Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group

The Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, also known as JagLAG, is a non-profit that provides free legal services to adivasis in south Chhattisgarh’s five Naxal-affected districts.

Establishment and membershipEdit

In July 2013, Shalini Gera, Isha Khandelwal, Parijata Bharadwaj and Rupesh Kumar moved to Jagdalpur in Bastar District to establish the group.[1] They were joined by Guneet Kaur a few months later and by Devesh Agnihotri in 2016.[1][2][3] In mid-2015 Guneet Kaur, Parijata Bharadwaj and Rupesh Kumar left the group.[1] In mid-2016 Devesh Agnihotri left the group. Nikita Agarwal and Priyanka Shukla joined the group towards the end of 2016. Shalini Gera moved out in September 2017. Priyanka Shukla left the group in August, 2018. The group is presently hosting Shikha Pandey, a David Leebron Human Rights Fellow for a year.


The group began by filing requests for information under the Right to Information Act. They found that jails in Bastar District were severely overcrowded, that most inmates were awaiting trial ('under-trials' rather than convicts), and that when these cases finally reached the courts many ended in acquittals.[3][4][5] Since then, JagLAG have focused primarily on providing legal aid to villagers who they believe have been falsely accused in Naxalism-related cases.[2][3]

The group's most high-profile case is that of Soni Sori, who has been charged, along with her nephew Linga Ram Kodopi, with extortion and unlawful activities for allegedly accepting money from the multinational corporation Essar, in return from protecting the company’s operations in the state from the Maoist groups.[2][6]

Disbarment and evictionEdit

On 6 October 2015, the Bastar Bar Association passed a resolution prohibiting any lawyer who is not registered with the local Bar Council from practising in the Jagdalpur courts. The resolution prevented JagLAG lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal, both registered with the Delhi State Bar Council, from representing clients in Jagdalpur.[3][7][8][9] Under Section 30 of the Advocates Act of India, a local bar association has no authority to prevent a lawyer from practicing in any court in the country. Gera and Khandelwal have responded by transferring their registration from the Delhi State Bar Council to the State Bar Council of Chattisgargh.

In February 2016, the Bastar District Bar Association passed a resolution that any local lawyer who co-signed a memo of appearance with JagLAG would have to sever ties within ten days or be debarred.[10][11] In the same month, JagLAG's landlord was called to the City Kotwali Police station and pressured to evict his tenants.[11][12] Gera and Khandelwal were forced to relocate to Bhilaspur.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Dahat, Pavan (7 October 2015). "In Bastar, a group of lawyers try to bring law to a lawless region". The Hindu. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Ghosh, Paramita (12 March 2016). "Find us a house, we are also victims of war: Hounded Bastar lawyers". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Masoodi, Ashwaq (7 October 2015). "A few good men and women". Live Mint. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  4. ^ Bearak, Max (1 March 2015). "Shoestring Legal Aid Group Helps Poor in Rural India". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  5. ^ Kumar, Raksha (6 October 2016). "In Chhattisgarh, Pressure Mounts on Lawyers Taking Up Cases of Tribal Prisoners". The Wire. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  6. ^ Kaushik, Krishn; Dev, Atul (9 March 2016). ""This Kind Of Terror, We Have Not Seen Before": An Interview With The Lawyers Evicted From Bastar In Chhattisgarh". The Caravan. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Chhattisgarh Police Intimidates Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group And Journalist Malini Subramaniam". The Caravan. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  8. ^ "India: harassment against human rights lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal". The Law Society of Upper Canada. nd. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  9. ^ Indian Association of People's Lawyers (19 February 2016). "Condemn the Harassment of Peoples Lawyers in Jagdalpur".
  10. ^ A, Anuj (24 February 2016). ""We can't leave our clients behind", JAG-LAG exploring options after relentless State oppression". Bar & Bench. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b Manecksha, Freny (7 March 2016). "Evicting the Hope of Justice in Lawless Chhattisgarh". The Wire. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  12. ^ Ghose, Dipankar (19 February 2016). "Chhattisgarh: Police direct owners to evict Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, journalist". The Indian Express. Retrieved 10 December 2016.