Report No. 114
6.20. Liaison Officer.-
India is a society governed by rule of law. It is an accepted maxim that the society should be governed by laws rather than by men because even the best of men can in a given situation act in an arbitrary manner. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of laws. At the dawn of independence, Indian society was a feudal society vertically hierarchical in character and more or less based on exploitation of class by class. The Constitution envisages an egalitarian society in which justice, social, economic and political will inform all the institutions of the national life. Basic transformation of the society was to be brought about by law. Sociology of law thus acquired a dominant consideration. Numerous laws have been enacted towards equitable redistribution of wealth, abolition of caste domination, eradication of untouchability, removal of poverty etc.
Numerous laws have been enacted for the amelioration of the conditions of the rural poor. Part IV of the Constitution has now received its legitimate recognition.1 If by mere enactments of laws, a basic transformation of the society can be ushered in, this country should have achieved its goal long back. It has now dawned on all concerned that mere enactment of laws is only the first step in the direction of social transformation. After the requisite laws are enacted, the execution and implementation of the same is the next step, in order to undertake effective implementation of laws, the knowledge of the benefits, rights and duties enacted in the laws must percolate down to the persons to whom these laws would apply. Our advance towards free compulsory primary education and expansion of adult educational programmes has been shown to be halting.
There is still a large segment of society who can be styled as illiterate. Enactment of laws have still a colonial flavour. Knowledge of law is the preserve of technocrats, namely, judges, lawyers and Law academics. The unfortunate fall-out of this situation is that those for whose benefit the laws are enacted have no knowledge of these laws. Legal literacy and legal awareness are recent phenomena. If people for whose benefit the laws are enacted are unaware of it, it is not possible to expert them to claim the rights conferred by the laws or agitate for the same. Even if knowledge of rights grow upon them, they have to take steps to translate the benefits into reality. Different types of courts have been devised as media for implementation of the laws.
It is a sad experience noted by kiumerous authors on the subject that for want of legal literacy and awareness of rights the beneficiaries of laws have taken no steps to enjoy the benefits. The result has been that while the statute book shows numerous laws enacted for the benefit of the weak, the down trodden and the needy, in terms of benefit, the balance sheet is highly unsatisfactory. The question that must be posed is: why this has happened? Two things stare in the face. The first is, as stated earlier, want of knowledge about rights but the second and the worst is incapacity to take recourse to litigative process to enjoy the benefits of the rights. This report at this stage is concerned with the second part.
A discernible tendency which has attracted the attention of sociologists and social workers, is that the rural poor are reluctant to approach the court. The reason for this reluctance appears to be that the litigative process is so expensive, so formal, highly technical and dilatory, that a daily bread-earner can ill-afford the luxury of it. The second disturbing reason that manifested itself is that the fight between the seekers of the benefit of law and one from whom the benefit is to be snatched is so grossly unequal that in the end on account of the class structure of Indian Judiciary, the member of the weaker section is generally the loser. By the combined operation of these two formidable reasons, it appears that the rural poor are ill-equipped to enjoy the benefits conferred by the laws. In such a situation, enacting the law becomes at best a paper exercise or at worst a cruel joke.
Even when a highly informal forum is set up at the doorstep of the consumer of justice, it is feared that that by itself would not allay the apprehension of the rural poor in seeking redress by recourse to court. If an individual suffers some harm, occasionally, he takes courage to seek redressal of the wrong done to him. But when it comes to mass violation of group rights, the scenario is distressing. Organised labour may have shown a tendency to vindicate its rights. The concern of the report at this stage is about the rural poor who are generally unorganised and who are ill-equipped to have recourse to court. Should the Commission overlook such .gross violation of group rights? Should it wait for groups to awaken themselves and approach the court? If it does not come about, should the society fold-up the hands and turn a blind eye to such violation of group rights?
The Commission is of the opinion that time has come where a mechanism must be provided for invoking the courts' jurisdiction for redressal of violation of group rights. The group may be mobilised to take recourse to the forum. Even if the group cannot be mobilised on the ground that it is defused and scattered, it must be treated as a State obligation under Part IV of the Constitution to set up an authority whose duty is to move round villages regularly and as soon as it comes across violation of individual or group rights, on their behalf, to take recourse to the court. A Liaison Officer must accordingly be appointed, posted and attached to each Gram Nyayalaya, who would not be a part of the Gram Nyayalaya.
It would be the primary duty of the Liaison Officer to tour villages within his jurisdiction regularly, to contact people belonging to poorer strata of the society, to ascertain from them whether certain benefits which have been conferred by the statutes are made available to them, to collect data where breach comes to his notice and then motivate the group to have recourse to the Gram Nyayalaya and failing which to himself becomes the petitioner on behalf of the deprived group to seek the benefit. A statutory provision shall be made not permitting his locus standi to be questioned by the party against whom the action is commenced.
When such a dispute is brought before the court, Gram Nyayalaya will have power to call for information from experts, records from the concerned government department and assistance of non-governmental social service organisations. The Gram Nyayalaya must be empowered to seek assistance of any institution or organisation operating within its jurisdiction for carrying out welfare activities for the benefit of the rural poor. Accordingly, a Liaison Officer with a legal background should be appointed and attached to each Gram Nyayalaya.
The State Government shall draw up a list of non-governmental voluntary organisations operating in rural areas for carrying on welfare activities for the benefit of the rural poor. The information shall include the names of office bearers, object for which the organisation has been set up and its speciality in the field of welfare activity. Every Gram Nyayalaya will be furnished a copy of the same. It would be open to the Gram Nyayalaya to enlist services of the office bearers or other workers of the organisation to assist it in bringing about the reconciliation between parties before the adjudication proceeding is undertaken. The List can also be useful in selecting the Panel of lay Judges. This will make the participatory process far more effective.
1. Article 31C of the Constitution.