Dubai: Distressed expats from the south Indian state of Kerala can now receive free legal aid through Malayali lawyers in the UAE empanelled by their government.
The first two legal consultants in the legal aid cell here have been appointed in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and legal consultants for other emirates will assume charge soon, a top official told Gulf News.
The service of the lawyers is being provided through the Pravasi Legal Aid Cell (PLAC), an initiative of Norka-Roots, under the Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs Department of the Kerala government.
Harikrishnan Namboothiri, CEO of Norka Roots, said advocates Sabu Retnakaran and Femin Panikkassery had been appointed as the PLAC legal consultants in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Speaking over phone from Kerala, Namboothiri said: “The legal consultants will receive an honorarium from Norka. They will provide free legal counselling and also help deserving applicants get legal representation in the courts.”
Namboothiri said this is the first time an Indian state is providing free legal aid for its citizens living abroad. The service started in Kuwait and Oman and has been expanded to the UAE and Bahrain now.
Lack of proper knowledge about the legal system in host countries, language barriers, high legal expenses and absence of proper and timely assistance from legal consultants have resulted in many Keralite expats facing problems abroad, Namboothiri said.
The cell will provide translation services. Legal assistance will be provided for employment issues, filing cases, compensation and mercy petitions. It will also hold legal awareness programmes through community groups.
Enabling representation in courts
The PLAC consultant in Abu Dhabi Sabu Retnakararn said the service would mainly benefit the workers from the state.
“In many labour cases, the clients may not have the financial capacity for appointing a lawyer. Any individual can represent himself in lower courts without hiring a lawyer. But, it is difficult for workers because of the lack of knowledge about legal matters and the language barrier. We can help prepare the necessary documents in English which can be translated to Arabic and then they can submit it in the court.”
The service will be provided to those in distress and facing employment disputes and minor cases which fulfill the eligibility criteria set by Norka.
“We have our own check list to decide the merit of the case. Those who meet the eligibility criteria will be referred to the legal consultant in charge,” said Namboothiri.
The liaison officers will not accept request for legal aid in serious criminal offences, he clarified.
“Legal aid will be provided to those who are in distress conditions. This is not meant for businessmen. The cell can play a big role when there is a visa amnesty as well. We will work in coordination with the Indian missions.”
How to seek help?
Malayalis holding Indian passport with resident or visit visa, or the relatives and friends of individuals facing cases and prisoners can apply.
Those seeking legal aid should fill the application form available on the website www.norkaroots.org and send it to the Norka CEO via post or email at firstname.lastname@example.org along with the relevant documents.
Expats in the UAE can give a missed call to the Norka helpline 00918802012345 to receive a call back for clarifying their doubts related to the service.