Achieving Socially Relevant Legal Education through Rural Legal Aid Clinics
Jane E. Schukoske
S.M. Sehgal Foundation
affiliation not provided to SSRN
March 26, 2012
LEGAL AID Catalyst for Social Change, Raman Mittal and K.V. Sreemithun, eds., pp. 167-189, University of Delhi 2012
This article examines “socially relevant legal education” in the context of rural India, where the majority of Indians live and where many lack basic necessities such as food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, education and health services. It asserts that Indian educators should teach that access to justice entails good governance in administration of government benefit programs that provide these basic benefits, and that law students should actively engage with communities and non-governmental organizations in accelerating efforts to secure them.
Some Indian law teachers and students engage with rural communities to spread good governance through clinical legal education. They raise awareness of the availability and operation of government programs and of the government’s duty to function with transparency and accountability. However, few of the 900 Indian law schools support such rural outreach. Law schools can partner with India’s state legal services authorities, which are required to establish legal aid clinics in each district of each state. Law students may assist in such legal aid clinics under certain conditions. A well-trained countrywide network of law school clinics and legal aid clinics could mobilize citizen participation to bring about good rural governance.
Law faculty and students should build relationships with nearby rural communities and spread awareness of how to access legal entitlements that can improve unhealthy living conditions. The paper discusses this students-community relationship as rooted in a “pedagogy of suffering” that prompts students to realize the fundamental threat to life and health that abject poverty presents. Clinical legal education and good governance initiatives in rural India demonstrate the paradigm of Legal Empowerment, the use of legal services to strengthen disadvantaged people’s control over their lives. The paper concludes with a call for cooperation to take the necessary steps to develop training and materials for the massive transformation required.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14
Keywords: Clinical legal education, India, legal empowerment, rural, good governance, access to justice, poverty, transparency, accountability, suffering, socially relevant legal education, legal services authority
JEL Classification: I21, I29, I31, K39, K49Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 27, 2012
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