Director: Dr. Babugouda S. Patil
Associate Director: Ms. Andryusha A. D’Costa e Pinho
Legal Aid is the prominent activity of the College which is in consonance with the College motto of ‘Excellence in Legal Education in pursuit of Justice and Service to Humanity’. The splendid work done by the Free Legal Aid Cells of the College has resulted in the College being flagged on the global map of clinical legal education. Academicians from India and abroad visit the College to acquaint themselves with the ‘VMS Model’ of Students-run Free Legal Aid Services.
The College believes that lawyers are not to remain in ivory towers away from social realities and needs. Instead they have to understand the needs of the society and orient their learning and skills to the welfare of the needy. Thus our students are oriented to act as agents of social justice and social engineering. In this process, the students learn a variety of skills which they do not get trained otherwise in the curriculum. There is an added advantage of the students being recognized as “lawyers” by their own neighborhood even before they become law graduates.
With a strong desire to add members to the legal fraternity who are professionally competent as well as socially relevant, the College had started the ‘V.M. Salgaocar College of Law Legal Aid Society’ in 1998 with a single Free Legal Aid Cell at Verem in North Goa District. It started as a modest endeavor wherein a team of students residing in Verem opened a Legal Aid in their Panchayat. The initiative attracted the interest of the entire student community and was equally well accepted by the community. This resulted in the College spreading its activities throughout the state; at times even crossed the border when we had had our free Legal Aid Cell in Banda, Sawantwadi Taluka, Maharashtra. Today the Legal Aid Society has grown and stretched across the length and breadth of Goa with its 32 Permanent Free Legal Aid Cells, altogether comprising of ___ student members.
For the students to easily and effectively function, the cells are located at their residential vicinity. The students residing in a specific locality are added as members of that Legal Aid Cell, so that they are aware of the issues pertaining to the locality as also able to attend to the clients visiting the cell in expeditiously. The Cells are housed in places which are easily accessible to the general public like Panchayat buildings, schools, churches or temple premises. Every week on Saturdays, the cells function for minimum of two hours.
Students are continuously involved in awareness campaigns in the form of door-to-door campaign, visiting shops marketplaces etc. to inform the general public about the establishment of the cell and the services they offer. Any person having any sort of law-related problem can approach the Legal Aid Cells and seek help from the students.
The various legal aid services which are rendered by our Free Legal Aid Cells are the following.
- Legal Literacy Programs – The Cells organize Major Legal Literacy Programs wherein they invite resource persons (lawyers, government officials, police officers, elected representatives, members of Consumer Forums, experts etc) and organize a seminar/open forum for the people of the locality. The Cell members also function in coordination with other NGOs, and participate in any activity meant to advance the welfare of the local populace. The students also visit schools, colleges, Anganwadis, Mahila Mandals, etc and conduct legal awareness talks. They also perform street-plays in the local language in public places where there is considerable audience.
- Legal Advice – Any person requiring legal assistance or advice in a matter can approach the free legal aid cells. Students in consultation with faculty/panel lawyers provide them with legal advice on the same.
- Legal Representation – The students represent clients before quasi–judicial authorities like the Consumer Forum, where they are allowed to represent a client. This is done in accordance with the Consumer Clinic of the College. In matters where students are not permitted to represent, the clients are referred to the District legal Services Authority.
- Para-Legal Services – The members of the Legal Aid Society render a number of Para-Legal aid services like assist in procuring senior citizens cards, krishi cards, ration cards, birth and death certificates, and drafting affidavits and filing such other documents as are required for obtaining benefits under the welfare schemes of the Government.
- Alternate Dispute Resolution – Promoting ADR through public mediation was undertaken by the students in settling several issues affecting the community like transport problem, Garbage disposal, traffic problem and Police patrolling.
- Public Interest Litigation – Students exposure to the problems faced by the community made them to approach the High Court to file Public Interest Litigation. Such litigations were filed only as a last resort after conducting proper research and making appropriate requisition to the government authorities on the concerned matter. So far the legal aid cells have successfully filed 16 PILs in the High Court.
- Law Reform – Students are encouraged to undertake research projects on various legislations and record their findings in the form of a memorandum and submit to the government requesting for appropriate law reform.
All these activities strive to make access to justice a reality for common man and at the same time trains the students in an unparalleled way the various skills required of a lawyer, and which goes unattended in the other academic programs. More than all, students testify that they feel content and happy in doing legal aid activity, resulting in alumni’s continued participation in the activities.