In public interest 

Moa Jamir

Two recent developments in Nagaland concerning the third pillar of democracy - the judiciary, have significant potential to enhance public interest and ensure the delivery of justice, particularly to the weaker and marginalised sections of society.

The first was the commencing of the live streaming of the proceedings of the Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench from December 12 in the interest of “transparency, inclusivity, and access to justice.” Since then, the proceedings of 
Court No 1, Kohima Bench are being steamed on the official YouTube channel ‘eCourts Nagaland’ as per the Supreme Court and the Gauhati High Court (Live Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings) Rules 2022.

Accordingly, Nagaland became the third state in the North-East to implement court live streaming, along with Assam and Meghalaya as well as around 6 others High Courts across the country. The Supreme Court of India too started live streaming some of its proceedings on September 27.

The right to access to justice, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution encompasses the right to access live court proceedings, averred a statement issued by the GHC Kohima Bench Registrar after the commencement.   

As noted by the Registrar, access to such proceedings would allow citizens, journalists, civil society, academicians and law students as well as stakeholders to get a better understanding of the functioning of the Courts as well as gain legal awareness, crucial to access to justice and knowing one’s rights.  

The other is the activities of the Nagaland State Legal Services Authorities (NSLSA) and its various district units under the aegis of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). On December 11, it opened its 132nd legal services clinic at the Patkai Christian College (Autonomous), while it was informed while there are 11 District Legal Services Authorities across the State, steps are being taken to establish the same in the remaining districts.

To this end, the DLSAs, first constituted in March 2001, are instrumental in implementing the cornerstones of the NALSA’s edifice - public awareness, equal opportunity and deliverable justice. Besides, the legal services clinics across the states in villages, community centres, schools, colleges and jails, there are 110 Legal literacy clubs in educational institutions so far.

These entities, hopefully, are imparting crucial legal knowledge to the general public as well as giving insights and acclimatising the young students regarding justice, rights and other related issues.

In the context of the delivery of justice, the quarterly National Lok Adalat (People’s Court) could be a good indicator. For instance, during the latest sittings held across the State on November 12, it was informed that there was a total settlement amount of over Rs 3.78 crore. Some of the common issues for adjudication are bank-related such as bouncing of cheques or recovery; Labour disputes; Electricity and Water Bills (excluding non-compoundable) and others (criminal compoundable, matrimonial and other civil disputes).

According to the NSLSA, the Lok Adalat is a system which resolves and settles disputes amicably, including pending cases as well as those in pre-litigation stages, in ‘quick and effective’ by methods of direct talks between the litigants or parties.  There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat, thus serving the objective of providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections.  

Given the state of affairs in Nagaland, often judicial intervention, especially via various public interest litigations (PILs) and writ petitions, have had been instrumental in taking concerned authorities to the task or checking their omission and commission. The sou muto PIL on COVID-19 as well as two related to national highway construction are some latest examples. Others issues raised and adjudicated by various PILs and writ petitions are often of high public interest.  Such actions along with imparting legal knowledge, rights and quick dispensation of justice would go a long way in ensuring that the third pillar serves as ample checks for any overreach by the other organs of the Government – the legislature and executive.

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