Press release of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
Tweet this: No baggage scanning facility, shortage of courtrooms, absence of fully-functional washrooms – The sorry state of Indian District Courts as per Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy
- 665 district court complexes were surveyed and 6650 litigants interviewed as part of the study
- While Delhi (90%), Kerala (84%), Meghalaya (75%), Haryana (70%) and Himachal Pradesh (70%) are amongst the best-performing states, Bihar (26%) and Manipur (29%) are the worst
- Only 11% of the court complexes surveyed had a working baggage scanning facility, while 71% had fire extinguishers and 48% had emergency exit signs
- Only 40% of the court complexes have fully-functioning washrooms. Goa, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Mizoram had the least number of court complexes with functional washrooms. 100 district court complexes across the country don’t even have washrooms for women
- Only 39% of the states are full-service court complexes having amenities like canteen, bank branch, photocopiers, typists, notaries, etc. The least provided facilities included first-aid care (59%), post office (63%) and bank branch (65%)
- Several District Courts websites are either inactive or non-functional
New Delhi, 1st August 2019 – Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, a leading independent legal think tank, today unveiled its latest report – Building Better Courts (Surveying the Infrastructure of India’s District Courts), supported by Tata Trusts. The report presents and analyses the gaps in the various District Courts’ facilities and also highlights key recommendations which can help in improving their state and the overall access to justice for litigants in India.
Commenting on the report Ms Reshma Sekhar, Research Fellow of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and co-author of the report said, “The public discourse around judicial reforms mostly revolve around case pendency, judicial vacancies while grave issues such as the state of the physical infrastructure of courts are more often ignored. Even when issues regarding court infrastructure are spoken about, it is mostly in the quantitative, i.e. the number of court halls and court complexes and not the quality of them. This report undertakes an assessment of court spaces from a litigant’s perspective and is a first-of-its-kind study of the quality of available courts in India.”
The survey primarily focuses on the physical and digital aspects of court infrastructure by qualitatively accessing 665 district court complexes and interviewing 6650 litigants. This survey was designed to understand the user experience while accessing court spaces on several parameters like accessibility by public transport, ease of navigation within the court complex, waiting areas, hygiene, security, amenities etc. and have found some appalling statistics.
Few key findings from the report include –
- Access to District Courts in terms of location is not 100%: The National Court Management Systems (NCMS) report recommends that court complexes should be located in areas that are accessible by public transport, and should have adequate parking facilities. Only 81% or 539 court complexes are accessible via public transport, whereas 80% or 532 of the court complexes have designated parking areas.
- Navigation for litigants around court complexes is a major concern – Litigants were rarely able to find their way themselves, and mostly asked lawyers for directions. Only 20% of district courts had guide maps and 45% had helpdesks.
- Designated waiting areas for the litigants and general public are only available in 54% district court complexes.
- Separate, well-maintained toilets for litigants, visitors and lawyers, segregated by gender is a pre-requisite but only 88% of court complexes had washrooms and out of which only 40% are fully functioning. Around 100 district court complexes do not have a washroom for women.
- Court complexes should be easy to access and must incorporate a design that is universal and flexible to all – Only 27% court complexes were accessible through ramps and/ or lifts, whereas only 11% had designated washrooms for persons with disabilities, and only 2% had built-in visual aid features.
- Only 39% of the states had full-service court complexes – The least-provided facilities included bank branch (65%), post office (63%), and first-aid care (59%), while services such as photocopier (100%), typists (98%) and stamp vendors (97%) were mostly available.
- Safety and security of judges, administrative staff, lawyers, litigants, witnesses, prisoners and undertrials should be of utmost importance – Only 11% of the court complexes had a working baggage scanning facility, while 71% had fire extinguishers and 48% had emergency exit signs.
About Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy
The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy (‘Vidhi’) is an independent think-tank doing legal research to make better laws and improve governance for the public good. Vidhi engages with the Government of India, State Governments, the Judiciary and other public institutions to inform policy-making and also to effectively convert the policy into law.
Vidhi undertakes original legal research, petitions courts on important law and policy issues, and collaborates with civil society, academic institutions and other stakeholders to have a positive impact on governance. Its abiding values are non-partisan engagement, research excellence and independence.
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