Internship @ Human Rights Law Network, New Delhi [Award of Excellence]: These miles may take ages to cover

Name. College. Year of Study

Tushar Khanna; Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, C.G; 2nd Year

Name of the organization. City. Office Address

Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Delhi. It is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) founded by Senior Advocate, Colin Gonsalves.

It performs both pro-bono litigation and takes up various social initiative (educating refugees, educating person regarding human rights etc).

How was the office? Team strength

The office is huge considering that it is the head-office of all the HRLN units in India.

It is basically a four story building with weekly meeting hall and library in the basement, UNHRC-HRLN refugee unit on ground floor, the PR unit and social initiative unit on the first floor, lawyer’s cubical and THE Boss’s chamber on the second floor, and the Accounts department and the residential rooms (basically for guest) on the third floor.

The HRLN team consist of both lawyers and social activists. Approximately 30-35 people work on any given day.

Just like any NGO, its walls sport posters of KNOW YOUR RIGHTS and other common Human Rights violations. Its library is well equipped and all the major commentaries and past publications of HRLN can be found here.

There is another office i.e. its Reproductive Rights unit in the vicinity of the main building, also referred as ‘B-2’. It consisted, majorly of international interns.

Duration of internship

My internship was from 1st May 2014 to 2nd June 2014. But the time period of internship is flexible and can be extended as per the requirement of the intern. Minimum 3 weeks internship is mandatory for all.

Application procedure? Internship Contact Details

Though I got this HRLN internship through my college’s ICC (we followed the same procedure), but one can apply through the procedure given on their website.

The details of which can be found HERE.

HRLN is very prompt in their response to applications for internship and hence you may expect a reply within a week or so.

The application procedure is quiet fair as one is evaluated on the basis of both your CV and sample write-up. It is a no-jugaad internship

Duration in weeks. Days of work per week. Timings.

The internship was for 6 days a week with Saturday being a half day. One is expected to strictly adhere to the timing and they are very particular on this issue (sign-in and sign-out time is recorded).

The timings were 10 am-6 pm (Monday-Friday) and 10 am- 1pm (on Saturdays). Sometimes I stayed back till 8pm in order to complete my work.

First impression, first day, formalities

The HRLN building and location would not particularly give a sound idea regarding the level of the organisation and its work.

First day the interns were required to sign an agreement of non-disclosure and also deposit a sum of 1000 Rs as application fee. After this all the interns (a group of 10-15 interns) were introduced to their team.

Loads of gestures were made in order to develop a sense of bonding with the interns (Welcome message, mandatory weekly discussions etc).

On the first day, we also visited Delhi High Court, in a matter of slum demolition.

We all were allocated certain work ranging from drafting bail application to RTI, researching on various matters etc.

Main tasks

Various tasks were allocated based on the area of the interest of the intern like prisoner’s right, women and child right, bonded laborer rights etc. If the intern doesn’t have any idea regarding his/her area of interest, one is at liberty to switch to other tasks, by informing the internship Coordinator.

There are several teams, details available on website.

If one has an interest in writing articles and reports, then s/he can contribute to quarterly reports or issue specific publications (this is usually for international interns, as their internship period is prolonged and hence can research extensively).

I started out working on various basic things like filling bail applications, preparing case briefs, proof reading, collection of testimonies of acid attack victims etc and moving on to technicalities like drafting plaint all by myself based on the pointers given to me and the sample draft, researching and suggesting laws applicable to various human rights violation.

I also worked with the reproductive rights unit which was handling sterilisation failure cases and also the issue of lack of knowledge of various social health workers. It was a startling experience as one gets to know that there are so many scheme introduced by the government and majority of them are in a state of  latency.

Further there were weekly documentary screening and week-end discussions on various political and non-political issues. Occasionally, these discussions would see participation of various distinguished guests.

We were all required to visit court house once (or twice, if you are lucky), during our stint at HRLN. In addition to Delhi High Court, I visited Supreme Court and saw Colin sir argue eloquently in the matter of Uttarkhand Flood Relief measures. It was a moment of bliss and encourages one to take-up litigation as a future career choice.

Also, at the end of the internship period, every intern is supposed to get their feedback forms signed by the head of their respective unit, therefore it is recommended to maintain a work-log from starting itself.

The weekly documentaries and the discussion expose one to the other side of the coin, which often is kept away from the general public. It further adds up various dimensions to your thinking.

With all the tasks allocated to me, I realized one thing that, India, founded on the principles of socialism and welfare state, has still miles to cover and until unless the plethora of schemes formulated by the Government are actually implemented; these miles may take ages to cover.

Work environment, people

The work environment was very friendly and subservient to developing various basic legal skills. The interns were treated as actual lawyers and were given freedom to present their ideas relating to a particular social or legal matter. Sometimes it was either much laid back or it was all hustle bustle.

Also Colin sir is very approachable and humorous. He is a sort of person whom one can look up to.

If a matter allotted to an intern was sub-judice, then s/he was required to accompany the particular lawyer during the entire client counseling sessions. This gives a sense of professionalism and an actual insight as to how to approach a client.

Occasional fact finding visits were also conducted. The best parts of these visits were that they were fully sponsored (also included mouth watering street delicacies) by the organisation and further gave an insight relating to the ground realities of various offenses against the weaker section of the society.

The best things AND the bad things

The best part of this internship is that you get to learn various basic legal things which are often forgone by a law graduate like How to draft a PIL or RTI etc.

Since this is a socio-legal internship, the subject matter of research range from legislation to government schemes and orders  to pending bills in parliament etc, which provide a foundation for developing one’s research tools.

The seniors were also always willing to teach. Actually, it’s a place where they let you learn rather than spoon feed you. Like they say, the best teaching is to not teach but let them learn.

Since no internship is perfect, this also has certain less nice things about it, the primary being the strength of interns. HRLN takes a lot of interns and therefore sometimes it tends to get messier.

I was told that HRLN is planning to place a cap over the number of interns (not sure about this). Also sometimes you might end up organizing or tagging documents.

One has to take initiative in order to learn something. There were certain interns who ended up doing nothing (literally!), so one has to keep on pestering the lawyers for more work in order to make it a successful venture.

Stipend/month

No Stipend, but they give HRLN merchandises and various publications after the culmination of internship which make up for the stipend.

Accommodation etc. What did you to do chill in and around the office and the place of stay?

The people working in the office are provided with free tea (both milk and lemon tea) service. One can also avail office delivery services of nearby restaurants.

You have Modi Bakery (awesome mini pizzas and cupcakes) and Subway near the office. If you want some high-end food, Khan Market is always there (Khan Chacha best place for rolls etc).  Since the office is not too far from Jangpura metro station, one can board a metro and go of various renowned markets like Sarojini Nagar or Lajpat Nagar (one station ahead of Jangpura metro station).

Since I live in Delhi, so I had no as such issues with accommodation, outstation intern can find PGs in proximity to the office. One can also contact the Internship Coordinator regarding the accommodation thing before beginning with the internship.

This place is totally recommended to intern during your first year and especially if you want to pursue a career in this field.

The entry won an ‘award of excellence’ in the Summer Internship Experience Writing Competition organized by LexisNexis and Lawctopus. MyLaw.net was the learning partner for the competition.

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