Interview with Dr. Vrushti Patel, Assistant Professor (Law) & Legal Aid Faculty Coordinator, Auro University, Surat

Interview with Dr. Vrushti Patel, Assistant Professor (Law) & Legal Aid Faculty Coordinator, Auro University, Surat

Interviewee:- Dr. Vrushti Patel, Convenor, Legal Aid and Community Development Centre, Auro University, Surat

1. Tell me about yourself/your organization in brief.
The AURO University Legal Aid and Community Development Centre( AURO LACD) is a Centre established under the canopy of School of Law, AURO University, Surat. It draws inspiration from Sa Vidya ya Vimuktaye meaning ‘Knowledge is one that liberates\'. 
The AURO LACD was established with the aim of inducting students to practice their knowledge of law to spread legal awareness and to inculcate in them a desire to assist the needy and the underprivileged.In pursuance of the same, the centre offers legal and paralegal services provided by the faculty convenor and the student para-legal volunteers.
The legal aid functions that AURO LACD performs are multi-fold i.e. remedial, preventive, reformative and activist and has since its inception actively participated and organized various events to provide legal aid through human, knowledge and infrastructural resources on pro-bono basis.
The Legal Aid and Community Development Centre in the past year has performed many client counselling and awareness drives. In 2018, in addition to other activities, the centre conducted 47 Mediation drives across the country to promote alternative dispute redressal. Other than that, the ongoing projects in 2019 include Road Safety Awareness Drives, Gender Sensitisation, and Maternity Benefits Awareness etc. 

2. What is the importance of study of Socio-Legal issues in legal field?
Late Prof. Madhav Menon (Padmashree) in one of his interactions at our University rightly commented that Lawyers are Social Engineers and they should work for the benefit of the society. I could not agree more to his statement.
I believe that law primarily belongs to the field of Sociology. Sociology and Law are indeed interwoven with each other. When one undertakes a Socio-Legal approach,he investigates the law with the social institution to which it applies. The primary aim of the law is to bring social transformation; therefore, the lawyers are the catalyst of social reforms in this dynamic society.

3. Tell me about your initiatives in legal aid & awareness field as a law student and now as law faculty.
As a law student, I always believed that the aim of legal education should be to bring positive change in the society. Every person should get an access to legal aid and an opportunity to make an informed choice. To make this possible, after being enrolled as an advocate I used to provide pro-bono service to the less privileged.
As mentioned in the answer to the first question, we work on multi-fold aspects- Legal research, Legal- Literacy and Para-legal Services. We are also associated with the District Legal Services Authority, Surat; hence, we also undertake all the initiatives prescribed to them.

4.Tell me your students’ /team’s/associates’ etc. initiatives in legal aid, awareness, socio-legal issues.
a) Client Counselling at the LACD Clinic
b) Legal Aid Camps
c) Indian Mediation Week 2018- Awareness Event
d) Road Safety- Event
e) Cyber Awareness Campaign
f) Election Awareness Drive
g) Safe Motherhood Day Celebration Talk- Maternity Benefit Rights
h) Gender Sensitivity Talk- ‘KNOW YOUR RIGHTS’
i) Awareness videos

5. What is the role of higher judiciary in legal aid & awareness in India?
There is a positive contribution of Judiciary in Legal aid and Awareness,  Hoosainara Khatoon, Khatri v State, Sukh Das v. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh, State of Haryana v. Darshana Devi are few of the examples where the Court has uphold the right of free legal aid and awareness. However, they have been proven to be a myth for many for the want of proper implementation.

6. What is the role of Government in legal aid &awareness in India?
Pro-bono Legal Services, Tele Law Services and Nyay Mitra Scheme, I believe are the good legal aid and empowerment initiatives of the Department of Justice.

7. What are your views on present situation of legal aid and awareness initiatives in India?
Pro-bono Legal Services, Tele Law Services and Nyay Mitra Scheme are indeed good initiatives, however, I am not very happy with many other the legal aid and awareness initiatives in India. Legal Aid is not a charity but a tool for distributive justice. The DLSA should be provided with more funds and man-power so that no one is deprived of quality professional advice due to lack of funds.
Though, there has been many movements in this direction, there is a wide gap in the goals set and met. While we (law schools) are busy making lawyers who are all set to mint money once they enter the profession. We have totally ignored the area social welfare. It is high time we generate interest amongst our students on community lawyering. I believe that it is our ( Law Schools) duty to make our students aware about their responsibility towards the society.

8. What are your views on effectiveness of Legal Service Authority Act, 1987?
The primary aim of Legal Service Authority Act is to provide social justice through 3 A’s awareness, assertiveness and availability. However, the intentions cited on the paper are very diverse from the ground reality. A lot needs to be done for the implementation of the goals enshrined under the Act.

9. What are your views on present situation of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India?
The present trends on PIL seems very promising in bringing social transformation,  from Adhar to Sabrimala (including the judgement on right to privacy, sexual autonomy, right to die, decriminalisation of Adultery etc.), the Supreme Court delivered many important Judgements in the recent past.

10. What advise you would like to give to the future Advocates/Professors/Scholars with regards to socio-legal issues, legal aid and awareness initiatives?
I would not advice but suggest all to read‘Letter to a Law Student interested in Social Justice by William P. Quigley.’ I am sure it will give right direction to the law students about their responsibility towards the community.

11. Message to Pro-Bono India
I believe that Pro-bono India is doing a great job in the field of Legal research, Legal Aid and Awareness. It is indeed a great platform to share our pedagogical innovations in awareness initiatives and learn from others.