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The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 is an attempt to address the lack of access to justice and courts of law of the historically marginalized and destitute. The Act forms the skeleton by which institutional mechanisms were created to give out free legal assistance and representation to those in need. In keeping with the tenets of the Legal Services Authorities Act, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) sought to start up legal aid clinics in each of the law colleges across Delhi. Thus, in 2012 the Legal Services Clinic of Law Centre-1 was inaugurated, with the intention of putting students at the forefront of spreading legal awareness and inculcating a desire to assist the needy and underprivileged. Involvement with the Legal Services Society and its main functions offers students both a practical insight in dealing with often frustrating realities of the Indian legal system, as well as pushing students themselves to be changemakers that may positively impact society. The following activities are at the heart of what the LSS is about, and are submitted for your consideration:
- Community Outreach Programmes
- Legal Aid Clinic Sessions
- Street Plays
- Miscellaneous Project Work in coordination with the DSLSA.
- COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMMES
Our community outreach programmes are conducted in slums, jhuggi jhopris, cluster settlements, and unauthorized colonies of Delhi. These areas are mainly populated with poor daily wage labourers, migrant workers, almost entirely working in unorganized sectors. During the outreach programmes, which occur on Sundays, volunteers walk through the area and interact with residents, enquiring about their problems, legal or welfare related. The programmes take between 2 and 3 hours on average for volunteers to cover the prescribed areas.
For the 2017-18 academic session, the LSS has conducted 10 community programmes, of which 1 was a Mega Outreach Programme.
- 10th September 2017 – 84 Lane, Civil Lines (near Khyber Pass)
- 23rd September 2017 – K-Block, Jahangirpuri
- 15th October 2017 – Indra Colony & Rampura, Punjabi Bagh
- 5th November 2017 – Shaheed Sukhdev Nagar, Wazirpur Industrial Area
- 12th November 2017 – Ambedkar Basti, DB Gupta Road, Jhandelwalan
- 19th November 2017 – RPF Line Slum, Daya Basti
- 21st January 2018 – 84 Lane, Civil Lines (near Khyber Pass)
- 25th February 2018 – Gulabi Bagh Slum (near DDA Flats)
- 18th March 2018 – Camp No. 4, Jwala Puri, Nangloi
- 1st April 2018 – Anna Nagar Slum, near Indraprashta Metro Station, ITO
- Planning & Coordination
Selection of locations for conducting Outreach programmes are done by the Outreach Head on the basis of data from the Election Commission of India website, to get a rough idea of the population density of prospective areas. Subsequently, the Outreach Team conducts an on-site inspection in order to get an idea of safety, problem areas, potential logistical issues and other unforeseen circumstances. The Team also consults local RWA officials (where available), NGOs, residents, community elders and pradhans for their cooperation and involvement. Prior police intimation of conducting the problem in the concerned area is mandatory, in order to ensure the safety and security of the volunteers during the programme.
- On The Day
Before embarking on the outreach programme, volunteers are briefed by respective Heads and Team Leaders of the area, various security measures, how to approach residents, behaviour and conduct during the exercise, how to fill the ‘Outreach Form’ (see Annexure A), what information is to be relayed regarding the LSS Clinic and their functions, and of what assistance the DSLSA and volunteers can provide. Volunteers are most importantly told to communicate residents’ right to free legal aid, as well as of relevant social welfare schemes that could assist the residents based on their demographic details. During Mega Outreach programmes, teams also refer people to the campsite where DSLSA Panel sit, who provide on-the-spot legal assistance and consultation.
- Following Up
After the outreach, volunteers scrutinize the Outreach Forms, containing the details and relevant information of the approached residents. Volunteers are then assigned to the respective residents on a 1:1 ratio, where they are tasked with taking the necessary action in order to provide relief to their case, be it writing complaint letters to the respective authorities, researching on relevant provisions of law, accompanying clients to the relevant DSLSA District Office in order to apply for free legal assistance.
THE LEGAL AID CLINIC
The Legal Services Clinic of Law Centre-1 was inaugurated in collaboration with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority on the 25th of August, 2012, and has been functioning from the 1st of September onwards. Within three months of its opening, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority certified the Legal Services Clinic of LC-1 to be the Best Clinic in the University of Delhi. Open every Saturday, from 10 am – 1 pm, clients approach the Clinic either seeking assistance with a legal issue or grievance they have, requesting legal representation in a case against them, requesting a change of an existing legal aid lawyer, or even for legal advice on various issues. The sessions are conducted with a Panel Advocate provided by the DSLSA, assisted by student volunteers, and supervised by faculty members. Currently, the attending Panel Advocate is Mr. Vinay Rathi, who has been with us for the last 9 months.
- Referrals from Outreach Programmes
The Legal Aid Clinic is heavily reliant on the work conducted in the community outreach programmes in so far as they help spread awareness about the existence of a free legal aid clinic along with details like the address, office landline number and timings. In many instances, clients that turn up have found out about the Clinic from their own friends and relatives who were present during the outreach programmes. Other times, volunteers directly refer residents to the Legal Aid Clinic for consultation and assistance.
- Documentation & Case Preparation
The Legal Services Clinic goes through a meticulous and methodical process of documentation, tracking, and case preparation. A client visiting the Clinic is first interviewed by a volunteer, noting their name and contact details, following which a detailed ‘Client Information Form’ (see Annexure B) is filled, containing all the relevant details related to the client’s legal issue, nature of the case, relief sought, and advice given. After gathering the basic facts of the case, the volunteer then briefs the Advocate, who in turn advises the client. In cases where there is non-performance of duties on part of government officials or public authorities, students write an application to the respective authorities seeking immediate redressal. Otherwise, general applications to the DSLSA for free legal assistance or a change of lawyer are also filed. Relevant documents of the client, along with the detailed ‘Client Information Form’ are compiled and attached along with the application for greater ease of understanding of the Frontal Officer at the DSLSA.
After the Clinic ends, Paralegal Volunteers (PLVs) are assigned to a case in order to provide any assistance necessary, be it reminding clients of next dates of hearing, accompanying them to the DSLSA Offices or Courts, or finding out information they may ask about. The PLV is the conduit by the which the client can get access to free legal assistance. Additionally, the PLV is to constantly report back to the Clinic Head, as well as maintain a ‘PLV Case Diary’ (see Annexure C), which is a record of all the interactions between the PLV and Client, with updates on next hearings and requirements. The central database is kept and maintained by the Clinic Head, who tracks the current status of all the clients that consulted the Clinic, and updates the register after contacting the assigned PLVs.
- Current Status
Since its inception the Clinic has received more than 400 clients over the last 6 academic sessions, with more than 230 cases involing legal issues. Between the 2012/13 – 2016/17 academic sessions, a total of 194 clients with legal issues have consulted the LSS Clinic. 60 cases pertained to Family matters, 37 cases related to Property disputes, 21 were on worker compensation/unpaid wages, 16 related to fraud, 5 related to theft. Out of all these cases, 3 cases have conclusively been resolved, 68 cases have been closed. 22 cases are yet to be admitted in Court after being referred to the DSLSA, while 84 are ongoing trial/mediation. 17 are untraceable. Taking into account the current academic session of 2017/18, a total of 59 different clients have consulted the clinic, out of which 6 are property disputes, 9 are family disputes, 18 are criminal disputes (assault, theft, murder, mental cruelty), 13 are compensation claims. Till date, 15 cases of the 2017/18 session have referred to the DSLSA, 5 have been resolved out of court, 13 are closed, and 15 are ongoing.
- STREET PLAYS
The Skit and Play Society of the LSS has been performing in different parts of Delhi with the aim of raising awareness on various themes ranging from Legal Aid, Prisoner’s Rights, Transgender Rights, among others. The society began performing from July 2017 and has performed at 11 plays in the 2017/18 session. Some of the plays have been organised in coordination with the DSLSA for which an honorarium of Rs. 600-1000 has been provided to each performer. The list of plays is as follows:
- Karkardooma Court – Right to Free Legal Aid
- Rohini Jail – Prisoner’s Rights
- Tihar Jail – Prisoner’s Rights
- Malkaganj – Right to Free Legal Aid
- Azadpur – Right to Free Legal Aid
- St. Xavier’s School, Rohini Sector 18 – Senior Citizens’ Rights
- Kendriya Vidyalaya, Vigyan Vihar – Transgender Rights
- St. Michael School, Rajendra Nagar – Child Rights & Drug Abuse
- Faculty of Law, Delhi University – Right to Free Legal Aid
- Zakir Hussain College – Women Empowerment
- Satyawati College – Sexual Abuse, Child Abuse, & Domestic Violence
The plays generally receive positive feedback from the public. Many viewers on watching these plays realize that many of them are entitled for free legal aid, especially women and children. A special moment arose during the play on Transgender Rights when a transgender member of the community came forward and shared how he was able to connect with the every scene and act of the play, feeling as if it was taken from his own life.
The performers too take away many benefits, heartened by the obvious change and value they have added to the audience members, who have learnt something new and helpful. They have not only been made aware of various issues plaguing society but have also learnt about ways to tackle them. The knowledge of various rights and entitlements derived from these plays instills a belief in them that they can use this information and improve their lives.
- PROJECT WORK IN COORDINATION WITH THE DSLSA
Under the direction of the DSLSA, the Legal Services Society and its volunteers also participate in project work over and above free legal assistance. The following are some of the activities conducted by the DSLSA in which LSS volunteers participated:
Bank Help Desks
Volunteers were tasked with offering general assistance to customers lining outside banks, paying special attention to older as well as poorer citizens, filling out forms, cheques, deposit and withdrawal slips. Moreover, the volunteers were encouraged to educate visitors on the benefits of e-payments, e-wallets, and online transactions, including the use of popular phone apps like PayTM and BHIM.
After more than a 2 year gap, the Delhi Legal Services Authority organized a Paralegal Volunteer Training Workshop for students of Law Centre-1’s Legal Services Society. The workshop spanned 2 days, and 171 students attended seminars on law held by members of the DSLSA. Lectures on Criminal, Family, and Labour Law, and their relevant statutory provisions were all keenly received by the students. Mr. Dharmesh Sharma notably held an illuminating lecture on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Additionally, some seminars also focused on topics like improving one’s communication skills, and Mr. Vikas Chandwani provided a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable session. Ms. Simran Shaikh talked at length on transgender rights and issues. Mr. Sachin Puri, a Senior Advocate also taught important parts of the Civil Procedure Code and the process of filing injunctions.
Traffic Training Programmes
In preparation for the Traffic Rules and Road Safety Awareness initiative, volunteers initially underwent training for three days, being taught various aspects of motor and pedestrian rules, like duties towards persons crossing roads, towards other drivers, wearing a seat belt, helmet, understanding road signs, etc. The volunteers were then posted in areas around North and Central Delhi, like Delhi University, Model Town, Pragati Maidan, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Rajghat, ITO, Naraina, and Bhagwan Das Marg. At red lights, volunteers interacted with those passing by, explaining the existing provisions for motor vehicles, as well as the guidelines for pedestrians. The recent increase in vigilance over following traffic regulations also meant that punishment for violating laws, which are a crucial part of regulating road safety, were also brought up by volunteers. The awareness drive was received very warmly by the citizens on the streets.
National Lok Adalats
On February 11th, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority, under NALSA, conducted a National Lok Adalat, and 55 PLVs from Law Centre-1’s Legal Services Society participated, posted across 11 districts. The Lok Adalat is an alternative dispute redressal mechanism, where disputes can be settled amicably without the need for litigation and the long, often arduous procedures of law. Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Under the said Act, the award made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any court of law. As of September 2015, more than 15,14,000 Lok Adalats have been organized in the country since its inception. More than 8.25 crore cases have been settled by this mechanism so far.
Aadhaar Card Registration Camp
On encountering an increasing frequency of citizens who had not yet registered for their Aadhar Card, the Legal Services Society conducted an Aadhar Card Registration Camp on the 18th of February, held within the LSS Clinic itself. The camp received a modest response, with 70 people coming to register themselves.
Children’s Home Visit
In a visit to the DMRC Children’s Home (near Sabzi Mandi), volunteers recorded observations and recommended possible solutions. The members noted that the children, who were brought to the home either by the police or various NGOs. were staying in clean and hygienic facilities. 53 children out of the 143 present were currently receiving an education.
Legal Services Day
On account of Legal Services Day, the LSS organized an event in college was organized which included seminars on RTI and PIL, the launch of Newsletter of LSS and a Quiz on the theme of Constitution and Legal Services Act.
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