Human Rights Law Network

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HRLN (Human Rights and Law Network) is a group of Indian lawyers working for social causes and bringing legal cases for disadvantaged sections of society to promote human rights. It has worked on child rights, disabilities rights, rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, prisoners rights, refugee rights, rights of indigenous peoples, workers rights, and rights of the minorities and people who have faced or are subject to sexual assault/violence.


HRLN was started in 1989 as a small group of lawyers, led by Colin Gonsalves, a public interest lawyer,[1] and has evolved into an important human rights organisation in India,[2] with twenty-eight branches across the country. It provides legal support and pro-bono legal advice to indigenous litigants. Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and the Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights (IPT) are activities of the Socio-Legal Information Centre, whose mission is to protect the fundamental rights of people,to equip through professional training a new generation of public interest lawyers and para-legals who are comfortable both in the world of law as well as in social movements, and who learn from the social movements to refine legal concepts and strategies, to work towards an increased awareness of rights as universal and indivisible, and their realisation as an immediate goal.

Its objectives are:

  • produce an alternative constitutional law based on universal human values rather than property;
  • incorporate international human rights principles in Indian law and, in turn, influence constitutional law in foreign jurisdictions through the development of case law in India;
  • build links between legal networks in India and human rights law groups abroad;
  • campaign for reform of the legal system, particularly with respect to state funded legal aid for the poor, so that the state takes more responsibility for legal services and allocates more resources for legal aid;
  • bring human rights law education in India into the mainstream;
  • build alliances between the judiciary and rights based initiatives to sensitise the judicial system to a better understanding of human rights;
  • build an increased awareness of human rights law and practices in different parts of the world.

Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India Colin Gonsalves is the Founder Director of HRLN. Human Rights Law Network Activists include lawyers and social workers from all over India such as Advocate Sheela Ramanathan, Advocate Dolma Bhutia, Advocate K.K. Roy, Advocate Ahmed Raza, Advocate Vikash Kumar Pankaj; Advocate, Rakesh Meibhoum, Advocate Sunil Mao, Advocate P.C. Tiwari, Deepika D'souza, Harsh Dobhal, Suresh Nautiyal, S.H. Iyer, Advocate Sandhya Raju, Adv Gayatri Singh, and Adv Mihir Desai.


Legal aid and public interest litigation- Human Rights and Law Network trains its lawyers. Lawyers of HRLN take up cases in the lower courts as well as the Supreme Courts and High Courts.

Legal education- For law to be used for justice, self-reliance and liberation of self legal education us organised by seminars, workshops, and training courses.

Advocacy- HRLN works to increase public awareness through research and dissemination of information on violations and anti-poor policies. HRLN has formulated laws and policies against child sexual abuse, against communal crimes, and for the right to food and work.

Investigations, monitoring, and crisis response- HRLN conducts fact-finding, monitors and documents cases of violations and makes sure that these take the form of petitions in court.

Access to justice and People's Tribunals- In 1993, HRLN organised the 'National Conference on Human Rights, Environment and the Law' where the Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights ( IPT) was formed. The IPT investigations are led by retired judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court. It is a semi-autonomous association that works through People's Tribunals and Public Hearings to draw attention to human rights violations and issues concerning environmental justice. The IPT has conducted over 30 tribunals since 1993 on issues such as police violence, the right to food, and housing rights. It provides a forum and an opportunity for those who do not have access to the regular courts to voice their grievances. The goal is to stop existing violations, highlight harmful legislation and prevent further atrocities from taking place.

Communications and Publications- HRLN produces publications and films, and has a library.


  • Child rights
  • Criminal justice
  • Dalit rights
  • Disability rights
  • Emergency/disaster
  • Environmental justice
  • Housing rights
  • Labour rights
  • Refugee rights
  • Right to food
  • Secularism and peace
  • Trafficking
  • Women’s justice


  1. ^ Nora Boustany, "India's Pioneer of Public Interest Law", The Washington Post, October 24, 2003  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  2. ^ Nilima Pathak, "Gonsalves fights for justice for the poor and downtrodden", Gulf News, February 3, 2013.

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