Navdeep Singh Suri (left) and Vipul reveal details of the legal aid scheme during an interaction with media. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: The Indian Consulate in Dubai has empanelled eight law firms to fight the cases of Indian expatriates in distress.

The law firms were chosen after the Indian government widened the ambit of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) last year to provide assistance to overseas Indians entangled in legal problems that are not of their own making.

The expanded fund empowers the missions to spend up to $10,000 (Dh36,780) per eligible case. “Following those guidelines, we empanelled eight law firms,” Consul General of India in Dubai Vipul told Gulf News.

Navdeep Singh Suri, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, said the embassy in Abu Dhabi was also in the process of empanelling law firms in keeping with the new guidelines.

Previously, law firms used to be engaged primarily to fight claims over blood money in cases of accidental deaths.

With the new guidelines, Indian missions can extend legal assistance to those who have committed minor offences, workers who are wrongly implicated, stranded seamen, students facing legal issues and Indian women who are stranded, fighting cases of marital disputes.

In major crimes, the missions have to seek the approval of the Indian government, if a case justifies assistance.

However, in spite of the extension of the legal aid scheme, the consulate in Dubai has been able to support only three applicants so far, Vipul confirmed. “We have still not done as many cases as we should be doing as it took us some time to empanel the firms. But we hope that we will be able to help more people,” he said.

The three Indians who received legal assistance included one worker with an employment related case, a woman fighting a case against her husband who had deserted her and another person who got into trouble after bringing in a medicine that is banned here.

— With inputs from Binsal Abdul Kader, Senior Reporter