New Delhi: Law schools in India launched an initiative called Parichay on Tuesday, a “legal aid clinic” which will assist persons excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
Parichay will assist lawyers in drafting appeals, conduct research and train lawyers and paralegals. The clinic will also 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,” a statement issued by the law schools said.
The final NRC was released on August 31, excluding over 19 lakh people. Those excluded will have to file appeals against their exclusion within a period of 120 days from receipt of their rejection order.
Institutions that have collaborated for the initiative include National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam, West Bengal National University of Juridical Science Kolkata, NALSAR Hyderabad, National Law University Delhi and National Law University, Odisha. Other law schools are also in the process of formalising their collaboration.
“The clinic will function as a clearinghouse of litigation and research assistance for lawyers filing appeals against exclusion from the NRC,” the statement said.
Headquartered in Guwahati, 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. Applications are welcomed from all law students across the country. Each collaborating university has appointed a faculty advisor who will coordinate on behalf of the university with Parichay.
Professor J.S. Patil, the vice-chancellor of National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam said, “This is a historically unprecedented collaboration between law schools in India, and we believe that this is necessary to ensure that no one is deprived of their right to legal representation.”
Professor Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor of NALSAR Hyderabad said “absence of effective legal aid would mean that many persons would be rendered stateless without due process”. He said Parichay will help “prevent such a humanitarian crisis”.
Anup Surendranath, M. Mohsin Alam Bhat and Darshana Mitra are part of the founding team of the clinic. Parichay will also conduct documentation of the NRC exercise. Based on this documentation, Parichay will generate policy recommendations that can inform legal and policy discourse on citizenship laws in India, the statement said.
Parichay is being supported by the collaborating law schools from within their legal aid budgets, and also looks forward to the participation and support of the larger legal fraternity and civil society. Parichay is currently inviting applications from students to be part of its core and volunteer team, and will start working on research and appeals from mid-October.