Going by recent news reports, child sexual abuse is a disturbingly common phenomenon. Stakeholders across sectors are working to provide psychological and legal support to survivors and combat the effects of abuse. iProbono provides pro bono legal representation to child survivors of sexual abuse in Delhi. As part of our ongoing initiative to promote access to justice in this field, iProbono launched a Trial Court Panel (‘The Panel’) of lawyers who will fight for justice on behalf of 26 children whose cases are currently pending, before the Saket Sessions Court and the Juvenile Justice Board.
Through its work, iProbono identified the need for sustainable legal representation of children who have survived abuse. iProbono, constituted an Appellate Panel of criminal lawyers in March 2015 to represent children from disadvantaged backgrounds before appellate courts. The High Court Panel of lawyers was reconstituted by inviting applications in 2017. To date, we have represented 41 children at the Delhi High Court with a success rate of 95%. Two of these cases (Akash* and Rosie) have led to significant change at a policy level.
iProbono’s model is unique as it changes the lives of marginalized individuals and impacts policy, while providing lawyers with a meaningful opportunity to engage with clients who they would otherwise never have the chance to represent. Our Programs team, that has lawyers and social workers, oversee the strategy and progress of each case. They work collaboratively with the lawyer and the civil society organisation.
Following the success of our appellate panel, early this year, iProbono launched a trial court panel bearing in mind that trial is a crucial stage of a criminal proceeding where the experience and skill of good lawyers is best utilized. Keeping this in mind, we constituted a panel of trial court lawyers who will be paid a modest fee by iProbono.
With the launch of the Trial Court Panel, we have two main objectives: (1) to successfully represent children in the trial court and (2) to strengthen a culture of pro bono in the legal community. We sent out a call for advocates in early December to constitute the Panel and received an overwhelming response from lawyers with varied backgrounds. We constituted a selection panel consisting of Supreme Court Advocate, Trideep Pais and iProbono India’s Co-Founder, Swathi Sukumar. Trideep Pais is an advocate in the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court. He is known for his work on matters pertaining to human rights and criminal trial litigation. The selection panel selected ten lawyers through a rigorous interview process and background check. Selection to the Panel was based upon expertise in the subject area seniority and previous experience of pro bono work.
*Names of all children changed for confidentiality reasons.
The article was written by Shohini Banerjee, iProbono’s Program Manager.