New report highlights why, unless there is a drastic fixing of gaps, justice delivery will be beset by delays in India
The recently-released India Justice Report 2020 that ranks states based on their capability to deliver justice ranks Maharashtra as the best-performing among 18 large and mid-sized states, followed by Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The analysis uses proxies for structural and financial capacity, gleaned from budget data and particulars of human resource, workload, infrastructure, and diversity across judiciary, police, prison and legal aid. Among the seven small states, Tripura topped the ranking followed by Sikkim and Goa. However, the report makes a special mention that nearly two-thirds of the country’s prison inmates are yet to be convicted—that is, they are undertrials. As a result, the prisons are bursting at the seams due to occupancy much beyond capacity. Another striking fact is that women’s representation is being merely paid a lip-service—though there are a larger number of women in these segments than before, their presence largely remains confined to the lowest ranks. To illustrate, just about three in ten judges in the country are women.
Legal aid also remains a sore point, undermining citizens’ fundamental right to constitutional remedies; since 1995, just 1.5 crore people have received legal aid, a shockingly low number considering 80% of the population is entitled for it. The shortage of staff across segments exacerbates poor justice delivery—more than a quarter of the posts in many states remain vacant. Against such a stark backdrop, the pendency of cases is surely self-explained? Unless there is a systemic overhaul of how justice delivery is approached, India will remain a textbook case of justice denied because of delays.