How a student-run website is making laws easier to understand

Law Rewired, run by 22 law students from across the country, explains complex legal topics in simple language in a bid to make the laws more accessible to all.

Written by Shruti Sundar Ray

Have you ever wondered how to legally transfer a house you own to someone else? Is the contract binding if it is entered into online? What exactly is a valid contract? Student-run website Law Rewired tries to give simple answers to common questions like these that people have about the law.

With a motto of “simplifying complex Indian laws one concept at a time”, the Law Rewired initiative was conceived by 22-year-old law student Aswini Ramesh, when she noticed gaps in the average citizen’s understanding of the law.

“I have been conducting medical camps and other workshops at government schools for the past four years. The moment someone learned that I had a background in law, they would ask questions about wills or divorce law or property matters,” Ramesh, who is in her final year at Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University’s School of Excellence in Law, told indianexpress.com. “Many educated people are not aware of the law either.”

 

 

Did you know that all women are entitled to free legal aid ? #lawrewired #lawsimplified #legalaid #women #india #legal

A post shared by Law Rewired (@lawrewired.in) on Oct 10, 2020 at 8:49am PDT

A lack of legal awareness can be dangerous in the real world. According to a common legal maxim, “Ignorance of law is not an excuse.” In India (like in most countries), an accused can be punished for committing a crime even if they did not know that what they were doing was a crime. There is a presumption that the law of the land is known to all.

Yet, the convoluted language and complex terminology used in legislations can often make the law practically inaccessible for many. “In my first year at law school, there were certain terms that even I found difficult to comprehend,” said Aunnesha Dey, Head of Operations at Law Rewired.

Law Rewired tries to bridge this difficulty. While much of the website is still under construction, the existing content covers a number of laws—the Constitution, the Information Technology Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Copyright Act and more. It breaks down specific aspects of these legislations into bite-sized questions and answers. Another section of the website deals with landmark judgments, which are deconstructed in a similar fashion. The language used is conversational and no prior legal exposure is required to understand the content.

“It is a wonderful initiative that has been taken up,” said Bengaluru-based lawyer Bhargava Bhat about the website. “Some sections which will be used by a majority of the population, like those on criminal law, should be made available in local languages also.”

At present, Law Rewired has content only in English.

 

 

A post shared by Law Rewired (@lawrewired.in) on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:34pm PDT

“Students contribute to the content writing but everything we put out is vetted by our Advisory Board first,” said Ramesh. Law Rewired has an Advisory Board comprising practising lawyers and academics, trained in specialised legal areas.

Dey explained: “There are a lot of random sources on the web that claim to explain legal concepts. We have made sure that our explanations are reliable by checking with people who have the relevant expertise in particular fields of law.”

While other websites such as Nyaaya (run by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy) publish credible resources to simplify Indian laws, as well, what sets Law Rewired apart is its student-driven nature. The Law Rewired team consists of 22 law students from across the country. While promoting clinical legal education, the website also creates writing and research opportunities for law students who are involved with it.

Another distinctive facet of Law Rewired is that its entire core team and a majority of its content contributors are women, in alignment with the website’s stated goal of gender equality.

There is an effort to create a space for students from diverse backgrounds. “Usually you see new initiatives from National Law Universities, but this was started from a traditional university. So, there is potential for greater outreach,” said Atul Alexander, Associate Professor at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, who serves on the Advisory Board of Law Rewired.

“We want to reach out to students in colleges that do not have the best resources, in Tier-III cities and even rural areas,” said Dey. Improving outreach and accessibility are what the Law Rewired team would need to focus on, going forward. Their subscriber base on social media platforms is modest but if they can grow their engagement, the team has plans of expanding beyond English to regional languages.

“We are also considering conducting legal workshops at the ground level for those who may not be able to access our online content,” added Ramesh.

(Shruti Sundar Ray is an intern with indianexpress.com. She passed out from Asian College of Journalism this year.)

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