Project Description

In 2002 the legal wing of the Sahyog Trust, ‘Human Rights and Law Defenders’ (HRLD), was established to intensify the work on issues related to Human Rights. HRLD has been set up in Pune as an independent unit and intervenes legally when there is human rights violation. HRLD defends human rights by opposing violations, strengthening enforcement mechanisms, sensitizing the public, and campaigning for constitutional and legal reforms. Since its initiation, it is the mission of HRLD to fight a broad battle against gross Human Rights violations.

Areas of work

  • Legal aid to under-trial prisoners
  • Women’s rights
  • Children rights
  • Rights of the disabled
  • Dalit Rights
  • HIV/AIDS and Law
  • Environmental Law: “Forum Against Noise Pollution”

Strategies

HRLD has developed effective and innovative solutions to achieve its aims and has been building specialized initiatives around issues. Recognizing the potential of effective partnerships, HRLD works closely with other human rights and development organizations. HRLD uses the following strategies:

  • Legal Aid: Providing access to justice for the vulnerable through:
    • Legal intervention and representation for individuals, by filing suits for victims and defending their cases in front of the court (mostly pro-bono)
    • Filing complaints to the various commissions set up for better protection of human rights like the National Human Rights Commission, the State Human Rights Commission, and the National Commission for Women, etc.
  • Empowerment of the peer group through:
    • The creation of law literacy among potential or actual victims of rights violations and their stakeholders: via campaigns and workshops
    • The provision of legal consultations and guidance: in direct dialogue, via phone or different forms of media advocacy
  • Conducting and Raising Legal Awareness by:
    • Specific training for the potential/actual rights violators (police staff, personnel of other official institutions) or persons whose jobs are dealing with rights violations (e.g. protection officers, lawyers, doctors)
    • Public campaigning to promote Human Rights education in the civil society and official institutions: in the form of hearings/audits, media advocacy, demonstrations, etc.
  • Capacity Building and Expanding the Access to Justice by:
    • Building up a network of local NGOs that are dealing with various rights-linked issues and lawyers who are willing to provide a part of their services pro-bono (to provide help for people outside Pune)
    • Interacting with the media and sensitizing them about human rights violations
    • By educating and raising up an own cadre of social lawyers
  • Promoting legislative changes by:
    • Reviewing existing laws that pose a threat to respecting human rights.
    • Taking suo moto action and filing Public Interest Litigations (PIL’s) when there are rights violations that concern public interest
    • Campaigning for constitutional and legal reforms and participating in drafts and re-designing of legislations
  • Research and Documentation:
    Documenting case studies and Human Rights-related developments, as well as paper clipping of concerned issues.

Sustainability:

This project will only become more effective with time as we keep it going and the larger the network grows.  We will try to keep spreading our fellows across all of the districts of Maharashtra and eventually throughout the nation. In doing so, we will be giving these young lawyers a start and improving the lives of the members of their communities. Additionally, as the program continues, it will hopefully attract more attention and applicants, giving us a larger pool from which to draw out fellows.

Proven track record of the organization towards building a cadre of lawyers to work with socio-legal perspective:

  • 2 days workshop organized for lawyers in Pune in June 2009. There were around 40 lawyers who attended the workshop from 22 Districts of Maharashtra.
  • The workshop was organized to build a network with lawyers across Maharashtra to sensitize them on issues of human rights and encourage them to take up cases of marginalized groups to take up cases on a pro bono basis.
  • Some of the lawyers from this network have shown their willingness to work on socio-legal issues if they are given extensive training on various issues of human rights.
  • There are students from various universities in India interning with us. We give them exposure to various issues of human rights through interactions with experts and field visits. This is to inculcate the values of human rights.

Currently, we are providing fellowships to young aspiring socio-legal lawyers to meet the bare necessities like accommodation, food, and local travel. With this initiative program, we have been sustaining aspiring lawyers from families who are not in a position to support the son or daughter in their education and this important endeavor. Our mission is to help the young socio-legal lawyer to use the law as a tool for social change and to expand access to justice and give the chance to young people to learn how to use the law as a tool for social change.

Fellows of the Year 2011 – 2012

  1. Advocate Amit Shinde (SANGLI)
  2. Advocate Prasad Kashid (SOLAPUR)
  3. Advocate Roshini Wanawade (YAVATMAL)
  4. Advocate Savita Khotre (AKOLA)

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