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Thane DLSA starts first legal aid clinic for victims of sex trafficking

Today the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) Thane has made history in the public justice system by setting the first of its kind Legal Aid Clinic to provide support to victims of sex trafficking. The Legal Aid Clinic has been set up in pursuance of a notification from the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority to all DLSAs across the State. The Clinic will provide support to victims of human trafficking through their legal cases in court as well as in follow up for police support when required. Additionally victims of trafficking who approach the Clinic will be given assistance in availing compensation under the various existing schemes established by the Central and State Government.  

Judge Prasad Rao Khair inaugurated the Clinic, amongst the attendees was Senior Police Inspector, Ravindra Daundkar of the Thane Anti Human Trafficking Cell. Judge Khair, who serves as the Secretary of the DLSA Thane expedited the process of setting up the Legal Aid Clinic in Thane. The Clinic has been set up by the DLSA in partnership with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), International Justice Mission (IJM) and MADAT. The DLSA Thane has approached NGOs to assist them in reaching out to lawyers who would be interested in working at these specially established Legal Aid Clinics. Adv. Michael Britto Nadar is one of the advocates who has enrolled with the DLSA Thane to serve at the Legal Aid Clinic. Lawyers working at the clinic will also work to build awareness in the community on legal services available for victims of trafficking and encourage them to file complaints and seek free legal aid whenever their rights are infringed.

The journey to the establishment of the Legal Aid Clinic began in 2004 when the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) submitted a report to the Supreme Court in a case filed by Prajwala being Writ Petition (C) No. 56 of 2004. Based on the report, the NALSA (Victims of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation) Scheme, 2015 , was initiated. One of the objectives of the scheme is to establish Legal Aid Clinics for victims of human trafficking.  

Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, makes victims of human trafficking eligible to receive legal services. Legal Services Authorities after examining the eligibility criteria of an applicant and the existence of a prima facie case in his/her favour provide counsel at State expense, pay the required Court Fee in the matter and bear all incidental expenses in connection with the case. The person to whom legal aid is provided is not called upon to spend anything on the litigation once it is supported by a Legal Services Authority. 

Sanjay Macwan, IJM’s Regional Director for North India believes, “the Legal Aid Clinic for the human trafficking victims is an important initiative taken by the DLSA Thane. Through it, lawyers, social workers and counsellors would provide skilled assistance to the victims of human trafficking. I would like to congratulate DLSA Thane for their unique effort and hope that all other DLSAs would follow this model across the state and the nation.”

Contact: Joanita Britto - jbritto@ijm.org