The Year in Review: Legal Aid Committee

Members: Devansh Arya (Convenor), Aroon Menon (Co-Convenor), Surabhi Khattar, Hemant Kothari, Danish Malik, Sonal Sarda, Priyanka Hazarika, Tarun Agarwal, Tanya Rajwade, Vrinda Vinayak.

 

 

The Legal Services Committee (2014-15) is perhaps one of the least-known committees on campus, largely due to the fact that most the activities they conduct are off-campus. Here’s a review of everything they did during the past year.

  • Orientation Sessions
    The Committee conducted orientation sessions to familiarise the first- and second-year students with the objectives of the Committee, sensitise them to the plight of those less fortunate than others, and encourage them to actively participate in legal aid initiatives. The first of the two sessions that they conducted was a talk by Mrs. Asha Menon, Member Secretary, National Legal Services Authority who discussed the need for legal aid in this country, how local authorities and institutions providing legal services carry forward their mandate, and the manner in which students can pursue such activities. The second such session was an interaction between the students and members of Child Rights and You (CRY).
  • CRY Club
    A Cry Club was set up on campus following the expression of interest of a few students on campus. The students conducted regular visits to the neighbouring Bharat Vihar to help create awareness about child rights, assess the specific needs of the children in the area and aid them satisfy these needs to the extents possible, and conduct sessions or classes to help them in personality development, academics, dealing with social problems, etc.
    The committee coordinated visits to Bharat Vihar, where an enrolment drive was held. The children in the area have been mapped and the CRY Club is in talks with the local government school to help children who have henceforth been absent from school to enroll as students and start attending classes.
  • Collaboration with Counsel to Secure Justice
    The committee entered into a collaboration with Counsel to Secure Justice, a non-profit organisation in Delhi which provides free legal support to survivors of sexual violence during criminal proceedings, as well as advocates for an effective and compassionate criminal justice system. Their primary project partner is HAQ: Centre for Child Rights. Most of their work is centred around victims under the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The committee has successfully carried out a process for recruitment of Research Assistants from amongst the students. The RAs will assist CSJ in conducting studies and research work.
  • Operationalising the Legal Aid Clinic
    The committee is currently working towards a revival of the existing legal aid clinic at the University. The clinic was officially inaugurated in 2012, but has since been dormant. The  Committee has finally started operations in the new office space, and is working towards setting up a fully functioning legal aid services clinic. Efforts are being made into reworking a final draft of the clinic’s Constitution, and in coming up with guidelines for volunteering and membership.
  • The 100 Laws Project
    Another collaboration of great significance is with the Centre for Civil Society through its initiative, iJustice, which has partnered with Tanikella Rastogi Asscociates. The committee is currently coordinating the participation of students in the second phase of the 100 Laws Project, which is an ambitious project to help the government weed out archaic and redundant laws which materially impede the lives of citizens, entrepreneurs and the government. In the second phase, iJustice proposes to identify 25 repeal-worthy laws of the State of National Capital Territory of Delhi and subsequently ask the Delhi government to repeal them.

 

Other Initiatives:

  • The committee is also in talks with Justice and Care, an NGO working against trafficking, to establish a Victim Advocacy and Assistance Clinic at NLU Delhi. Justice & Care is an NGO with international presence and works with victims of female trafficking.
  • It is also in talks with NGOs such as MKSS in order to conduct interactive sessions with students, so as to encourage greater participation in legal aid and social work activities.
  • It is also in the process of creating an online forum in order to enable legal aid societies across law schools in India to come together, share experiences, bring about collaborative efforts, and grow from the same. The forum will enable law schools across the country to record the best clinical practices.
  • The committee is planning to organize a Legal Aid Camp in Bharat Vihar in collaboration with District Legal Services Authority to address the general legal concerns of the people of that locality by the end of this month. The grievances that are registered during the Camp will then be taken up by the Legal Aid Clinic in due course.

 

However, the LSC is grappling with its own internal problems, which primarily concern not following up on the projects that they have initiated, or which are in the works. It is easy enough to bring ideas to the table and conduct discussions of partnering with legal aid institutions; it is an entirely different ballgame to execute such ideas. Problems of implementation are something that the LSC hasn’t been able to overcome yet. Legal aid is an area which has huge potential, and this potential is not being exploited to its fullest extent. The much-vaunted legal aid clinic is also still not functional.

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