HYDERABAD: For the first time in India, the judiciary is trying to move forward in a comprehensive manner to provide a single tool to the farmer to tackle the many problems he faces in the process of creating food for all of us. And the seed for this historic movement was sown in Telangana which is now all set to spread across India. The idea is to start Agri Legal Aid Clinics which will be run under the aegis of the state legal services authority through legal volunteers trained at Nalsar University in all the laws related to land, farmers and farming. These volunteers will study the problem, identify the culprit and then make the farmer launch a legal battle to secure his rights. For instance if a farmer suffers loss on account of spurious seeds, then the farmer can drag the seed company to the consumer court for deficiency in service and demand compensation under the provisions of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001. Similarly, the farmer can derive power of law when he faces problems in respect of fertilisers, Pesticides, there are laws related to fertilisers. Even in Marketing of agricultural produce, there are several laws. Again on the issue of land rights and tenancy, there are scores of laws. A farmer, when caught in a problem, will not be able to decipher and analyse the problem to apply the relevant law to secure a resolution. This is where the legal aid clinics and the trained volunteers and the judges of the LSA would come in to rein in the errant parties for delivering quick justice to the farmer either through regular courts or mostly through lok adalats after detailed deliberations with the relevant parties.
In February 2023, Justice P Naveen Rao, the executive chairman of the Telangana state legal services authority (TSLSA) came across the idea of legal aid clinic from M Suneel Kumar the founder of NGO- Legal Empowerment and Assistance for Farmers Society (LEAFS) and the Hyderabad based Nalsar Law University, and took the help of Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan to immediately to launch the Agri Legal Aid Clinic Scheme (ALACS) in the state. Three judges from the Supreme Court, Justice V Ramasubramanian, Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice PS Narasimha, came down to the state in March 2023 to launch it at Janagoan district’s Bammera village, the native place of 15th century Telugu poet Bammera Pothana, who translated the epic Maha Bhagavatham from Sanskrit to Telugu. The idea was an instant success and is spreading its wings all over the state. In the last three months as many as 70 such clinics were set up all over Telangana and many more areas are coming forward. Though the legal services authorities have been serving the people through various schemes meant for the poor and the marginalised, there was no scheme meant exclusively for farmers till now. This must be the reason why the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) and its current executive chairman Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul too expressed keen interest and obtained all the details about the scheme from Telangana LSA. The NLSA which is commencing its All India meet at J&K’s Srinagar from June 30 is expected to deliberate on this idea from Telangana. Our hunch is that this scheme may become a pan Indian model soon and will go to the rescue of lakhs of farmers all over the country, said S Goverdhan Reddy, the member secretary of TLSLA.
Justice Naveen Rao who picked up the agri-legal aid clinics is actually known as digital judge and earned name as a judicial authority who believes in achieving a synergy between law and technology. He has taken pioneering steps in steering the Telangana Judiciary towards the digital era. He played a crucial role in the digitization of the court records and also in setting up display boards for showing in real time the case progress in each court and to make available the same on the internet. He held court in a paperless form using only the digital documents for a few months to test the readiness of the lawyers to participate in digital court proceedings. It was a first of its kind paperless court among all high courts in India. Under his leadership, Telangana became the first state that appointed legal aid defense counsel in all the 33 districts in the state to help those who cannot afford to hire a defense lawyer to defend them at the trial courts. This too was in tune with the mandate given by NLSA to all the state legal services authorities.


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