As pandemic-induced lockdowns slowly took over the world, IBJ’s teams stayed on the frontline of access to justice, creating new solutions to protect the rights of the accused.
Even before the Indian government announced a country-wide lockdown IBJ India Country Manager, Ajay Verma, sensed the panic about to hit detainees in Tihar Jail in Delhi, one of the worlds largest detention facilities, after seeing riots breaking out in prisons around the world. IBJ India took the initiative to draft guidelines for protecting prisoners and preventing outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons, which were presented to the Supreme Court during a hearing on March 16, 2020.
Since then, IBJ India has advocated relentlessly to protect prisoners’ rights during the pandemic, from submitting a Public Interest Litigation requesting that the courts release pre-trial prisoners on interim bail, to launching a legal consortium application to the Supreme Court on safe transit of prisoners upon their release.
Following the success of these efforts, upon the announcement of the new laws relating to bail applications during the lockdown period, IBJ India convened an online seminar advising lawyers on how to navigate the legislative changes. The seminar was deemed a huge success and was attended by more than 800 lawyers from across the country.
Noting the power of technology in bringing lawyers together during the COVID-19 outbreak, IBJ India launched an initiative to provide continuous legal education during the pandemic in collaboration with the Criminal Justice Group and the Bar Council of Delhi. A number of online webinars have now been held on topics including rules of evidence and understanding an investigation. The webinars’ popularity continues to grow and have attracted up to 500 lawyers per session.
‘This series of webinars has been organised with a view to equip lawyers with better skills to provide an effective defense. IBJ is also bridging the gap between Bar Association leaders and lawyers and are going to conduct a session on how technology can be used in day to day legal practice to benefit lawyers and our clients. This will enable them to file cases electronically and continue to hold trials using technology platforms’ – Ajay Verma, Country Manager, IBJ India.
On May 5th, IBJ India convened a virtual roundtable with leaders of the Bar Council of Delhi and other Bar Associations to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the legal profession and possible for solutions for lawyers. The roundtable gathered 61 legal professionals to discuss topics including; the challenges that holding court sessions online has raised; the possibility of reopening the courts; and how to support young lawyers facing economic challenges as a result of the pandemic, such as waiving bar membership fees.
IBJ India’s commendable efforts have been reported on by several media outlets. Read more about our COVID-19 response here: