The Madhya Pradesh High Court issued guidelines about the effective implementation of the NALSA (The National Legal Services Authority) Scheme, 2015, and issued directions for completion of inquiry relating to a complaint filed regarding the construction of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
Facts of the Matter
The petitioner Ramu Chaudhary, registered a complaint on the Chief Minister Helpline Portal regarding the Sarpanch, Secretary, and other officers of the Gram Panchayat, about embezzlement of public fund in the name of construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission, but neither toilet have been constructed nor has any amount for construction been received by the beneficiaries.
According to the petitioner despite registering a complaint, no action was taken. Aggrieved, the petitioner filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
The Bench constituted by Justices Sheel Nagu and Anand Pathak observed that cleanliness and public hygiene are important especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is the solemn duty of the District and Local Administration as well as local self-government to look into the effective implementation of NALSA Scheme, 2015.” The Court stated that the NALSA Scheme, 2015 is built on the foundation that “poverty is a multidimensional experience and is not limited to the issues of income," it stated.
The Court also observed that “the State and District Level legal Services are expected to be cognizant of the myriad and unique ways the vulnerable and marginalized groups experience poverty.”
After analyzing the legal provisions of the scheme, the court held that:
"As referred in the Scheme of 2015, poverty is a multi-dimensional experience and it includes basic services including sanitation, etc. and when a duty has been cast upon Legal Services Authority as per the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 and Scheme of 2015 then if any complaint is received by the Legal Services Officer from complainant / Scheme Beneficiary then such complaint like the present one can be taken care of by the District Authority an as per Clause (9), (10) and (11) of the Scheme of 2015 by the District Authority and even by the State Authority."
It was further noted that the court is receiving many complaints about the poor implementation of MGNREGA and the Swachh Bharat Mission.
“Clause 10(3) of the Scheme of 2015 providing the option of choosing between the Persuasion (with the relevant Department) or Petition (to file appropriate legal proceedings). In this case, the appropriate legal procedure under Scheme of 2015 may include a complaint to Lokayukta, if it falls within the authority of the agency, or private complaints against the person who made the mistake or submit a petition on behalf of the complainant under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution as public interest litigation,[" it noted.
After perusal of the NALSA Scheme and to address the exigencies faced by people, the Court issued guidelines: -
- If any complaint is received regarding inaction, improper execution, corruption, or any related matters within the scope of the Legal Services Administration Act of 1987 and the NALSA (Effective Implementation of Poverty Alleviation Schemes) scheme 2015, then the District Legal Services Administration (DALSA) will actively deal with the situation according to clause 9, 10 and 11 of the schemes of 2015;
- The State Authority/District authority can initiate appropriate legal proceedings by filing a complaint with the Lokayukta office by clause 10 (3) of scheme of 2015, or can file a private complaint or petition against the person who made the mistake if the subject matter requires so by way of a Public Interest Litigation under Article 226 of the Constitution of India;
- State Authorities are requested for enacting appropriate regulations by the provisions of the 1987 Act, especially following Section 29A, to effectively implement the different plans of the Indian government/state governments belong to the NALSA (Effective Implementation of Poverty Alleviation Scheme) scheme,2015. In addition, the request is made for preparing software/mobile applications (mobile applications) to record complaints received and their results; and
- District authorities and their office Bearers are expected to organize awareness/training programs for panel lawyers/paralegal volunteers regularly constructively and proactively to make them aware of the concept that they have to act as social therapists while taking into account the responsibilities assigned. The Secretary of SALSA will coordinate and direct all these awareness/training programs".
The Court disposed of the matter and directed the respondents to look into the matter and complete the inquiry.
Title: Omnarayan Sharma v. State of M.P. & Ors