Internship@ HRLN (Human Rights Law Network), Kolkata

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By Swarnali Chanda, GNLU

It was in my 2nd semester when I hardly knew anything about fixing internships in good places.

After getting to know about this NGO called HRLN (Human Rights Law Network) from my fellow batch mates who had already worked there, I wrote a small write up(this was a requirement for online application to the NGO) and the very next day there was a confirmation mail from them.

On a fine evening on May 2009, I went to see the location of the office and found out that most of the people in the office were less than 30 years of age and they are quite warm and welcoming. I was asked to join office the next day.

In the beginning there was not much work that I was given other then drafting petitions. But within a span of 2-3 days I saw myself talking to everyone of them in the office as if they were my friends.

Initially I was asked to see client counselling but as I sat with the counsellor and clients, even I was addressed sometimes and asked for suggestions by the clients. It made me feel like an actual counsellor.

Within a week, I with the help of my co-internees successfully drafted a writ petition to be filed in the High Court of Calcutta. I was once asked to be present in the Trial Court and ask for adjournment of a case. That was my first direct interaction with the judge in an actual court room.

It obviously was highly exciting and gave me immense pleasure. I interacted with clients directly and suggested them to overcome real life difficulties.

I was also sent to another NGO which aimed at helping AIDS victims to collect some required information once. It has been more than a year now, but I still remember the warm treatment we got in that NGO as well.

It was fun going to the HRLN office every day. Even if I was given clerical work sometimes, I felt so connected to the organization that I even enjoyed doing those. I along with my co-internees from other law schools used to enjoy our lunch break together. Sometimes that also included the employees.

Suddenly I found out that there were quite a few names which were added to the list of my friends. Having a chatting session with all the employees and co-internees at the end of the day was a regular practice which we all enjoyed very much.

My internship with the HRLN was for just one month i.e. May 2009. But it dragged me again in December 2009 when I had no internship at hand. I went there just to meet the people I worked with but I ended up asking them allowing me to work with them once again.

This time it was without the incentive of any certificate. I can feel the bond with HRLN, Kolkata and its employees till today. It was the most fabulous internship experiences I have ever had.

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Comments Till Now

  1. I read lots of experiences of law students in HRLN – Kolkatta, Bhopal, Delhi or Mumbai. But I wanted to know that if anyone knows whether HRLN, Shimla accepts law students for internship or not. I tried calling them but in vain and had also sent a mail weeks ago. got no reply there also !! Anyone ??

  2. anonymous says:

    there is an associate in a law firm called global legal associate her name is… she is very silly to work with so dont work under her.

  3. Protik Prokash Banerji says:

    Dear Sam

    It is entirely your decision what you want to discuss or whether what is legal or illegal should be dismissed. However as a practising lawyer with some standing at the Bar, who has had a fruitful series of experiences with interns over the years, I believe that we who do take interns and try to train them in law, legal ethics and life in general, have a responsibility to highlight what is legal and what is not. While I agree that we do not want a distorted truth, is it not important to point out that certain things are illegal and should be addressed internally so that neither the organization taking the interns nor the intern himself/herself gets into trouble?
    In this case the intern herself will get into trouble if the blog stays as it is. Firstly I do not think that HRLN Calcutta chapter actually authorized her in writing to appear for it in Court and seek an adjournment. So in the eye of law, her act in asking for adjournment herself is not only illegal but amounts to personating a lawyer and appearing before a Court without being enrolled under the Advocates Act, 1961 and otherwise than as a client in person.
    What do you think the consequence of this will be for her?
    So responsible site management requires that the relevant part of the blog be omitted, and as Tanuj said, the matter taken up with HRLN.

  4. me interning at HRLN, guwahati chapter. Though relatively smaller than a delhi or a bombay chapter… but it is a great experience nevetheless and people are really nice 🙂

  5. @Swarnali: Very nicely experience n words are put together.

    @Pratik: I dn’t want to get into the discussion of what is legal or illegal, however none of us want a distorted truth. So, i completely disagree with ur suggestion of omitting some of the part of this blog.

  6. Dear Sir (Protik Da),
    This is a prevalent practice all over India.

    It happens mainly in the trial courts where the insistence on dress code is not that strict. Consequently even the judge cannot understand whether the person arguing before him is an advocate or an intern

  7. It is not just HRLN…this is a prevalent practice…asking interns to appear before Courts to take passovers or adjournments…i was also asked once (though ultimately i did not appear) … and i know of instances where my friends were asked to appear during their internships as well.
    I agree, this is illegal but without knowing the facts in full we cannot speculate either.
    This not only shows the fault on the part of the people who ask interns to appear in Court but also proves failure on the part of the Court machinery that anyone in an advocate’s attire can appear in court. (more so in lower courts)
    I am studying law and economics…i only think that economically speaking, wouldnt it be a bad law to punish interns asking for passovers/ adjournments? (agreeing that it is per se illegal in any case)

  8. Protik Prokash Banerji says:

    I am slightly surprised that an intern in her 2nd semester, that is, one who was not an advocate, was allowed by HRLN to ask for adjournment in a Court. As an intern, is she eligible to directly interact with the Court? Unless HRLN was appearing “in person” in the matter, where too as an intern she should not have appeared, there should not be any occasion where the client (not appearing in person) seeks adjournment and not its/his learned advocate.

    I would strongly suggest that this sentence relating to her seeking adjournment be omitted from the blog. It is not merely unethical for her to have appeared, but strictly speaking not legal either.

    • Dear Sir (Protik da),

      Thank you for your comment and I understand your concern. However, this is the intern’s experience, unsoiled and unadulterated, and the ideal remedy would be taking this up with HRLN after confirming the facts with the intern (the writer of this piece). Will revert on this soon.

      Our endeavor through the ‘my internship’ column is to tell, through the experience of law students, what all does an internship entails. In the process we hope to help students make informed decisions about their internships and make legal internships in India better and more professional.

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