Saturday, December 29, 2007

Perceptions of LSC

Coming back from the cave exploration trip,(I trust g-man will write a long and nice entry about it) I was having a introspection filled chat with the ThaLaivi about what we see LSC as and why we keep working(Thalaivi for three and a half and me for two and a half years) for LSC.

ThaLaivi was in interact in school and for her, in her first year, LSC was a natural progression from the service oriented nature of her school days. Then slowly, by her second year she realized that it was more of a learning process than a helping process. Apart from learning the law itself, in the course of LSC activities, one also learns a hundred other useful skills. Of course, I have oversimplified what she said and hope she will post regarding the same over here.

When I came into law school, I was told by my cousin that LSC was a great avenue to gain practical knowledge and have a first hand experience of the law. The "learning experience" interpretation of LSC ran in my head till the end of second year. Not that I now no longer believe LSC as a learning opportunity. LSC still remains my greatest source for knowledge regarding law, life and the ways in which one can use law in life and life in law.

Springing from the same idea, that of LSC as a learning experience, at some point I have started questioning my own legitimacy in advising people in such important matters. Though I console myself saying we always give a disclaimer when we are not sure, and how we say we are just students and we'll consult an expert(one of our teachers or alumni) or how we advise them on the law only.

Gradually as I observed how people take my words so seriously and consult me even for non-legal matters, for a short while I was a bit apprehensive about saying things, and that it might adversely affect them if they acted according to my advice not knowing it comes from a half informed source.

Very often I found myself telling people to do things that were obvious next steps in law but seemed absurd and impracticable under the circumstances and looking through the spectacles of their culture and background.

There were two questions that came up
  1. Is what I tell people correct and accurate under law?
  2. Is what I tell people right and useful?
The answer to the first question was kind of easy, I was saying more or less correct things and when I had a doubt I got back to them after consulting the aforementioned experts. There were a couple of occasions where I had made mistakes but there was no damage done to anybody because of that.

The second question is a bit more tough. There are many occasions where I have felt that I am imposing my beliefs on them. Though I have always couched my opinions, even on random matters, in technically correct language i have still done it knowing that what I tell them is taken very seriously. When I first started thinking like this, I also used to think whether it was right to impose these beliefs upon them. As time went by, I just got back to the usual advising without any hang ups about pushing them into a formalistic dispute resolution system which is at many levels alien to them and also in a way challenges the dispute resolution systems they have already been through. Very often these local dispute resolution institutions be it a maulvi, powerful "Silk and mangoes merchant" or a group of elders are great influence on the lives of the people even when they do not go them with a dispute. I have stopped worrying about whether LSC is going to disturb a delicate balance existing within a system. This despite disguised threats from the powerful "Silk and mangoes trader".

Though this is a little in the air as compared to the other posts on this blog, it is not completely irrelevant and without bearing on LSC. in another upcoming post, An LSC member will write about how this question of different understandings of the role played by LSC became important when deciding what LSC activities should be taken up on a priority basis.

-Vikram Hegde

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My first tryst with the Legal Services Clinic...

In the first week of law school I heard about the Legal Services Clinic. An introduction was given to me in our legal methods class by the ‘convener’ and some other members. Soon after an ‘LLP’ was announced. After the initial confusion over what an LLP was, which I later realised was the short form for a ‘Legal Literacy Program’ I decided to go along and see what it was like. We were told that we would teach class 10 students ‘the law’. This seemed to be a very scary idea for me. First of all just into law school I firmly believed that I did not know any ‘law’ and secondly teaching class 10 students for me was a very formidable idea as I did not really consider myself out of school at that time..but I still went along.

Once we started off I realised that we do little skits for the students and teach them the law through that to make it more interesting for them. And to my relief in the first trip first years we were not expected to have any magical knowledge of the law but were just required to participate in the skits. So began my first llp with me acting as a hoity toity housewife who had lost her precious diamond necklace and was blaming the poor housemaid for it. And as the legal literacy program progressed I myself learnt a lot. Coming to law school, it was the first time someone told me how to file an FIR! It is then I realised how important these legal literacy programs were as even some of us first years did not know basic things like filing FIRs. Also participating in the LLPs I realised what a difference these could make and how interested these children were in these LLPs.

-Adhiti Gupta

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rajyotsava Celebrations at the Central Jail

Warm skies and a clear breeze, everything seemed perfect as we made our
way to the Central Jail on the outskirts of Bangalore on November 1st
2007. The occasion was the Rajyotsava celebrations taking place there. As
a part of the ‘We Care for You’ programme, several plays and songs were
being shown to the prisoners. LSC was putting up a play on Plea Bargaining
and RTI. In my four months with the LSC, I had only been part of
Ramnagaram trips and LLP’s. So, I was extremely excited with the prospect
of going to the prison to put up a play.

Upon reaching the prison, we were ushered in by guards and driven by jeep to
the main ground where the programme was taking place. Having been informed
of the entire programme on very short notice, we had not had much time to
prepare. On reaching backstage, we realized that we lacked a few necessary
props. So Vikas, Pranav and I went around to the other college groups
performing to borrow their props. After some convincing, they finally
agreed to let us borrow.

Ours was the first play performed and was a Kannada play set in a prison.
It tried to explain to the prisoners about the aspects of plea bargaining
and RTI through the conversations of the prisoners (played wonderfully by
Vikram, Vikas and Gauthaman). Varum Hallikeri played the legal aid lawyer,
Dipika and Ramya the defence and public prosecutor, Brunda played the
judge, Shruti the sister of the prisoner, I played the part of the jailer
as well as the narrator. However, the one who earned the most applause
from the audience was Pranav who played the chamber clerk. The entire
audience burst into applause and laughter the moment he began saying “CC…”
The entire play went off without a hitch (everyone remembered their
lines:)). After finishing, we had to sit through the rest of the
programme. Several colleges had put up plays, some performed songs. One
particular performance, a street play by BMS College was extremely good.
They conveyed a message about prisoners’ rights through a very well
enacted play.

Songs (Vikram’s jingle about plea bargaining in particular:)), dances and
even a very memorable skit about a drunk, overall it was a very enjoyable
experience. Though it was the prospect of visiting jail that spurred me to
be a part of the play in the first place, the experience proved to be very
satisfying experience and I hope to get more chances to do something like
this in the future.

Nishita (I)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

First time in 3rd year :)

As with most people (a convenient assumption without any attempt at accuracy) in Law School who are participating in a Legal Services Clinic trip for the first time, I ventured on my first trip with some scepticism and not much enthusiasm. In fact, the prime reason for my going on this trip was because in conversation with Vikram (Hegde) a few days prior to the trip, I had mentioned to him in passing that I too would like to get involved in the activities of the Legal Services Clinic. Therefore, when he happened to see me about fifteen minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave, he told me to come along, and having raised the idea myself a few days before, it would have been very impolite for me not to consent.

Thus began my trip to the Murphy Town Corporation School, a Government supported girls only school in Bangalore. As with most Legal Services Clinic projects, this one too involved the enactment of skits and the introduction of several not so simple legal concepts through drama. My initial scepticism rapidly faded when I saw the immense enthusiasm which the members of the LSC, like Gowthaman and Khulali had for the trip. As soon as the bus departed from campus, the "practices" began and roles were quickly assigned. Since most of the members knew the "drill" very well, newcomers like yours truly had to be given a few lessons. That the LSC members handled with aplomb, and very effectively taught us how to tailor our parts in the drama so that the audience, (here the Girls of the School) could appreciate the legal concepts we were teaching them, including the fundamental rights, the right to succession, the right against discrimination and importantly, the right against sexual harassment. Once we got there, the members enthusiasm and commitment showed in the spirited (and judging by the reactions of the girls, effective) performances. It was clear that when we left, the children had been empowered with knowledge that would help them to tap into the arsenal of guarantees which have been provided to them.

But what was more important was the sense of change I felt in myself after the trip. The trip made me, for perhaps the first time, realise that there was a world outside the cocoon which the National Law School teaches most of its students to live in. Divorced from the world of sections and articles that is Law School, I felt a sense of involvement with the practical realities which come into play when the rights which we so vigorously debate (at an intellectual level) have to be employed by the citizen. What was heartening was that some of the girls in the School were in fact aware of several rights and guarantees available and the rest who were not were eager to learn. The receptive faces greatly enhanced the pleasure I got from acting in a few skits at the school. It also added to my thankfulness for shooting my apprehensions and witnessing first hand the remarkable project of empowerment which the Legal Services Clinic has embarked upon.

Hrishikesh Datar (III year)

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Questions...

I was told by a few regular readers of my rants said that the last post seemed like one of the Tamizh mega serials- where at the end of an episode, at a critical juncture- it says thodarum (to be continued) and then had disappeared for a while. So, here goes.

As Gow has pointed out in the previous post, the 2nd day was quite interesting and so were the 3rd and the 4th for that matter. As listing out the topics we addressed seems rather repetitive, I’ll just list out a few questions and general comments.

One of the things that hit me the most was the kind of questions. They were testimony to the fact that they thought about the law- in ways very different from how many of us did. All these questions were asked in earnest and from a very practical standpoint. I am translating some of them from Tamizh and hope it conveys atleast half as much in English.

  1. Sometimes we have heard that 3 or 5 judges decide a case and one of them writes against what the other 4 write. What’s the point of this dissent? Is there any value at all?
  2. Can a lower court judge be punished for deciding a case wrongly if his decision is reversed on appeal?
  3. Isn’t it a fact that a lawyer’s job is to establish the truth? If so when a criminal comes to him and confesses about a crime, shouldn’t he report the matter immediately?
  4. Why is it that we hear no instance of a lawyer being made to pay compensation for wrong advice?
  5. Can I send a FIR through registered post in case they refuse to give me an acknowledgement?
  6. Are Panchayat decisions banned? Why does the court discourage it?
  7. Isn’t it ridiculous that if someone is taken into custody and not produced in front of a Magistrate within 24 hours, I have to go all the way to Madras to the HC to secure the writ of habeas corpus? Why do I have to spend money to do something that must happen as a matter of right? How does it matter if my costs are ordered later on? I might not have money even then and you think I can be running around to get legal aid at that moment? Talk some sense!
  8. The police DO NOT register my FIR…unless I use all possible presurre. You live in an Utopian world if you tell me it’s my right. Its not.
  9. Some employers don’t recruit people against whom an FIR is filed. So anyone can use this to give me trouble? Again, how can I run around to court fighting for my right to equality when my immediate job is important? Maybe they must think before they register it?
  10. It all depends on which political party you belong to at the end of the day- for anything to happen in this state.

I leave it at this for now. I hope some of you would tell me what answers you would have given. Meanwhile, I will continue with more on why this trip proved that law in the abstract is not interesting at al, but associating law with real people to whom it makes a difference is what makes it real :)


The matador halted at the courtyard of the farm house where I was staying . Sixteen men within the age group of 40 to 60 stepped out of the matador. Khulali and I had just got ready after we got up from a deep sleep. Day one was quite tiring, the bus trip to Tiruvanmiyur, the car journey to the farm and the impressive bike journey to Madhur and back, then the preparation for the LLP the next day, till 2 in the night, induced such good sleep, something that I didn’t have for a long time.

Sixteen men marched into the well-equipped training centre of CIKS at the Sukkankollai farm. Having done a good number of LLP’s, there was no nervousness or any sort of hesitation to get onto the stage and get started. An hour of talking by Khulali and me on the difference between civil and criminal law, structure of courts, FIR, COPRA, RTI was followed by a tea break and a question – answer session for another hour. In the first hour, the apt attention from most of them motivated both of us to do a better job. The question answer hour was also quite satisfactory as they were willing to try and use the laws and the cynicism that we encounter generally was quite low. One possible reason could be the fact that, we did not portray law as the panacea for all their trouble. I am sure Prof Nagaraj will be happy that we spoke about ADR methods and the need to not approach the court when talking with each other could solve the problem.

At the end just before lunch, which was delicious, the farmers thanked us and as usual I was in cloud nine :)

The lunch got to be mentioned again, it was good organic food, and absolutely sumptuous- another good sleep inducer apart from a day’s hard work.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

On the Organic Trail- Day-1 Madhur Village, Achirupakkam Taluk, Kancheepuram District

If something is meant to happen- it will somehow happen, however hard you try to avert it. What the last few days has turned out like, is testimony to the above prophecy. A month back I called up the programme co-coordinator , who also happened to be a good friend of mine at this organization called the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) and told him that these vacations, I wanted to spend some time in the rural areas and I did not want to do any law related work. He gave me a few options as to which NGOs or groups I could tag along with and the conversation ended there. Then a week later he sent me what was a very professionally done “program schedule” and said- there was no need to visit any other NGO when the CIKS option existed and said that I could travel to various of their field offices and visit farms, temples in the area but also do a few legal literacy programmes for some farmer groups. To quote from the Godfather, it was an offer I could not refuse and hence…

As this is not the forum to talk about the miracle that is organic farming, I will leave that to another place. For the keen ones- gives all the information you need about the work this organization does.

So yesterday evening we set out to Madhur Village near Melmaruvathur on two motor bikes- Gow and me the happy pillion riders. Oh..I forgot to mention Gow the ever enthusiastic LSC PR person :) We reached the village by 7:50 and the people had already gathered. The first 45 minutes were spent in discussing farming and we were curious on lookers and then the usual embarrassing introductions followed- “Students from India’s No.1 law college..etc.etc”. We weren’t really prepared and since there was not much time, we decided to make it a question answer session after given them a quick session on RTI.

The questions which followed covered a wide spectrum of issues. Validity of a will, insurance claims and hire-purchase agreements, indignant people who couldn’t understand why women were coparceners under the new amendment, whether someone could get a patta under a different name when the title deed was under a different name! The important realization of the day was the potential power of RTI. Many of the queries centered around non-sanction of loans, arbitrary reasons given by the officials of the same, demand of money in excess of what is officially prescribed and so on. And for someone who has been involved in such things for a few years now, the two heartening lessons were that the cynicism regarding institutions dispensing justice had not yet set in very deep into the psyche and the villagers seemed inclined to put these laws into use and derive results. The fact that they were organized groups seemed to give them more resolve and strength.

We began the journey back on the bikes with several jumbled thoughts. Had we helped in any way? Is the “law” as we understand it, something alien to them and does it work contrary to the traditional dispute resolution mechanisms that exist within their communities? An hour was too short a time to find answers to these deeper questions in life. Little did I realize that the very next day had answers for many of these.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LSC is on air

Most Radio Indigo listeners will remember September 2007 as a month during which they woke up to rain and traffic jams every single morning. Every morning? Not really. Not if you count Friday the14th. Because that was the day the Legal Services Clinic was interviewed by Cindu on the very popular breakfast show. As I sat listening, starting 9 O’clock, in Munnabhai style, four LSC addicts – Convener (PB), Honorary lifetime convenor (AG), PR manager (GR) and Legal Adviser (VNM), set the airwaves abuzz as they discussed LSC activities and their experiences with LSC. They told the people how they were surprised by the low levels of legal awareness even among the IT crowd. They told the viewers about the interesting experiences they had in the course of LSC duty. One interesting section was when they told the viewers how to file an FIR.

Thalaivi then delivered the dialogue of the day when she said how she likes LSC because law in the abstract does not appeal to her but associating law with real people to whom it makes a difference and brings about a positive change in their lives makes her happy.

- Vikram

Saturday, September 8, 2007

How often do you get to sit on siezed property?

The LSC team, in this case consisting of the Thalaivi and the token diga, went to Sriram Upahar and had a meal fit for a king. This was the first time I had hoLige in a hotel. If it was any other day that would have been the high point of the day, but today was not to be everyday.

I shall leave the funky writing to the thalaivi, and write as a good automaton should. As part of a project to review the working and administration of trial courts, we were to collect data from the city civil court in Bangalore.Monday being a holiday for NLS, we utilised the opportunity to visit the court and get a general overview of the project.

We first went to the Registrar, who was very helpful and had already known that the students from NLS would be visiting.He first took us to the receiving section of the new cases, which was way better than I had expected.

With regards OS suits, one may file a plaint in the relevant counter and pay the requisite court fee. Depending on the prayer, the nature of the suit is determined, whether it is an injunction etc. And depending upon the valuation of the suit, the fee is determined. As soon as it is filed, it is given a Filing Register (FR) number. This is the unexpectedly brilliant aspect of this court according to me - The case goes to court on the same day the plaint is received in the receiving office provided the plaint is filed before 1:00 PM. Plaints filed after 1:00 PM will go for the hearing the very next day.

That was the unbelievable part. I was in dream mode through lunch and through the initial stage of the walk through of the chief metropolitan magistrates court, till one of the assistants there finally said “we had an enquiry section; we closed it down due to staff shortage”. Then going through the run down property section (how often are you offered seized property to sit on?) and just before that, going through pending section of courts, separated from the actual court hall by cupboards, fodder for our study was sitting right there.

I have taken out many evil parts of this entry. Interested parties can contact me for the uncensored version.

Walking through these places I felt the thrill of seeing something most normal people don’t get to see. Looking forward to a big project and tonnes of fun in these very courts, I send this to Thalaivi who will post it on the blog.


Yel Yel P

Its one and a half months into the new academic year and I thought it was time to look back a little. I still remember that day in my first year-the famous law school "SBA Orientation". They all came, one after another and said why their committee was the coolest place to be in. The LSC team also came- I listened and said to myself "that seems like a nice place to be". I have never since regretted the decision made that day. And for the past two years, have been racking my brains to see how to portray LSC as an activity which all first years will want to try doing atleast once. I think we have done reasonably well- if the 1st year turn out for our trips and LLPs are any indication, we certainly have. I hope some of them are here to stay...through a good part of their law school life.

Its interesting to note how I see my role within LSC changing every year. From being awe struck at how those seniors played the battered wife and the 10th std. girl roles so well, it has come to telling a bunch of curious and amused 1st years how they are supposed to be over dramatic and cut their hands and apply the tilak and then explain how thats not a valid way of getting married. They all look amused and doubtful as to how this silly skit would work. But when they actually see the audience reacting to it and enjoying it and making a difference , all of them are happy. And how many ever times I explain the law, use the same old examples again and again- each LLP seems to have its own distinct character with the only common thread being that it makes your day and has the ability to pull you out of the dumps- however deep the dump might be. And today was no exception to the rule :)


Friday, May 4, 2007

A Riot Magnet

Call it pure coincidence or do a field study and come up with some analytical report about how socio-economic forces have caused people to resort to be more than vocal with their protests and how I happen to be in the vicinity since I’m too dumb to stay away, fact remains that I’ve begun to feel a bit like a war reporter. Anybody would, if they happened to be on the ground zero of four fairly violent riots in the span of a little more than two months.

The experience has undergone a transition from scary to funny to pissing off. Every burning bus or window being smashed is more routine now than Déjà vu.

It started in late January this year when with two friends and safely inside a car I passed through an area of town which had just been the centre of communal riots. The excuse in this case was a protest against the hanging of Saddam.

Then in mid February it started again when the Cauvery tribunal came out with its decision, first in Mysore and then in Bangalore I got a taste of it when buses I frequently travelled in and glass facades of buildings I passed every day were destroyed and later when I heard/read about these incidents I realised I had been dangerously close to these incidents when they were going on.

The last one happened on the last day of March, in Mysore where again I was witness to window panes of buses being shattered for almost no reason at all.

When I witnessed the same thing in 2004 an year before I discovered LSC I had seen the incident as nothing more than a few bandanna-wearing youth destroying public property. Perhaps it is the LSC effect or just the Law School effect that I now see this as part of a larger social issue.

- VikramA

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The end of another big event

I'd written a few months back after the NLS team won the KLA Client Counseling competition-but now the bigger news is here. The NLS team consisting of Arun Srikumar abd Sulabh Rewari won the National Selection Round for the Louis M Brown Internation Client Counseling Competition and will now represent India at the international event at Sydney in April 2007 :) woo hooooooooooo

But as a part of the organising team, I am even more happy that everything went off well and there were no disasters. There were a total of 18 teams which participated and more than 25 judges were around to judge the preliminary rounds. It was holiday time and we had very few volunteers around and all my nightmares of the past month were proven wrong with things turning out quite well in the end. I discovered the nicer side of many people and their varied abilities. Interactions with other teams gave me that familiar feeling of why at the end of the day I could not imagine myself studying anywhere but at NLS! and within NLS, nothing could be more important than LSC is :) One of the teams made a very pertinent observation as to how NLS stands out from the rest because there is "initiative from within"- something to ponder over.

Thank you guys...for making it happen.Love you all.

I promise to ramble more often now that it is holiday time.