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Next 75 years should strike balance between rights and responsibilities of citizens, says Smriti Irani

The true test of a democracy is ensuring that justice reaches all its children, the Union minister said as she shared her desire for a just future for women and children

Our Bureau, PTI New Delhi Published 14.11.21, 04:49 PM
Smriti Irani

Smriti Irani File picture

The next 75 years of independent India need to be equally about the responsibility of citizens towards the community and the nation, and not just about rights, Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said on Sunday.

She was speaking as a guest of honour at the valedictory ceremony of the six-week-long 'Pan India Legal Awareness and Outreach Campaign' by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

The minister said that while the focus since independence was on rights, she was hopeful that the forthcoming years would strike a balance between rights and responsibilities.

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, judges of the Supreme Court Justice UU Lalit and Justice AM Khanwilkar along with Attorney General KK Venugopal were present at the event.

Irani lauded NALSA for the campaign, which started on October 2 as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of India's independence, and emphasised that free legal aid in the country is not charity but a right.

The true test of a democracy is ensuring that justice reaches all its children, the Union minister said as she shared her desire for a just future for women and children.

That in the three phases from October 2 to the 14th (of November), 70 crore Indians and their lives could be touched upon, (the campaign) gives a message to our nation that free legal aid 'ehsan nahi adhikar hai' (free legal aid is not charity but a right). For that NALSA and the Hon'ble Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court have our gratitude, she said.

Irani noted that the country will celebrate Constitution Day on November 26.

"We must ponder for a while and recognise that these 75 years have been about the exploration of our rights, the next 75 years need to be equally about responsibility towards our communities, towards self and towards our nation.

"'I'm hopeful that the forthcoming 75 years strike that balance between rights and responsibilities, the Union minister stated.

Speaking about the campaign, she shared that merely between October 30 and November 7, the outreach was extended to over five lakh villages, two lakh outreach teams were constituted and over 1.2 lakh programmes saw the attendance of 6.5 crore Indians.

The culmination of your efforts of awareness and outreach campaign is just a manifestation sir of your promise that justice would be denied to none and will be made available to all, she said.

The Union minister also announced a new workshop and working engagement in collaboration with NIMHANS National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences-- for those who want to enhance the quality of justice which is to be delivered to our children .

Irani said she reflected on the appeal by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit to have a court that recognise how difficult it is for a child who undergoes trauma to engage and receive justice .

From January 8 till February, we invite the participation of everybody who seeks to legally protect our children. For that, they are introduced to the mental health and legal dimensions of forensics.

"We have endeavoured to ensure that our duty holders understand what affects a child's decision on abuse disclosure and reporting, she said.

The programme, she shared, would make an endeavour to develop a methodology and skillset to elicit abuse narrative from a child without further traumatising the child .

It was also shared that over one lakh duty holders in child care institutions accessed counselling under a programme called 'Samvaad' that began a year and a half ago under the aegis of NIMHANS.

While much has been spoken about the 800 million Indians who have received free ration, much is being celebrated about the one billion plus (COVID-19) vaccine doses. There have been stories that have been left unsaid," she said speaking of the project launched in collaboration with her ministry.

"Not only children who are in need of counsel in our child care institutions but also duty holders who were under immense stress were reached out to. Our endeavour was to ensure that those in need of counselling know that there is someone a phone call away, the minister said.

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