At a time when India’s human rights activists seem to be struggling, a proud moment has come for the country as the efforts of an Indian lawyer have been applauded at the international level.
Colin Gonsalves is the epitome of serving India relentlessly by voicing issues of the poor, destitute and those less fortunate. The Indian human rights lawyer has been awarded the 2017 Right to Livelihood Award.
Through his gallant endeavours and innovative use of public interest litigation, he has always held India’s government to account.
Who is Colin Gonsalves?
Mr. Gonsalves is a designated senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India and the founder of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) with a specialisation in human rights protection, labour law, and public interest law.
He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, but later switched his career to law and enrolled at the Bar in 1982. After completing his law from Bombay University, he and his colleagues started People’s Law Centre to provide free legal aid. In 1989, it was renamed the Human Rights Law Network.
Lawyers working at HRLN have effectively used public interest litigation to hold the government responsible and protect a broad spectrum of human rights over the years.Their clients have included bonded labourers, ethnic and religious minorities, refugees, slum dwellers, marginalised women and the poor.
One of Gonsalves’ most prominent cases was presiding over a 2001 legal action in the Indian Supreme Court that put the right to food in the Indian constitution and ensured that hundreds of millions of people receive proper nutrition!
Some of his other popular cases include the reinstatement of a teacher with cerebral palsy, stays on the demolition of slums, reduction in the prices of essential medicines and the enforcement of sexual harassment laws throughout the country.
This year Colin was chosen from 102 nominations from 51 countries. The Stockholm-based award foundation has bestowed a sum of Rs 22.42 crore in cash to be shared among three of the laureates- Gonsalves, Azeri journalist Khadija Ismayilova and Ethiopian lawyer Yetnebersh Nigussie.
And what is this award?
The Right Livelihood Award is widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”. It is bestowed on courageous people and organisations who unremittingly offer exemplary and innovative solutions to resolve the global issues from a grass root level. This award is named after the Buddhist concept of Right Livelihood. Previously, this award has been given to National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, human rights activists Bianca Jagger from Nicaragua, and Swedish children’s book author Astrid.
Undoubtedly, Colin Gonsalves’ addition to such a prestigious list is a moment of pride for the country and a not-so-very subtle reminder that good work and good people will always shine through at the end of every dark day.