Free Press Journal

Bharti to roll out legal assistance initiative 


New Delhi: Bharti Enterprises is all set to roll out an initiative to provide legal and financial assistance to underprivileged undertrials across the country.

The initiative, called “Nyaya Bharti”, was announced on Thursday by Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder chairman of the group, who said it will be extended to “first time offenders and minor offences”.

“Nyaya Bharti” will start functioning soon and commence giving first grant from April 1, next year, he added.

Bharti Airtel will provide an annual grant of Rs.10 crore on an ongoing basis towards this initiative. Mittal also said he is going to take a Rs.5 crore cut from his annual salary every year for this initiative.

It is estimated that there are over 280,000 undertrials in 1,387 jails in India constituting nearly 68 percent of the total prisoner population.

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 former chief justice of India, Justice A.S. Anand.

Former solicitor general Harish N Salve and senior Supreme Court counsel Maninder Singh are among many other board members.

Elaborating on the rationale for his initiative, 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.”

The initiative will focus on Delhi & the NCR region to begin with. Then it will expand to Punjab and later spread to other parts of the country.

Salve 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,” he added.

Mittal said the group is going to increase its spend on corporate social responsibility from around Rs.100 crore now to around Rs.150 crore annually.