Legal Aid Services, West Bengal (LASWEB), one of the pioneering legal aid offering civil society organizations in India, empowers the poor and the disadvantaged with varied legal entitlements. Functioning since 1980 as an organic collective of retired judges, practising lawyers and social activists, we have been providing free legal aid, including litigational support and legal literacy, to a wide range of sufferers. The decision to form a non-political and state-level non-governmental organization to serve the cause of legal aid for the poor and vulnerable sections in West Bengal was taken in a convention of intellectuals held in Kolkata on the 12th of September 1980. Beginning with release of non-criminal lunatics from prisons and fighting for prisoners’ rights and custodial justice, we have come a long way. Sitting judges of various high courts, judicial officers serving in the district courts, civil servants and police personnel have always added value to our awareness and advocacy initiatives.
In this era of globalized transformations and structural adjustments, LASWEB is striving hard to redress grievances of people experiencing harassment and inconvenience in protracted legal matters. Our legal clinics and lok and samjhauta adalats (people’s courts and courts of reconciliation) create a thriving culture of alternative dispute resolution. We have a family counselling centre and an annually conducted family counselling course. Recently, we have held the 21st Family Counselling Course with a large contingent of participants from Bangladesh. We run a Pacemaker Bank for the destitute and a senior citizens’ initiative is in the offing. Future plans have also been drafted to open up a short-stay shelter for destitute women.
LASWEB works in close conformity with NGOs, legal institutions and administrative agencies functioning in different parts of India as well as in Bangladesh and Nepal. With a time-tested human service commitment and an evolving concern for judicial integrity, we are now endeavouring to spearhead the movement for people’s right to information.