Last month 28-year-old lawyer Arghya Sengupta packed his bags to leave Pembroke College, Oxford, UK, where he taught administrative law, to set up an unusual legal practice in New Delhi.

The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy is a not-for-profit legal think tank that will formally start functioning in December. Its first assignment is to work on the draft of an anti-superstition Bill for the Karnataka government. Vidhi will work with the National Law School of India University in Bangalore.

Vidhi’s aim is to work on researching laws for clarity, coherence and consistency, and to assist in drafting new Bills. “Drafting of laws in India is poor; the obscure legalese used in many statutes makes them mired in litigation for inordinately long periods. The conflict between different legislations ends up creating multiple enforcement mechanisms that dilute accountability," says Sengupta.

Vidhi’s young employees, or “fellows" as they are called, are all lawyers and are inspired by the possibility of using their legal skills to make a difference in how this democracy operates. Sengupta is an alumnus of the National Law School of India University and the University of Oxford, and is a Rhodes Scholar. He is being joined by three others: Oxford-trained lawyer and Rhodes Scholar Dhvani Mehta, 27; Rukmini Das, 25 who has just completed her Llm in international dispute settlement at the one-year programme organized jointly by the University of Geneva and The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland; and Alok Prasanna, 28, who is currently working with solicitor general Mohan Parasaran’s office in New Delhi. Prasanna, who has worked on cases like the government versus Vodafone and the government versus Reliance Industries petrochemicals, is moving to Vidhi to help make a difference with how laws are made. “I hope to be able to contribute more to the proper framing of laws so that policy doesn’t take place in a legal vacuum, which often seems to be the case right now," he says, adding that this is his personal opinion.

Encouraged by the response to their analysis and recommendations on this Bill, which was passed subsequently, the group, called Pre-Legislative Briefing Service (PLBS) at the time, went on to work on other projects like The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, and The Public Procurement Bill, 2012. By setting up Vidhi as a full-time legal think tank, Sengupta hopes to formalize PLBS’ efforts and to attract legal talent to help with law-making. “It’s a real chance at reforming and working in close conjunction with the government on important questions of legal policy," says Mehta, whose areas of interest are environmental and human rights law. “Being able to influence (however minimally) legislative change seems a more constructive and satisfying thing to do than just critiquing the law."

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Recent donors

• Pirojsha Godrej Foundation

• Mahindra Group

To contact Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy visit

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