In a blend of academics with practice, the Legal Services Clinic of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS) made its debut at Aranya Bhavan, in Salt Lake, on Sunday. The clinic will provide free legal counsel to individuals.
“The legal services clinic will bridge the gap with the community,” said N.R. Madhava Menon, vice-chancellor, WBNUJS.
The clinic comprises two retired judges — N. Konar and D. Bannerjea, both faculty members — and 15 students. “It will offer legal advice every Sunday from 12.30 pm to 1.30 pm. We are expecting to shift to our new campus (under construction at Sector III of Salt Lake) in March next year,” Konar said.
State law minister Nitish Adhikari stressed the need for such legal advisory cells. “Court must be the last resort. The Legal Services Clinic will play an important role in clearing all doubts over legal complications,” the minister said.
The Clinic, however, is not unique. The Retired Judges’ Association, with its office in Salt Lake, also provides free legal counselling to the poor. The Association opened its doors on November 3. “Cases have started coming in,” said an official.
Konar, who is also a member of the Retired Judges’ Association, said: “The Legal Services Clinic will work in close coordination with the Association.”
Apart from providing free legal aid, the clinic will involve itself in a number of activities, including raising legal awareness, the ability to access justice through institutions and procedures of law and extending voluntary help to enforcement agencies, including the police.
“We will network with NGOs, the state legal services authority, lawyers and judges to reach out to a wider range of people,” said Swagata Raha, convener, Legal Aid Society, WBNUJS. According to her, they have been conducting legal education campaigns in the nearby villages of Mahishbathan and Polenite since January this year to raise legal awareness among rural women.