Ration to legal: Tele-law scheme extending all help during COVID-19 lockdown

New Delhi, Apr 29 (PTI) From a daily wager in Punjab who needed ration to a man in Tripura abused on a messaging group for challenging fake news, several people are using a 2017 tele-law scheme of the government to get help and legal advice during the coronavirus-forced lockdown.

The law ministry scheme was launched to help people in rural areas get pre-litigation legal advice from a panel of lawyers over phone. But now, calls are being received from people in need of assistance for other problems arising due to the curbs imposed to contain the spread of the respiratory infection.

The lockdown was initially imposed from March 25 to April 14. It has now been extended till May 3.

According to a top official of the law ministry, when people call up the service's local centre, they are put through the panel of lawyers who answer their queries.

The department has documented eight cases where people were helped through the tele-law scheme.

Prem Kumar, a resident of Punjab's Moga district, had called the local centre saying he had no money to buy ration. Panel lawyer Aksh Basra gave him the government helpline number. According to a Department of Justice official, ration was delivered at his doorstep by the local administration.

People like him living nearby and facing similar problems were also provided assistance, the official said.

In Tripura, offensive remarks were posted against Sanjoy Debnath after he questioned a post on a WhatsApp group which claimed that several people who flew in from Manipur were coronavirus infected, the department said.

Based on the advice of a panel lawyer, Debnath approached the local police station with a complaint and printouts of the conversations. The person who posted the alleged fake news and the offensive remarks was made to apologise, the department said.

The tele-law initiative was launched on April 20, 2017, with an aim to provide legal advice in villages through common services centres (CSCS). A pilot project started in 1,800 CSCs in 11 states has now been expanded to 115 aspirational districts.

'The scheme has been a big boon for citizens during the challenging time of COVID-19. The scheme has picked up momentum over the last few months. Its coverage has expanded from 1,800 CSCs to 29,860 centres,' the official said.

Over two lakh beneficiaries had enrolled for legal advice, of whom nearly 1.95 lakh beneficiaries have received counsel.

'Of those benefitted, 65 per cent belong to marginalised sections of the society,' the official pointed out. PTI NAB NSD