KARACHI    -   Sindh Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla on Tuesday informed the Sindh Assembly that accused persons who cannot afford their litigation expenses in criminal cases were provided free lawyers by the concerned courts.

Furnishing a statement and answering lawmakers’ queries during Question Hour in the provincial assembly on behalf of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah who also holds the portfolio of law, Chawla told the house that the provincial government had allocated an amount of Rs3.435 million under the head of law charges to disburse the fee of the advocates for the poor under trial prisoners who could not afford to engage lawyers for their defense due to financial constraints.

Replying to a written question by Grand Democratic Alliance’s member Arif Mustafa Jatoi, he added that the provincial government through its law department embarked upon a public-private partnership with Legal Aid Society, a non-governmental organisation, to continue its flagship project titled “Sindh Legal Advisory Call Centre”.

The minister said that the SLACC Helpline 0800-70806 operated 24/7 and callers may record their queries after live hours which were from 9am to 5pm. “Response on the recorded calls is given to the caller next day”, he added.

He said that free legal advice was given by the experience and senior lawyers on any legal matter in a language chosen by the caller.

The minister told the lawmakers that each and every legal advice was overseen and checked by a former judge of the Supreme Court and the caller’s identity and queries were kept confidential.

To a query put up by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf member Rabia Azfar Nizamani, Chawla added that model courts were established in the province for expeditious disposal of the pending cases. He said that the government would welcome proposal from the opposition for speed justice.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement member Javed Hanif asked the minister as to what measures were being taken for the release of those poor and helpless convicts who were still languishing in jails for a long time due to non-payment of the fines imposed on them. Pakistan People’s Party member Faryal Talpur suggested to the minister to call the list of all those convicts who were not released due to non-payment of fines despite completing their respective jail terms.

Replying another question, the minister said that total eight labour courts were operating across the province of which five l were in Karachi and one each in Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana where in all 1,074 cases were decided from July 2018 to December 2018.