19 January, 2015

Rangpur, A Successful Pilot District, December 2014

Last Updated: 19 January 2015

 

In 2014, the RangpurDistrict Legal Aid Committee (DLAC) received an average of 41 new applications per month, 37% more than its 2013 average. During the same period, the number of disposed legal aid cases more than doubled, from 20 in 2013 to 53 in 2014. These levels of intake and disposition signal significant improvements both in citizen awareness of the government legal aid system and in the ability of the District Legal Aid Office to manage cases. These improvements are rooted in initiatives implemented in partnership with NLASO and USAID’s Justice for All Program (JFA) as a pilot District.

 

More Efficient & Transparent Office Management—The Rangpur DLAC holds quarterly meetings with panel lawyers, judges, and judicial  officers to identify obstacles to citizen access to legal aid services and to the efficient delivery of these services. Facility improvements have been introduced to make the District Legal Aid Office a welcoming environment for citizens. A sitting area and clean water are available for legal aid clients. The District Legal Aid Committee, with support from USAID’s Justice for All Program and its sub-grantee partner AID-Comilla, recovered lost data on legal aid caseload since 2002. The data is now being maintained regularly to track new applications and the processing of legal aid cases, enabling the DLAO and staff to handle growing caseload without falling back on reporting and tracking requirements.

 

Improved Satisfaction with and Use of Services—The Rangpur DLAC collects user feedback from legal aid recipients on a quarterly basis through client consultations. These consultations have provided critical information in citizen expectations and perception of the judicial process and enabled the DLAC to gain a better understanding of lawyer performance. Concerns raised by clients are then addressed through stakeholders meetings organized with lawyers, judges, and judicial officers. In addition, the Rangpur DLAC solicits anonymous feedback through the use of a suggestion box to record positive and negative experiences, enabling actions to be taken to improve services and service delivery. Starting in September, all Rangpur DLAC clients are provided a ‘client card’ that identifies them as a legal aid client, enables monitoring of case processing, and records dates for next actions. This practice has been encouraged for all Districts and is progressively being implemented.


Activated Upazila Legal Aid Committees (UZLACs) and Union Parishad Legal Aid Committees (UPLACs)—The members from 8 UZLACs and 76 UPLACs have been oriented on their roles and responsibilities as members of local-level committees and all committees were reported as activated. The DLAO regularly travels to UZLACs and UPLACs to participate in bi-monthly meetings as well as orientations and trainings. In 2014, the Rangpur DLAC received a total of 57 applications from citizens referred by UZLACs and UPLACs.

 

Increased Grassroots Awareness—Information boards have been placed at strategic locations around the court premises. In September, the District Legal Aid Committee used its own funds to print leaflets on government legal aid. The DLAO posts important information for citizens and legal aid users on the Office’s notice board, including a one-pager informing beneficiaries of the documents required for different case categories. Large scale outreach and awareness efforts are underway at the grassroots level through cultural events, drum beating and mobile campaigns, and legal literacy sessions. This quarter, the DLAO attended a courtyard meeting organized with indigenous community representatives to disseminate information about service availability and encourage citizens to come to the District Legal Aid Office in case of legal problem.

 

With JFA support, the DLAO meets with media representatives on a quarterly basis. The meetings have resulted in additional media coverage on government legal aid. Following the quarterly meeting with media in October, local daily “The DainikParibesh” has been publishing an advertisement about government legal aid services with the location of the Rangpur Legal Aid Office and hotline number, free of cost, on a daily basis.

 

The Rangpur DLAC has been a JFA pilot since June 2014. One JFA-funded sub-grantee partner is currently active in Rangpur District, the Association for Integrated Development Comilla, working in coordination with the DLAC and District Legal Aid Officer to activate local level legal aid committees at the Upazila and Union Parishad levels and increase citizen awareness of the government legal aid system and community sensitization of use of remedies in the formal justice system.