The National Human Rights Commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) for law students to visit jails to collate statistics and render legal aid. Plans are on the anvil to extend the pilot project to various other cities across India, NHRC member Rajeev Jain told this correspondent, at the conclusion of a two day sitting at the Sahyadri government guest house.
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) which consists of High Court judges lays down policies, guidelines and frames schemes for the State Legal Services Authorities to implement Legal Services Programs throughout the country. The DLSA will mentor the students in the national capital, Jain said.
It may be noted that some human rights groups have already been performing this service over the last several decades with requisite permission from the authorities in various cities.These include the Prison Ministry India, a Catholic national voluntary organization headquartered in Bengaluru, Karnataka The Mumbai branch which operates from St. Pius X Church Mulund works in five prisons and five children’s homes with a team of 100 volunteers.
NHRC has taken suo moto cognisance of students suicide based on media reports and at Sahyadri, the panel comprising Members Dr M. Mulay, and Jain, Anita Sinha (Secretary), and Surajit Dey, (Registrar, Law) dealt with 200 pending cases of human rights violations in Maharashtra and met with NGOs and other stakeholders.
Mulay described the camp sitting as a “unique concept which has successfully covered 22 states in India.” The state government has paid Rs 32.5 lakhs as relief to victims, he said.
Speaking on how NHRC works towards awareness of human rights, NHRC Secretary Sinha said the statutory body was endeavouring to promote awareness about student internships and flagship programs involving youth across the country.
A statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, NHRC has presented special programs over the years with the Tata Institute of Social Services (TISS) and collaborated on conferences and workshops with NGOs like Nirmala Niketan, the Diocesan Human Rights Centre and other human rights organisations.
NHRC also sponsors research and has conducted training programs for the police and loaned resource persons to organisations. Last year, special monitors and rapporteurs inspected 43 mental health Institutions and women and children’s homes for compliance.
Asked about undertrials languishing in jails for want of bail, the learned panel concurred it was a gross violation of human rights. NHRC has sought data from various state governments.
Sinha informed that the Commission undertakes training programs with law interns and college students, Panchayati Raj institutions , the NSS and Nehru Yuva Kendra volunteers. In addition, initiatives like short film competitions, conferences, and workshops helped increase awareness of human rights, she said.
Apart from annual summer and winter internship programs which are held in May-June and December-January, NHRC also offers opportunities during the rest of the year to students from various streams especially from the law stream, to be attached with the Commission in batches for a period of 15 days.
The internship introduces students to the functioning of various divisions of the Commission. They are also made aware of the nature of complaints attended by the Commission, and the due process followed. Interaction with the complainants is an important feature.
For details, please see the website www.nhrc.nic.in