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How NLSIU Bangalore’s legal aid cell won $5,000 global citizenship prize

LSC 2013-14: Recognise!
LSC 2013-14: Recognise!

NLSIU Bangalore’s legal services clinic (LSC) has won a $5,000 award as runner-up in the MacJannet Prize of Global Citizenship.

The LSC said in an email: “Legal Services Clinic-NLSIU announces with great pride that it has been awarded the Second Place in the MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship out of 59 nominations from 21 countries! The citation and 5000$ prize recognises the incredible work done by LSC members through the years.”

In the citation for the award, the MacJannet Foundation noted that:

The Legal Services Clinic (LSC) began as an unofficial student initiative at the National Law School of India University with help from senior faculty members and was officially recognized in 1997. LSC works to bridge the gap between the justice delivery system and underprivileged sections of society by organizing legal literacy camps, social action mobilization camps, conducting socio-legal surveys on issues relating to the urban poor and the unrepresented, public-interest litigation/social action litigation, and interacting with social welfare organizations.

By participating in the clinic, students practice the skills they learn about in class and they are exposed to social action work. LSC reevaluates its mission annually, with a focus on projects that provide students a platform to cultivate practical and professional skills. Current goals of the LSC include expanding pro-bono legal services and drafting rules relating to pro-bono work, improving the legal aid policy of the state, and spreading legal awareness. They are also working on an outreach project, which will create legal aid centers across the state of Karnataka.

LSC convenor Basanavagouda commented via email that some of the major initiatives the LSC had undertaken in the last year included:

1. Outreach Project: The objective of which has been to assist other law colleges in setting up Legal Aid Clinics.
2. Published Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ] on Law: Booklet released just a few weeks back which answers common legal issues in Q&A format.
3. Published Guide to Consumer Law: Handbook.
4. LSC-Hijra [Transgender] Community Initiative along with ALF [Alternative Law Forum].
5. LSC's association with the Juvenile Justice Board sittings at the Observation Home, Bangalore. LSC is assisting them with legal research.
6. Juvenile Justice Report: LSC evaluated the implementation of the JJ Act in Karnataka.
7. Legal Literacy and Financial Literacy Programs for School Children, Security Guards, NGO's and Prison Inmates.

He added that three of his personal favourites, amongst the LSC’s projects were:

1. Prison Project: this was started last year, our objective was to provide legal representation to women under trial prisoners at the Central Prison, Bangalore. We set up a panel of lawyers who would represent these under trials who had been languishing in the prison without any legal representation, we were able to refer around 6-7 cases to a lawyer.

I think the most difficult part of this project was in obtaining bail to these under trial prisoners from Nepal and Bangladesh who had been duped by their passport agents and were issued fake passports, they had no contacts with any lawyer here and the State Legal Services Authority hadn't approached them yet. There were also cases of under trial prisoners having obtained bail but did not have the requisite amount to deposit as surety-this is where we faced a lot of difficulty.

2. Outreach Project: This started this AY, the basic objective here was to assist law colleges from underdeveloped districts of Karnataka in setting up legal aid clinics. we selected around 4-5 colleges (Gulbarga, Raichur, Hubli-Dharwad and Bidar) we provided them with basic resources like a guide on setting up, on carrying out LLPs (awareness programs) along with other essentials like posters, bookmarks that we use for awareness programs.

Initially it was a little difficult to convince colleges to take LSC's help, but we were able to convince them. The response later on was good and we eventually managed to convince a few more colleges which will be added on this project in the coming AY.

3. FAQ on Law: Perhaps this is one of the best projects till date. LSC-NLSIU published this Book last month which contains Frequently Asked Questions on Law, it covers more than 8-10 laws in Q&A format (JJ Act, Adoption, Marriage, Divorce, Criminal Law, RTI, RTE, Banking etc), we have tried our best in simplifying the law and the procedures to the common man. We are bringing out a Kannada translation as well in order to reach to greater audience, and the Kannada version should be made available in a months time.

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