Recently reconstituted, SAHYOG- a Pro Bono Research Project at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata (“NUJS”) aims to connect student research assistants to lawyers and organisations to aid them in providing pro bono and legal aid services and furthering access to justice in remote, inaccessible corners of society.
What is SAHYOG?
SAHYOG, a first-of-its-kind initiative in an Indian law school, finds its roots in the principle of access to justice for all. One of the ways to realise this constitutional goal of access to justice for all is to provide pro bono services. In other countries, such legal assistance has become a vital community resource, allowing socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to access the law in a meaningful manner. However, the same is severely compromised in India due to an overburdened workforce and inefficiencies in the justice system, among other reasons. Lawyers and organisations, however, continue the effort to provide pro bono services. Students can help alleviate these challenges and promote pro bono work by assisting a network of seasoned lawyers and organisations. The ultimate objective remains to provide assistance to better facilitate pro bono work in the interest of the public good.
How does SAHYOG work?
The pool of research assistants from WBNUJS Kolkata is assigned to different lawyers/organisations for specific assignments. These research assistants may be involved in more than one assignment at a time, working jointly in teams or individually as required and per availability. They work under the supervision of primary researchers who will be commissioning lawyers/organisations on various pro bono cases that they take up. They are expected to communicate with the commissioning team, understand the propositions provided, and respond with critical analysis to a specific research question or hypothesis. They are responsible for assisting the main researcher in a number of tasks that support the research activities, including questions of law.
SAHYOG was founded by NUJS Alumni Adya Jha and Dakshita Chopra and led by project leaders Devashri Mishra and Swarna Sengupta, with the hope to channel their legal education towards aiding those who are unable to bear the expenses that the dispensation of justice, unfortunately, demands. SAHYOG is the first-of-its-kind idea in an Indian law school, which aims to further the constitutional goal of access to justice by providing a platform that connects student research assistants to lawyers and organisations who have taken up pro bono cases.
In the past, SAHYOG has collaborated with several organisations and lawyers, carrying out research for several individual pro bono cases. Our collaborators in the past have included senior lawyers and eminent organisations such as Arvind Datar, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Yug Mohit Chaudhary, Aditya Wadhwa, Amrita Sarkar, Ankur Sood, Adit Pujari, Manisha Sarkar, Rashmi Nandakumar, Debolina Sarkar, Akshat Bajpai, Surabi Dhar, Simon Benjamin, Goyant Kolloso Naka, Enfold India, International Justice Mission, IPROBONO, Justice Ventures International, Centre for Social Justice, among others. Our assistance to these lawyers and organisations has ranged from issues of human trafficking and forest rights, often neglected field of welfare of slum dwellers and domestic helpers, to nuanced fields concerning blockchains. Generally, our work has largely spanned across a wide variety of areas like constitutional law, criminal law, labour law, land law, human trafficking and human rights law.
With SAHYOG continuing to touch more lives, the executive board for 2023-24 is comprised of 4th and 5th year WBNUJS students, namely Priyam Mittal, Sameer Parihar, Sriroopa Neogi and Tridib Mandal. Like the founders, they share the same vision of access to justice and accordingly aim to take SAHYOG to greater heights.
SAHYOG has already reconstituted with a fresh pool of research assistants and has begun collaborating with various lawyers and organisations nationwide.