Health of India’s Democracy and Justice Delivery System
| Anita Tripathi - VP - Head, Spl. Projects, Collaborations, IOP - 05 Jun 2020

Although, at the time of COVID19, all important discussions and discourses are sidelined, but for the sake of a healthy democracy, it is important to know the status of India’s judicial delivery system. Because justice is the business of us all; the rule of law is critical factor in ensuring both social, political and economic growth, and sustainable development of a country. India in last few years have generally been focused on the attainment of infrastructural development and power, however, justice delivery does not make a place in the list.

Around 10 days ago, Maja Daruwala, Chief Editor of the India Justice Report in an insightful conversation with Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow at Carnegie India, for the podcast Interpreting India titled The Indian Police and State Capacity discussed into the functioning of the police force and identifies key areas where reforms are most urgent. The India Justice Report team in association with the National Law University Odisha held a webinar to present the findings of the India Justice Report with a specific focus on Odisha's capacity to deliver to deliver justice. This was followed by panel discussion, moderated by Maja Daruwala, Chief Editor of the report, on other contemporary issues pertaining to access to justice with Prof Rao (VC, NLUO); Prof. Vijay Raghavan (TISS-Prayas) Dhirendra Panda (Civil Society Forum on Human Rights) and the students of the university. This prompted us to look into the contents of India Justice Report 2019. 

Here is an in depth analysis of India Justice Report 2019 -

 

By Anita Tripathi

INDIAN OBSERVER POST

https://www.facebook.com/IndianObserverPost/

Chandigarh, June 06, 2020:

The notion of justice as a popular term draws the picture of justice against crimes only; nonetheless the entire course of justice is backed by fundamental and directive principles that shield social, economic and political justice.

Henceforth, to match the pace of justice delivery in accordance to the rise in their demand, judicial reforms are the need of the hour in order to fortify the health of democracy in India, where justice can be manifested by fairness and evenhandedness promptly.

 For over the century, Tata Trust has been working to uplift the quality of life of individuals, laying special emphasis on the vulnerable and the marginalized ones.

The great philanthropic trust has taken a ground breaking initiative, that is, to prepare the INDIA JUSTICE REPORT 2019 in partnership with Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative(CHRI), DAKSH, TISS-Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and various other organizations working towards the improvement of the Indian justice system.

The extensiveness of the Report produced is to draw the attention of the stakeholders in the system to two important areas of national concern—access to justice, and the health of our institutions responsible for justice delivery.

It uses government data to assess the budgets, infrastructure, human resources, workload, diversity and 5 year trends of police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid in each state, against its own declared standards. The Report has made a significant contribution persistent of an average 20 per cent vacancy across the various pillars in the justice system, and the lack of diversity within them. 

The report has widely covered the absence of structural and substantive reform in the institutions of the justice system—among them, the police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid—is inexorably leading towards a breakdown of rule of law and the wearing-away of public faith in governance and the justice system.

As a matter of fact, an unreformed justice system has the potential to hamper long-term economic growth in the long run. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, the inability of the system to deliver justice and maintenance of the rule of law, has cost India an equivalent of 9 per cent of its GDP.

The Judicial adjournments and pendency have influenced the performances of business world by delaying the formal process of setting up and their functioning unconsciously. If we gather the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (2019) rankings with the Rule of Law Index (2019), India ranks 77 (out of 190)and 68 (out of 126) respectively.

A closer inspection shows India’s performance is particularly pulled down by delays in registration of property (69 days) and the enforcement of contracts (1,445 days).It becomes useful to point out that the country performs poorly in terms of the situation of order and security (111th), delivery of civil justice (97th), and the absence of corruption (80th).

It is imperative to analyze all the pillars of justice separately, to begin with police, whose efficiency majorly depends on its human resource. India— being the second most populous nation in the world—at 1511 police persons for 100,000 population has one of the lowest police to population ratios in the world. Illustratively, its BRICS partners Russia and South Africa with far smaller populations have two to three times India’s ratio.

 The report stresses at the officer level—from Assistant Sub-Inspector to Director General of Police—shortfalls are even more critical because this group includes investigating officers; heads of police stations, sub-divisions and districts. These officers supervise police work, make decisions on recruitment, transfers and postings, and plan for policing.

All states and UTs registered various degrees of shortfall except Sikkim, a small state, which exceeded its sanctioned strength. As of January 2017, Lakshadweep’s vacancies stood at 66 per cent; Uttar Pradesh’s at just below 63 per cent, Andaman and Nicobar had 56 per cent vacancy; and Jharkhand 44 per cent. Six other states and UTs were functioning with 30 per cent or more officer vacancy levels.

Surprisingly, according to the latest available information (BPR&D 2012), 47,557 police personnel are protecting 14,842 VIPs across the country. What has this figure forced us to reflect upon? Certainly a discriminative system, where human resources have to be allocated in accordance with the huge gap.

The report points out an important indicator that is, the utilization of grant for the modernization of police system, the 2016–2017 report of which shows that only Nagaland could utilize 100 per cent of the grant. Everywhere else the utilization levels were low—nineteen of the twenty-two states for which the data was available utilized below 60 per cent of their modernization.

Uttar Pradesh, for instance, which spent just ₹591 per capita, could utilize less than 25 per cent of its modernization. The lack of diversity, under representation of women staff, unfilled reservation quotas and large vacancies contribute to the capacity deficits in the police system.

 Upon shifting the gear to another pillar of the report, that is, the prison, it’s relevant to mention a recent judgment. Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, the Supreme Court, in fact, laid down guidelines on overcrowding, unnatural prisoner deaths, staff inadequacy and untrained staff.

This echoes global standards of the Mandela Rules that require, among other things, basic minimum living requirements be accorded to prisoners, and much like verdicts that have come before it, promotes the idea that the Indian criminal system is based on a reformatory and rehabilitative approach, and not on a retributive one.

The report gives first place to Kerala, second to Maharashtra and last two lowest rankings to Uttarakhand and Jharkhand respectively, against overcrowded prisons, lack of women staff and correctional staff and spending on inmates and budget utilization.

Yet the focus towards a safe, sanitary, rehabilitative environment remains a distant dream for prisoners. The experiments of reforming prisons in Telangana state have drawn prison administrators across India to understand and learn from.

 In judiciary ranking, Tamil Nadu tops among large and midsized states. where as in small states Sikkim is the best performer. At an all-India level, in twenty-seven states and UTs, there is just one subordinate court judge for over 50,000 people.

This includes seventeen of the eighteen large and mid-sized states, where 90 per cent of the country’s population resides. But in five of these states, the ratio exceeds one judge per lakh population at the subordinate court level. India currently has not implemented a scientific method to calculate the number of judges required to handle litigation in the country.

The Supreme Court has evaluated various methods to calculate the judge ratio such as the units’ system method recommended by the National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMSC). Further, a time-based, weighted, case-load method has also been advocated for the same.

For free legal aid, necessary infrastructure is required for the fulfillment of this obligation in a country like India, where democracy ensures the right to justice to its very citizens. An important measure of adequate infrastructure for reaching legal assistance into the public is the legal services clinic.

“This shall work like a single-window facility for helping the disadvantaged people to solve their legal problems whenever needed”. Ideally each jail should have a legal services clinic of its own.

Illustratively India Justice Report says that amongst the large states, Gujarat has the most jail legal services clinics—48 clinics in 27 jails: Punjab has 32 clinics in 26 jails; Chhattisgarh has 34 in 30 prisons.

Kerala, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have less than half the number of clinics required whereas Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are doing the best with the number of clinics matching nearly the number of jails.

In order to make justice delivery transparent the constitution of India has empowered the common citizen to get access of information related to governance.  

In wake of the above concern, we cannot forget the role of an important act-Right to information. Besides the access to information being considered as a basic human right or fundamental right internationally, it is also recognized as a vital law that enables to refuge all the other basic human rights.

It commands transparency in governance and alongside allows informed participation of citizenry, eventually which is distinctiveness of a vibrant democracy. 

The India Justice Report has aimed to point out the real challenges in accessing information through various governmental departments, which are tedious collections of unorganized and unscientific dealing, not updated with time on departmental websites.

However, they have encountered some exceptions too, like The National Judicial Data Grid and National Legal Services Authority both of which keep updating their data in real time.

They also looked through the websites of government agencies responsible for collating data nationally, such as the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Here, annual data was often not updated. In view of the RTI Act, transparency along the justice system is to be established by ensuring the publication of verified, disaggregated, accurate and timely data that is flawlessly workable for informing policy and practice across governance.

 Conclusively, there are many hurdles in the way that leads to ensuring compliance of RTI, like long delays in accessing information, local language translation, break down of the query into specifics and clustering too many queries in one request and finally receiving uneven data. The system is in dire need of reforms, to foster the culture of transparency, accountability and service which is required to build vital trust between government and the people, as it is recommended in India Justice Report 2019.

The data on police, prisons, legal aid and the judiciary that the India Justice Report has brought together provides strong evidence that the whole system requires urgent repair.

The important indicators of the system like budgets, human resources, infrastructure, workload and diversity help to pinpoint areas of illness, which is needed to revitalize the justice system across India.

It is imperative to reform the justice system of India that could reflect the diversity of the society where it serves, by justified presentation of underrepresented groups like women, minorities and the reserved classes.

The fiscal policy problems of the country’s justice delivery institutions need to be recognized and factored appropriately in the advocacy agenda for the sector reform.

The proportionate allocation of budget to every segment of the justice system could be a way to achieve efficient system. There is an indispensable call to reduce the present discrepancy in accessing justice that is noticeably stuck between rural and urban populations to achieve equality.

 India in last few years have generally been focused on the attainment of infrastructural development and power, however, justice delivery does not make a place in the list. Undoubtedly, justice is the business of us all; the rule of law is critical factor in ensuring both social, political and economic growth, and sustainable development of a country.

Dr. Anita Tripathi is MBA in Corporate Management; M. Phil in Biotech; MSc (Botany); Former Country Coordinator, Excel Book Publications, Tanzania; Former Research Associate, UN - PRME at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: She has diversified experience in life sciences, biotechnology & business management through education, teaching, research, community development, and strategic business expansion work; Former Mrs. India Beautiful Smile at Beauty Pageant;

Representational Image courtesy – Youth Ki Awaz / My Lawman

INDIA JUSTICE REPORT 2019

Full Report is here - https://www.tatatrusts.org/upload/pdf/overall-report-single.pdf


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