Bharti Enterprises is rolling out a first of its kind corporate initiative to provide legal assistance & aid and awareness / literacy to underprivileged undertrials across the country. In very deserving cases, Nyaya Bharti will help the undertrials by paying the bail and surety amounts. The initiative will be solely focused on District Courts where criminal cases are initiated.
Recently, the Hon’ble Prime Minister had also emphasised the importance of ‘access to justice for all’, as well as the need for free legal aid and assistance to people.
It is estimated that there are over 280,000 undertrials in approx.1387 jails in India constituting nearly 68% of the total prisoner population. This proportion is amongst the world’s ten worst (Data Source: NCRB reports). Many of these undertrials have been in custody for periods longer than the prison term had they had been convicted. Most of these undertrials suffer in jails simply because of their ignorance of the law and their rights to liberty, their inability to pay the meager amounts required for bails and bonds and lack of persons to stand surety.
‘Nyaya Bharti’ aims to help the deserving undertrials exercise their fundamental right to legal defense and present their case before the Courts. The initiative will supplement the good work being done by NALSA and SLSAs under the statutory framework created under the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987. It will have a screening committee of independent persons that will identify the cases that need to be taken up.
Nyaya Bharti will be ready to start functioning in the coming months and ensure that the Board, screening committee and the team of young lawyers are all in place to start giving its first grant from 1st April 2016.
Bharti Airtel will provide an annual grant of Rs.10 Crores on an ongoing basis towards this initiative. Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, will take a voluntary cut of Rs.5 Crores from his annual salary towards this cause. Several leading lawyers from across the country have extended their support to the initiative and will provide pro-bono services. Top Law firm AZB & Partners and EY will also provide pro-bono legal, administrative and governance support respectively.
The Nyaya Bharti initiative will work under the aegis of Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises, and will have a separate Governing Board. It will be headquartered in New Delhi and will be headed by Justice A.S. Anand (Retired Chief Justice of India) [Refer Governing Board details below].
The initiative will focus on Delhi & NCR and Punjab initially and will gradually expand presence to cover the entire North India through smaller regional offices. It will seek partnerships with like-minded corporates to have similar initiatives in the other parts of the country.
Sunil Bharti Mittal said, “Just because a poor individual cannot afford the services of a lawyer or cannot stump up a small amount for bail bond or surety, he or she should not be denied justice. We are making a small start with Nyaya Bharti and hope more people, in particular, from the legal fraternity and Corporate India will come forward to support this noble cause.”
Mr. Fali Nariman, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, said, “Congratulations to Sunil Mittal. John D. Rockefeller’s tutor once told him that “if you do not part with your wealth whilst living you will be crushed by it.” That was when the world’s richest man got transformed into the world’s greatest philanthropist!
The Fund that is to be set up will greatly help hundreds of thousands of indigent under trials (languishing in crowded jails in India) whose guilt for the alleged offence for which they are charged has not yet been established. It is by his munificence that Mittal has now given hope and meaning to that well-worn legal maxim: that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty!”
Mr. Harish N Salve, Former Solicitor General of India and Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, said “The Rule of law, which is the cornerstone of a constitutional democracy, remains a chimera to the poor who languish in jails, at times interned without trial for terms longer than that they would suffer as a sentence upon conviction. The legal aid movement in India remains unequal to the enormity of the task. A corporate initiative to partner the efforts of the State in this area of governance will serve a long standing need and be a step towards achieving the constitutional dream of a just society.”
Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises, is already running over 250 village primary schools under its Satya Bharti School programme and providing free quality education to over 50,000 children. The Foundation, under its Satya Bharti Abhiyan, has committed upto Rs 100 cr to construct 30,000 toilets across Ludhiana district in Punjab. Over 8000 toilets have already been constructed and handed over as part of this initiative. Nyaya Bharti will thus be the third major initiative undertaken by Bharti Foundation.
The Board of Nyaya Bharti:
1. Justice A.S. Anand (Retired Chief Justice of India), Chairman
2. Mr. Harish N Salve, Former Solicitor General of India and Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India
3. Mr. Maninder Singh, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India
4. Ms. Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson & Editorial Director, Hindustan Times Group
5. Dr. Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy, International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)
6. Mr. Ajay Bahl, Founder & Senior Partner, AZB & Partners
7. Mr. Rajiv Memani, Chairman of the Global Emerging Markets Committee, EY
8. Mr. Gopal Jain, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India
9. Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder & Chairman, Bharti Enterprises
0. Mr. Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Vice Chairman, Bharti Enterprises
11 Mr. Deven Khanna, Group Director – Chairman’s Office, Bharti Enterprises
12 Ms. Vijaya Sampath, Senior Partner, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan