermediaries bridging the gap between the common people and the Legal Services Institutions to remove impediments in access to justice. Ultimately, the process aims at Legal Services Institutions reaching out to the people at their doorsteps rather than people approaching such Legal Services Institutions.
The western concept of 'Paralegals' cannot be totally adopted to Indian conditions having regard to illiteracy of large sections of the community: The hours of training as applicable to a regular academic course, cannot be adopted. It should be more like a bridge course conceptualised in a simple and need-based module. The PLVs have to be trained in the basics of different Laws which would be applicable at the grassroot level with reference to their day-to-day life, the subtle nuances employed in the working of a judicial system, and the functioning of various other stakeholders like the Police, officials from Social Welfare Department, Woman and Child Welfare Department and other departments dealing with different beneficial schemes of Central and State Governments including the protection officers involved with Domestic Violence and Juvenile Justice Acts.
With the basic knowledge in the laws and other available welfare measures and legislation, they would be able to assist their immediate neighbourhood; Those who are in need of such assistance, so that a person, who is not aware of such right is not only made to understand his rights, but also will be able to have access to measures involving implementation of such rights.
PLVs are not only expected to impart awareness on laws and the legal system, but they must also be trained to counsel and amicably settle simple disputes between the parties at the source itself; which could save the trouble of the affected travelling all the way to the Legal Services Authority/ADR Centres. If the dispute is of such a nature, which cannot be resolved at the source with the assistance of PLVs, they could bring such parties to the ADR Centres, where, with the assistance of the Secretary in charge either it could be referred to Lok Adalat or Mediation Centre or Legal assistance could be provided for adjudication in a court of law; depending upon the nature of problem.