Thursday, February 29, 2024

Justice at the Click of a Button

By Sanjay Raman Sinha

In a first, the India Legal Research Foundation has launched an App, which will bring legal aid to the needy. Legal luminaries applauded the move, which would give easy access to justice

Recently, the India Legal Research Foundation (ILRF) launched its multi-lingual app called the India Legal App. It was formally launched by former Chief Justice of India MN Venkatachaliah, the chief patron of ILRF and India Legal. It can be used in six languages—English, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and Punjabi.

Incidentally, ILRF is a non-profit organization committed to the cause of bringing justice to those who need it, but cannot afford it. It is a social commitment which the Foundation is fulfilling.

More than a thousand budding lawyers, senior advocates, legal students and journalists joined the online event. Top legal luminaries, academicians and prominent personalities from the legal fraternity also participated in the online launch function held at Bengaluru.

At the launch, Justice Venkatachaliah congratulated ILRF for this initiative and said: “The India Legal App will benefit a wide range of consumers, including a large legal community of 1.2 million lawyers and half a million students, judges, courts and law teachers. India Legal has pioneered this remarkable legal services agenda in keeping with its broad and enlightening ideology. I’m grateful to Rajshri Rai for her commitment to the cause of justice. This portal, properly used, can infinitely enlarge the outreach for legal aid, advice and legal services. The App will help in disposing of around 70% of new cases.”

India Legal App is a legal helpline for citizens. After more than a year of brainstorming and copious in-house research, a special team formed by India Legal designed and put into public use a special App covering a wide gamut of legal matters. This is not only for the judicial community, but also for students and the general public. This self-contained software package allows users to install it on their mobiles or tablets to perform specific tasks.

Attorney General R Venkataramani hailed the India Legal App, and said: “Endeavours such as these will go a long way in understanding the needs of justice for different sections of the community. It is important to reach out to the most deprived sections and translate the access to justice for those who need it the most. I thank the India Legal Research Foundation for creating a think tank and a framework of services which will grow visibly and plentifully.”

The India Legal App is the latest addition to ILRF’s expanding bouquet of public service outreach on pro bono, non-profit platforms. These include regular seminars and conclaves.

Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India, congratulated the ILRF team and said: “At a critical juncture, India Legal Research Foundation has stepped in with the legal app which has the potential to fulfill and satisfy the legal needs of people. In doing so, it is fulfilling its duty towards the nation and the Constitution. I can say with no hesitation that ILRF has been working in tandem with the policies of the government and done yeoman service in actualising the pro-people policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Over the years, a host of legal luminaries and prominent personalities have joined hands with ILRF in its social endeavours. I assure you that the government stands by the organisation and will make every effort to join hands with it in its social
commitments and efforts.”

In his introductory note, India Legal magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Inderjit Badhwar said that the whole concept of the App was access to justice, which combines delivery of justice, fairness of the justice system, safeguarding the independence of the judiciary, the collegium system and the rights of the undertrial.

Badhwar recalled that in 2016, ILRF had conducted its first conclave, which was chaired by President Droupadi Murmu and the entire Jharkhand High Court attended the event.

Calling it a “rare” App that translates into reality the quest for justice, Badhwar said the endeavour would go from strength to strength benefitting the common man. The India Legal App is a path-breaking legal helpline that allows every citizen to access high calibre legal help from the safety of his home at the touch of a button, he added emphatically.

The India Legal App can be installed by any individual on his/her mobile to directly communicate with a lawyer. The India Legal App is a path-breaking legal helpline that allows every citizen of India to access high calibre legal help from the safety of her/his home at the touch of a button.

The App is the brainchild of Senior Advocate and ILRF Chairperson of ILRF Pradeep Rai. Rai said: “This App is close to my heart. It will support a lot of people who are underprivileged and who do not have access to justice. This facility will extend to even those without mobile phones. The touchstone of this App is the talisman of Gandhiji wherein he said that whenever you plan something, think about the last person in the society who is going to benefit from it. The first goal of this App is to resolve disputes and for that to go primarily for mediation. If that doesn’t work, then we should go in for litigation. By using this App, we can bridge the gap between those who need legal assistance and legal professionals who can provide it. It is imperative that we embrace this innovative platform to ensure that justice is not just a privilege for a few, but an inalienable fundamental right for all.”

Enabling access to justice is a big challenge for the judiciary and the government. With technological innovations and now with the India Legal App, this last mile connectivity has become a reality.

Justice UU Lalit, former chief justice, underlined the need for access to justice and the relevance of India Legal App in this context. He said: “Access to justice has always been a cause dear to my heart. In the course of my work, it was the guiding principle along which I worked. Taking judiciary and justice to the doorstep of the underprivileged and marginalised has been the principal endeavour of our justice system. From the Supreme Court to lower courts, the doors have always been open for impartial justice. However, systemic difficulties have made access to justice challenging. The India Legal App will fulfill the need of the hour. At the click of a button, a needy person in the most far flung place of the country can access a host of legal services and fulfill his legal needs. The application can cut down legal costs associated with hiring a lawyer and subsequent litigation. As any legal query can be answered via the App, it will enhance the awareness of our legal rights and duties as well.”

During the launch, the first call on the App came from Meerut. An employee alleged that his employer did not give him money. Justice Venkatachaliah directed him to file a case against the employer and to approach the High Court. The second call came from Chennai. A woman, speaking in Tamil, said she was in a live-in relationship with a man who clicked her private photographs and was now blackmailing her and threatening to upload her photographs on social media. Here again Justice Venkatachaliah advised her to file a complaint with the police.

During the launch function, National Law University Delhi Vice Chancellor Prof (Dr) GS Bajpai said: “Both India Legal and ILRF have done a stellar job in the legal field so far. This App was a much-needed initiative, which will contribute to a much larger discussion on the legal profession and technology. There are important components on this App which I find helpful and innovative. These include—Free Legal Aid Advisory Fund, audio video call, drafting legal documents, legal services and legal information. The areas that are being covered are very important, which include litigation support, convinced work, review, research, paralegal support, contract drafting, property matters and will matters.”

The shape of the legal profession will change drastically with innovative technological developments, which will also free them from the physical computer. More such tools are needed for people seeking justice as around 40% of people are unable to enjoy the protection of law, said Bajpai.

Prof Trilochan Sastry, former Dean, IIM, Bangalore, praised the India Legal team, especially its Managing Director Rajshri Rai for the novel initiative. He hailed the App for providing the services in six languages, saying that a majority of people in India could not avail legal aid as they did not know English and also due to various other reasons. He suggested that the younger lot of legal professionals could pitch in to improve access to justice.

Manoj Mishra, president, Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (SCAORA) congratulated the India Legal Research Foundation for the countrywide launch of the App. He said that the Foundation has always been at the forefront of providing high quality legal aid and assistance to those who were unable to afford it. He said: “ILRF has always remained committed to making justice accessible to people through strengthening existing avenues and evolving newer means to achieve affordable, quick and satisfactory settlement of disputes and I believe it is this commitment which gave birth to the idea of developing an App to provide legal assistance with the simple click of a button.”

Slowly, this facility will extend to even those without mobile phones. They can avail of this service through their nearest common service centres or Jan Suvidha Kendra/ Setu/e-Seva Kendra/Pragya Kendra.

Rajshri Rai, who is also the editor-in-chief of APN News, and under whose leadership the App took shape, said: “Language barrier was one of the reasons for limited access to justice. The multilingual App will provide access to justice to people in their own language.” She added that the inspiration for the App was the common man and his need for justice. “Our aim is to provide access to justice to one and all. We want to make the quest for justice as inexpensive as possible so that the very needy can have access to it. The India Legal App will certainly fulfill this need.’’


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