The Year in Review: Legal Aid Committee

imageMembers : Aroon Menon (Convener), Hemant Kothari, Anamika Mishra(Co-Convener), Anu Menon, Priyanka Hazarika, Ravi Arora, Sannutha Shetty, Karishma Shrivastava, Anany Mishra, Himaa

Considering that we are in a college where a majority of students choose to pursue well paying careers, one might assume that we would attempt to clear our conscience while in college about not contributing to society after we graduate to go obey our corporate overlords. And the social work students do is evident around campus, ranging from the classes the IDIA holds for underprivileged students to the volunteers for the Death Penalty Research Project . But oddly, all seems quiet on the Legal Aid Committee front .

Apart from a call for volunteers for a legal aid and awareness camp and another call during the winter break in the odd semester last year, there has been no communication from the committee regarding its activities . In terms of events, the committee limited itself to conducting the legal aid camp and following up the grievances registered during the camp . In order to do so, the committee availed the services of a lawyer from the District Legal Services Authority. Working along with this lawyer, the legal aid committee has apparently worked on a number of cases over a period of two months, helping draft applications among other things .

In terms of involving the student body, apart from the camp, a single session was held with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan . The committee also helped to add to the legal aid database created by the Legal Service Clinic at National Law School of India University.

But apart from these accomplishments, nothing else seems to have been done . On looking into the activities conducted by other leading law schools, the work done by the legal aid committee seems woefully inadequate . Universities like NUJS, GNLU and NLU Jodhpur have adopted nearby villages and conduct various camps to help provide legal aid in these places . One of the reasons for the lack of such activities in our college could be the complete lack of organisational structure being passed on from the previous years . It was surprising to learn that the camp which was conducted last year was the first one ever held .

While the first camp being held and the few cases being handled after it is something to be applauded, it is disappointing to know that the legal aid committee seems to have accomplished little else in the entire year. On enquiring if they faced any difficulties with regard to the administration, one of the members clarified that the administration was quite accommodating in their capacity . However, the Annual Report of the Committee says otherwise. Members of the Committee were forced to provide their personal numbers at the camp to various, causing great inconvenience to them, as the administration was hesitant to provide a permanent landline number to the committee . And while I was told that the supervisors of the committee were enthusiastic regarding new activities, none of these ideas were ever put into action . Even the legal aid camp is something which was already in the works from the previous year .

What is most disturbing is the complete lack of involvement of the student body in the activities of the legal aid committee . But then again, the committee hasn’t really had many activities where more students can be involved . This issue was briefly discussed towards the end of the even semester last year, and the idea of a legal aid society, which would incorporate more interested students, was brought up . But this would not be an easy step to take considering the fact that this would involve amending the constitution of the college, and no steps have been taken to attempt its creation so far . The Committee report has brought the necessity of such a society into the light .

The Committee has recently sent an Annual Report of the activities it conducted over the past year , and also talked about the issues they faced . On further enquiry, it was found that the release of such a report to the entire student body was unprecedented, with a report usually being being presented to only the administration . Apart from this, an interesting fact to be noted about the report is that most of the members of the legal aid committee have not seen the report before it was sent to the student body, even though their names have been attached to the mail which contained the report.

There is a dire need for a more active legal aid committee, one which does not seem to be apathetic to the broader ideals which the committee should aspire to fulfil. While the camp conducted is a new milestone in the (very lacking) history of the legal aid committee, the lack of activities and zero student involvement needs to be looked into . One hopes the new members will be able to do justice to these issues .

 

Correction : The post previously said that the Annal Report was released two days before the committee election, and has since been corrected.

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