SAHYOG is a first-of-its-kind idea in an Indian law school that aims to further the constitutional goal of access to justice by providing a platform that connects student research assistants to lawyers and organizations who have taken up pro bono cases.
Adya Jha and Dakshita Chopra, alumni of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS), Kolkata, founded this project in 2019. A chance conversation led them to realize that most law students are not exposed to pro bono work until much later on in their careers, more so for those who choose to tread on the corporate path.
Therefore, they developed the idea of starting SAHYOG which would be the ideal platform to not only give fellow students the opportunity to delve into the world of pro bono work at such an early stage in their lives but to also satisfy their desire to channel their learning towards a greater social cause.
Since its inception in September 2019, SAHYOG has collaborated with several organizations and lawyers, contributing over 2500 pro bono hours.
The founding principle of this initiative has been to provide a platform where students can be personally involved in cases from the beginning to the end, unlike an internship where one only works on some legal issues for a few weeks.
What started as a 32 member team has now expanded to comprise almost 85 students of WBNUJS at present. SAHYOG’s work has spanned across a wide variety of areas including constitutional law, criminal law, labor law, land law, human trafficking law, POSH, and POCSO, and has encompassed issues of migrant workers, slum dwellers, tribal communities, and human trafficking among others.
Lawyers & Organizations that have Worked with SAHYOG
A few of the collaborations with lawyers and organizations on their pro bono matters are as below:
- Mr. Arvind Datar – Research for PIL challenging constitutional validity of the 2020 Tribunal Rules
- Mr. Yug Chaudhury – Research on unlawful activity, bail provisions, and terrorist activity under UAPA
- Mr. Gopal Sankaranaryan – Research on Governor’s power to grant mercy pleas
- Mr. Simon Benjamin – Research for a bail application
- International Justice Mission – Tracker of labor measures enacted during COVID-19 lockdown & analysis of orders with respect to Labour Codes, International Labour Conventions & Case Law
- Centre for Social Justice – Research on unnatural deaths, dowry deaths and honor killings
Appreciation for SAHYOG’s Work
SAHYOG has also received appreciation from several renowned legal personalities who have applauded the vision behind the initiative. Justice Pratibha Singh, Ms. Indira Jaising, Mr. Arvind Datar among others have the following to say about SAHYOG:
Sahyog – a platform for providing legal assistance is a commendable initiative by students of NUJS. Such platforms enable students and young lawyers to contribute to Society and train themselves in the nuances of law. Involvement in research helps legal policy makers, lawyers and judges alike. – Justice Pratibha Singh
This is a much needed initiative from students. Our law students are the lawyer of tomorrow and these efforts will give then the training they need to serve people who are in need to legal services more particularly in the field of human rights. – Ms. Indira Jaising
SAHYOG is a unique and remarkable effort of students from NUJS, Kolkata. In almost every important case in the Supreme Court, High Courts or trial courts, research assistance is not only necessary but can also make all the difference to the outcome of the case. Even more important, thorough research not only helps the arguing counsel but enables the judges to reach the proper conclusion, thus leading to the development of the law. -Mr. Arvind Datar
Launch of Online Portal
SAHYOG has been successful in building a community of public-spirited students who work tirelessly to aid lawyers who are working towards furthering the constitutional ethos of access to justice. Although the current team is restricted only to the students of NUJS, Kolkata, setting up chapters of SAHYOG in other law schools is also in the pipeline. The organization has already received requests from students in other parts of the country and is working out the modalities to facilitate such an expansion. In an attempt to scale up the organization and facilitate a seamless allocation process that would help lawyers and students to communicate efficiently SAHYOG has also launched their own web portal accessible through their website- www.sahyogprobono.com.
They can also be reached via email at sahyog.probono[at]gmail.com.
More information about SAHYOG and the work that they do can be found on their Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn handle.
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