24 January, 2018

New framework proposes collaborative action to aid universal Access to Justice

SALIENT DATA POINTS from ‘Tipping the Scales’

  • Delays plague India’s justice system with more than 25 million cases pending in 2017.
  • Litigants spend INR 30,000 crore per year just to attend courts.
  • Only 1.9% of civil litigants and 2.8% of criminal litigants surveyed were allotted free legal aid lawyers by the government.
  • 74% of litigants preferred out of court settlement to avoid legal complications.

SALIENT DATA POINTS from ‘Approaches to Justice in India’

  • About 7% of the population has justiciable disputes
  • Police and lawyers are the last resort of people when faced with a dispute
  • Police did not register a FIR immediately in 69% of the cases when people with disputes approached them
  • 54% of those who chose non-court method of dispute resolution found negotiation with the other party most useful in solving the dispute

New Delhi; Thought-leaders from the government, judiciary, and non-profit backgrounds came together in the city to recognize access to justice as a development concern and discuss a framework for collaborative action to achieve it. At the convening which was organized in partnership with Tata Trusts, two reports were released; a flagship report ‘Tipping the scales: strengthening systems for access to justice in India’ by Dasra, a strategic philanthropy organization, and ‘Approaches to Justice in India’ by DAKSH, a Benguluru based non-profit working on judicial reforms. These reports are a well-timed effort to map and present solutions to the spectrum of issues that hinder universal access to justice in India.

“Every sanctioned judicial court should have a competent manager to take charge of the management of the court’s affairs. This will prevent bottlenecks of finance, HR and case management. The other issue that needs urgent attention is low budgets allocated to the judiciary,” said Justice BN Srikrishna, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India, 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development specifically incorporates access to justice as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities. India has a long way before it achieves this goal, with thousands of its citizens struggling in the face of adversity every day.

‘Tipping the Scales’ by Dasra delves into the conditions necessary to ensure India’s justice system protects the most marginalized, and the role that different stakeholders can play in creating universal access to justice. Dasra has identified four strategic cornerstones that can catalyze significant improvements in how India seeks and delivers justice. The four cornerstones that can make a fundamental difference to the experience of seeking and delivering justice in India are: making laws accessible and comprehensible for legal empowerment; ensuring high-quality, affordable legal aid; streamlining case management processes in courts; and, driving accountability and supporting reforms in police and prison systems.

DAKSH’s Access to Justice Survey 2017 ‘Approaches to Justice in India’ was a PAN-India survey wherein responses were collected from 45,551 respondents across India to understand their experiences and perceptions with regard to dispute resolution. From the survey it was found that approximately seven per cent of the population have justiciable disputes, with 68 per cent of them choosing to resolve their disputes in court, and 32 per cent choosing to resolve their disputes out-of-court.

“The Tata Trusts work to change the quality of life for people and to ensure justice and dignity for all. A robust and responsive justice delivery system is an imperative for development. We believe that a collaborative approach involving the police, judiciary, the government, civil society organizations, and philanthropists can bring about a transformation in our justice system,” said Shireen Vakeel, Head, Policy & Advocacy, Tata Trusts.

“Challenges within the justice system are complicated, systemic and interlinked. Both demand and supply side need to work as a cohesive whole and require critical attention and intervention. To ensure sustained impact in this sector we need long term, committed domestic funding. This will give people a stake in the nation building process and in deepening democracy,” said Sriparna Ganguly Chaudhuri, Associate Director, Democracy and Governance Collaborative, Dasra.

“Cost, complexity and uncertainty in disposal times are keeping people away from approaching courts, leading them to informal dispute resolution forums. The role of police and lawyers in helping citizens access the formal dispute resolution system is critical,” said Surya Prakash B.S., Programme Director, DAKSH.

Even though, the ability to provide crosscutting, large-scale solutions to the problems of access to justice in India lies exclusively within the realm of the judiciary and executive, it is critical for all stakeholders interested in creating a more equal and inclusive India to focus on this issue and invest in rebuilding the road to justice in India. There is a need for collaborative approaches and collective action, through which stakeholders can address the gaps in justice delivery that critically affect the marginalized.

For further information, please email Gurpriya Singh, Dasra, at gurpriya@dasra.org.

About Tata Trusts
Tata Trusts is amongst India’s oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organizations that work in several areas of community development. Since its inception, Tata Trusts has played a pioneering role in transforming traditional ideas of philanthropy to make impactful sustainable change in the lives of the communities served.

Through direct implementation, co-partnership strategies and grant making, the Trusts support and drive innovation in the areas of education; healthcare and nutrition; rural livelihoods; natural resources management; enhancing civil society and governance and media, arts, crafts and culture. Tata Trusts continue to be guided by the principles of its Founder, Jamsetji Tata and through his vision of proactive philanthropy; the Trusts catalyze societal development while ensuring that initiatives and interventions have a contemporary relevance to the nation.

For more information, visit http://tatatrusts.org/

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For more information on Tata Trusts, please contact: Nayantara Dutta, Communications, at ndutta@tatatrusts.org

About Dasra
DASRA, meaning ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit, is a pioneering strategic philanthropic organization that aims to transform India, where a billion people can thrive with dignity and equity. Since its inception in 1999, Dasra has accelerated social change by driving collaborative action through powerful partnerships among a trust-based network of stakeholders (corporates, foundations, families, non-profits, social businesses, government and media). Over the years, Dasra has deepened social impact in focused fields that include adolescents, urban sanitation, democracy and governance, and has built social capital by leading a strategic philanthropy movement in the country.

DAKSH is a Bengaluru based civil society organization working on judicial reforms, in particular studying the problem of pendency of cases in the Indian legal system with the aim of suggesting sustainable solutions based on quantitative research and empirical legal methods. It focuses on judicial efficiency, process, administration and management. Towards this end it carries out research, implementation of solutions and advocacy relating to judicial reforms.