Public Interest Lawyering at IDIA
P-PIL (Promoting Public Interest Lawyering), an informal initiative that has, over the years, striven to further the cause of public interest through the instrumentality of the law, will now be formally housed out of IDIA. Read more about P-PIL.
- Disability Rights
- Right to Privacy
- Access to Knowledge
- Right to Information
Introduction to P-PIL
P-PIL was created as an informal network of lawyers and law students by Professor Shamnad Basheer (then a Professor of WB NUJS, Kolkata) to further the cause of public interest through the instrumentality of the law.
What distinguished P-PIL from various other public interest outfits was the synergistic pairing of law students and lawyers to achieve shared public interest outcomes. In India at least, there is a significant disconnect between legal academia and the legal profession. P-PIL was meant to bridge this huge gap and also engender some experiential learning for law students, many of whom had no exposure to practical training whilst in law school.
The following range of issues were taken up by P-PIL in the past:
- Helping track sailors who went missing on the high seas, owing to a ruthless network of middlemen who sold them to foreign ships that exploited their labour under minimal regulatory oversight. Unfortunately, we did not get too far and managed to bring home only one dead body across to the grieving parents in India to perform last rites etc. For more details, see here.
- Formulating a disability friendly policy for the conduct of leading law entrance examinations such as CLAT (Common Law Admissions Test) to secure effective access to education for students with disabilities, particularly those that are visually impaired. For more details, see here.
- A public interest litigation (PIL) before the Hon’ble Madras High Court arguing that the current structure of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) was unconstitutional, in view of the fact that the Executive had predominant control over appointments etc. The court agreed with our petition and immediately orderd the government to make all appointments in accordance with the law of the land, and to ensure that the judiciary had pre-eminence in all appointments to the tribunal; and that it was moored on. For more details, see here.
- A PIL taking issue with the fact that the Indian patent office was refusing to furnish information under the terms of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The petition argued that the RTI provisions should trump the rather meagre provisions for information dispensation under the Patents Act. For more details, see here.
- Submission of an exhaustive report on Parallel Imports vis-à-vis the Indian Copyright Law to the respective Parliamentary Standing Committee. For more details, see here.
- A comprehensive impleadment petition in the landmark Delhi University photocopy case that marked a spectacular victory for access to education in India. For more details, see here.
P-PIL Now at IDIA
IDIA (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education) is a pan India student movement to empower underprivileged communities through legal education. IDIA is premised on the notion that access to premier legal education empowers marginalized communities by creating top lawyers and leaders from within.
The project is run on the backbone of highly passionate student volunteers from various law schools who travel across the length and breadth of India to identify marginalized students with an aptitude for the study of law. It then trains these selected students through a rigorous program for the leading law entrance examination, CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) and AILET (All India Law Entrance Test). Once selected to the top law schools, IDIA arranges for sponsorships/scholarships and provides mentorship and academic support to help its scholars blossom to their full potential.
IDIA’s overarching vision is to create lawyers who are CHAMPS (Creative, Holistic, Altruistic Maverick and Problem Solvers). To this end, IDIA has a number of training programme and projects. One is titled Community Lawyering and Problem Solving (CLAPS), where scholars are taken back to their local communities, where they use their legal training (that they have acquired during their time at law school) to help redress some of the pressing issues plaguing their community (to the extent that law can help redress such issues). The idea is that through such community engagement whilst at law school, scholars are able to position themselves as future community leaders while simultaneously partaking in some amount of experiential legal learning (given that they will be aided in this task by IDIA volunteers and practicing lawyers).
It is expected that the new public interest initiative (P-PIL) will complement this CLAPS initiative. However, the key difference is that P-PIL will not be limited to just community lawyering, but aimed at a broader public interest engagement. Illustratively, it will take on a range of cases involving the under-represented and under-privileged; mainly those cases that involve an infraction of human rights and other constitutionally guaranteed rights.
It is expected that a major portion of this work would be done through the lens of the law; and in particular through public interest litigations in courts and policy advocacy before the government and other stakeholders. However, to the extent possible, the aim would be to view issues/problems through a more holistic lens and adopt non legal means for redressal, where needed.
P-PIL Team and Networks:
IDIA, through its P-PIL arm, will build teams comprising IDIA scholars, IDIA volunteers (mainly law students from different law schools), pro-bono lawyers, legal academics and policy researchers from around the country.
The team will also collaborate with other networks such as the various legal aid cells at the law schools and at the high courts etc; and various groups of lawyers that do pro-bono work.
To the extent possible, it will aim to foster experiential (clinical) legal training at the various law schools; and a more robust pro-bono culture amongst the various lawyers and law firms in the country.
1. Filed a PIL to challenge the constitutionality of IPAB
Start Date: 2011
Current Status: Completed
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1. Filed a petition before the Delhi High Court highlighting Aadhaar data breaches
1. RTI Act v. Patents Act
Start Date: 2014
Current Status: In Progress
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1. Forced eviction of slum dwellers in Belaghata, Kolkata
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