Mangalore, Aug 14, 2014: Senior Civil Judge and Member Secretary of District Legal Services Authority Ganesha B, reiterated, that legal aid clinic to provide free legal service to the needy, that was defunct at the district prison, will re-open shortly.
While a clinic is already functioning at the district court premises, the clinic at prison premises had ceased to exist. He stated, that he would appoint an advocate for the vacant post of the clinic within three days and ensure its functioning. The clinic will help the undertrials in the prison to get free legal advice from an expert advocate. He was speaking after inaugurating a legal awareness programme for prisoners on plea bargaining and rights of prisoners at the district jail on August 13.
The programme was jointly organised by Dakshina Kannada District Legal Services Authority, Mangalore Bar Association and District Prison. The accused in the prison are unaware of several fundamental rights they are entitled to. The clinic will guide them on how to go proceed with the case and file appeals in the court. The advocate will be available for the undertrials in the clinic two days a week, the judge said.
“The Dakshina Kannada District Legal Services Authority, Mangalore (DLSA) will depute an advocate to defend an accused in the court, if the accused can not afford to appoint an advocate for himself. Those accused with an annual income of less than Rs one lakh can apply to DLSA through the prison superintendent seeking to grant an advocate. The Legal Service Authority panel will study the credibility and decide on granting the advocate,” the judge said.
Plea bargaining : Meanwhile, it was informed, that as per the direction of the Supreme Court, a district level committee has been formed comprising the DLSA chairperson, police commissioner, prison superintendent and others. The purpose of the committee is to convene tri-monthly meetings and look into releasing the undertrials in petty cases who have already spent time in the prison.
Addressing the inmates, First Class Judicial Magistrate Undi Manjula Shivappa briefed them about the provision available for the prisoners under Section 265 of CrPC. “Due to unavoidable circumstances like poverty or compulsion, an individual might have committed the crime. But, Section 265 of CRPC allows the criminals for pleading guilty and bargain lesser sentence. Plea bargaining can be made in case the accused has committed a petty crime that does not invite life imprisonment or imprisonment more than seven years,” she said.
Advocate Mohan Raj spoke on “Rights of Prisoners”. Bar Association President Ashok Ariga said the prison library will be given legal awareness books (in Kannada) and asked the undertrials to be aware of at least some laws and their rights. Presiding over the programme, Prison Superintendent Ramesh P S said that along with the rights, the undertrials should also be aware of their responsibilities. Meanwhile, a team from Whatsapp group ‘MFriends,’ a City based group, donated books to the prison library on the occasion. There was a general consensus that getting counselling on legal awareness would be better than entertainment programmes for prison inmates.