My experience at ALF

“Working hours are never long enough. Each day is a holiday, and ordinary holidays are grudged as enforced interruptions in an absorbing vocation”

These words by Winston Churchill are apposite for the work I observed at the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore (‘ALF’). I interned here for a period of 6 weeks from November 25,2015 – January 6,2016. Through the course of my internship,I saw litigation, research, activism and pedagogy cumulatively giving way to “alternative” lawyering. I was keen to learn about cause – based lawyering and the overarching spirit of Indian constitutionalism, and I took my time to read on the same while I interned here.

My first assignment  was a research on the writ jurisdiction of the High Court. I prepared a note on the powers of the Court under Art. 226 and what a person can and cannot seek from the Court under that remedy. I compiled my research, which was followed by a discussion on the issue with the lawyer who had  assigned the same to me. Eventually, I prepared a draft of the relevant writ petition and received feedback. I got to be involved in an analysis of two contemporary bills that were being introduced in the Union Legislature at the time.I perused through the draft bills and prepared a critique using some inputs shared with me.This gave me an opportunity to learn about the implications of some laws that are nothing but afflictions for its targets. On another assignment, I along with a co-intern conducted a field study across some government hospitals in Bangalore on the implementation of the One Stop Crisis Center scheme. We collected the relevant data and later prepared a report on the same. I became aware of aspects of the law that I had been oblivious to ; aspects such as the harassment meted out to some individuals on account of their gender/sexual/work identities. I also worked on some aspects of media trials and discrimination in the urban housing space.

This internship offered multiple opportunities to participate in talks and seminars, many of them being conducted at the ALF office. Some of them were conducted at various higher education institutions in the city. ALF is committed to sustained dialogue on legal and allied issues. These discussions are, in my opinion, extremely enriching for they allow participation to anyone keen to know the subjects being talked about. Moreover, ALF lawyers indulge in pedagogy to propound democratic interventions in various fields such as media and the law, urban transport, work relations in the unorganized sector, domestic violence, issues around gender and sexuality as well as the repercussions of the relevant law/s as it exists. They conduct teaching and interactive sessions at various pre-university colleges and undergraduate colleges in Bangalore. I think that the ALF lawyers believe that their profession requires a multi-sphered societal engagement. This is why they do not rest at litigation alone; they keep up through the critical research and activism. This enables them to explore chasms in legal opinion and processes as they thrive to do more and more work.

On a slightly off note,an ALF internship experience is further enhanced by the brilliant collection of books at the ALF Library. The collection was a cornucopia for those interested in law and literature and related subjects. In this way, one can make the most of even an idle moment at ALF.

Work at the office happens alongside chains of communication which are emancipated from the baggage of hierarchy and shallow formality. The great human virtue of mutual respect stands tall and uncompromised. The lawyers at the ALF office create environment conducive to any intern willing to learn,work and engage. I am in the final semester at law school, and it is perhaps for that reason that I was able to delve into ALF’s work as something I’d like to do after law school. I became all the more convinced that a profound integration of the law and the society has the potential to stir dialogue and even cure injustices. It is seldom that an experience leaves an impression that gets imbedded in the mind for its sense of overall fulfilment. This was one such experience for me.

By Natasha Bardia, ALF Intern