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KC College students provide legal help to villagers, undertrials

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KC College students provide legal help to villagers, undertrials

as reported by Menaka Rao in the DNA, June 7, 2010

 

Mumbai: “Sampli sampli, bekari sampli (unemployment is over),” crooned students of KC Law College recently while educating villagers in Mulgaon near Ambarnath about the benefits of the national rural employment guarantee scheme (NREGS).

 

They are members of the KC legal aid committee, which has partnered with the State Legal Aid Services Authority of the Bombay high court to provide legal aid and support to the needy.

 

Formed in 2006, the committee has been helping undertrials, besides visiting villages and nearby towns to make people aware of their legal rights. It has five core members who gather other students when a programme is organised by the high court.

 

“Visiting prison was an eye-opener, as my idea of one was very Bollywood,” said Ruju Thakker, 22, a committee member, who wants pursue criminal law after graduating.

 

The group visits Arthur Road jail and Byculla jail every alternate week. Students are given forms related to plea bargaining and appointment of a lawyer.

 

Undertrials can use their help to fill these forms, which are then submitted in the court. “We encourage plea bargaining (when the accused pleads guilty to get a lighter sentence). A lot of prisoners accused of petty crimes like theft opt for it,” said Vikas Thakkar, 23, another member of the committee.

 

“Most undertrials complain about their appointed lawyers not turning up. When this happens, we inform the legal aid cell, which provides new lawyers,” said another student, Akshata Kamath.

 

Thakkar was particularly moved by one girl’s plight. “A college-going girl, approximately my age, came to us and said she had been tricked by a friend who had asked her to deposit a cheque in a bank using a false name, which led to her arrest. She asked us to contact her parents and said she could not survive in jail much longer,” said Thakkar.

 

Thakkar has also met undertrials like Maria Susairaj, an alleged accused in the 2008 Neeraj Grover murder case. “I was amused when I saw that she was using a Garnier shampoo, and had a box of chocolates by her side. Interestingly, she, too, complained about the terrible jail environment,” said Thakkar.

 

Another student, Varun Saraf, 23, who often plays the role of an undertrial in the skits by the group, said, “We understand the psychology of the prisoners. Earlier, we would be taken in by whatever they said. But now we can figure out if they are fibbing or being honest.”

 

Thakkar recalled her visit to Mulgaon village with justice KS Radhakrishnan. “We prepared a skit with Marathi songs. Since it was a Sunday, a lot of women and children also turned up. It was good fun,” she said. The group spoke about the problems villagers face — lack of electricity, roads etc. “We told them that they can use the Right to Information Act to seek answers from the establishment,” said Thakkar. The students also made charts that explained the process of filing an RTI application.

 

The group also went to Dombivli recently, where a lot of redevelopment is taking place. “Some parts of Dombivli are governed by the gram panchayat, others by the municipality. The laws for the two are different. We told them about their rights in case they opt for redevelopment of their properties,” said Thakkar.

 

In the next academic year, the group plans to work on juvenile justice law and the Maternity Relief Act that prescribes paid maternity leave for women.

 

Source : KC College students provide legal help to villagers, undertrials - dnaindia.com

 

Plz also See : http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/4401-now-become-certified-right-information-activist-five-sessions.html#post15168

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