Assam’s NRC: law schools launch legal aid clinic for excluded people

Law schools across India on Tuesday launched a collaborative legal aid clinic for people excluded from the updated National Register Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

More than 19 lakh out of a total of 3.3 crore applicants were left out of the Supreme Court-monitored NRC that was published on August 31. Those who were left out are required to file appeals against their exclusion within 120 days of receiving their rejection order from the NRC authority.

The clinic, named Parichay (Identity) and to be headquartered in Guwahati, is envisaged to function as a “clearing house of litigation and research assistance for lawyers filing appeals against exclusion from the NRC”.

The institutes include Assam’s National Law University and Judicial Academy (NLUJA), the Kolkata-based West Bengal National University of Juridical Science, Hyderabad’s National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), Delhi’s National Law University and National Law University of Odisha.

Other law schools are also in the process of formalising their collaboration with Parichay, a statement issued by the collaborative said.

“Parichay will assist lawyers in drafting appeals, conduct research on pertinent questions of the law, assist in training lawyers and paralegals, and generate documentation on the functioning of Foreigners’ Tribunals. Law students will work with lawyers to ensure that they are able to file effective appeals before the Foreigners’ Tribunals. Parichay will also collaborate with civil society to provide legal aid to communities,” the statement said.

‘Unprecedented initiative’

NLUJA Vice-Chancellor J.S. Patil termed Parichay as an unprecedented collaboration among law schools in the country. “We believe that this is necessary to ensure that no one is deprived of their right to legal representation,” he said.

His NALSAR counterpart Faizan Mustafa said: “After the NRC, absence of effective legal aid would mean that many persons would be rendered Stateless without due process. An innovative collaboration like Parichay is essential to prevent such a humanitarian crisis.”

The founding team of the clinic includes National Law University’s assistant professor Anup Surendranath, Jindal Global Law School’s assistant professor M. Mohsin Alam Bhat and Kolkata-based lawyer and research Darshana Mitra.

Parichay will work with teams of student volunteers across the country. Students will be selected through a selection process to constitute a core team and a pool of volunteers for research and drafting. The core team will work with the programme director to coordinate Parichay’s activities between lawyers and student volunteers, the statement said.

Each collaborating university has appointed a faculty adviser who will coordinate on behalf of the university with Parichay.

“Parichay is an extension of the commitment of the National University of Juridical Sciences to the provision of legal aid, to fulfil the constitutional mandate under Article 39A of the Constitution of India. While the Assam government has assured that legal aid will be provided to all, an exercise of this scale requires the participation of law schools and civil society,” said N.K. Chakrabarti, Vice-Chancellor of National University of Juridical Sciences.


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