Asim Suhas Sarode

Ashoka Fellow
,
Fellow Since 2007
HRLD ( Human Rights and Law Defenders )

Citation

This profile was prepared when Asim Suhas Sarode was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Through grassroots victim support and witness protection, Asim is setting a new legal stage to benefit vulnerable populations, speedy resolution of cases under trial, and higher conviction rates. According to Asim, “Every law is a social legislation and needs to be interpreted socially.” Through his work with the Sahayog Trust, Asim is defining the answer to the critical question of who interprets the law and how to empower the most vulnerable groups to access justice.
Asim is creating a new area of judicial responsibility through his Victim and Witness Support Program. To enhance the impact of his concept, he is working towards building a cadre of ‘social lawyers’ and paralegals. This group will work towards sensitizing the judiciary and the police to improve access to justice for vulnerable populations, interaction with victims/witnesses, and legal guidance and training in court procedures. This group will help to bridge the gap between the community and the judicial system thereby strengthening access to justice and making the system people oriented.
Asim connects victims to the judicial system in four ways. He builds knowledge about the judicial system among victims and witnesses of crimes, especially those from marginalized populations. He seeks to humanize the judicial system by building empathy among individuals in the enforcement arm of the judicial system—police, lawyers, and judges. He sets up support systems outside the legal framework by working with the families and communities of victims and witnesses. He generates a larger public debate about access to justice through his work with the media.
Through this program, Asim is changing the prevalent top-down power equation, ensuring that witnesses and victims are treated with respect and empathy, eventually becoming ambassadors of an effective, humane judicial system. He is changing the texture of the legal system by locating the entry point of his work with the lower courts (at district or village level), which is the first—and sometimes only—point of contact for vulnerable populations, and the space with the least existing socio-legal interventions or innovations in India.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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