Chronic lack of infrastructure in Lower Judiciary, report by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy

Chronic lack of infrastructure in Lower Judiciary, report by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy

Meera Emmanuel

The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has published a report on the status of physical infrastructure of the lower judiciary in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). The report focuses on the extent to which litigants have physical access to the lower courts under study.

In preparing the report, the litigant’s perspective was prioritized by asking three questions i.e.

  • Can the litigant locate where he must go?
  • Is the litigant able to access that location?
  • Upon reaching his destination, is the litigant comfortable?

The study has covered twelve court complexes in National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). All six court complexes in the NCT of Delhi were studied. Further, two court complexes each in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh were also studied.

On a general note, the report has found that court complexes can be particularly hard to navigate if a person is physically challenged or illiterate. Essential features meant to enhance the accessibility of courts, such as guide maps, ramps, signage, help desks, etc., were mostly absent in the court complexes studied.

The report has assessed the prevalence and quality of waiting rooms, given that litigants often spend time waiting for their case to be heard. Ideally, these spaces should be well-lit, clean, air-conditioned, and have sufficient seating. However, the report found that this is not usually the case.

This report also empirically verified the commonly-held notions of urban versus rural infrastructure. It was found that as one moves further away from NCT, the quality of amenities in court complexes deteriorates. Two courts furthest from the NCT did not have features such as ATMs, a bank branch, post office, and in one case, a designated washroom for women.

The table below reveals the prevalence of important utilities across the studied courts. The courts in yellow areas fall in urban areas, whereas the blue fields denote courts in rural areas. Green fields signify that the facility marked is present. Red fields denote that the facility is absent.

With reference to specific courts, key findings of the study include the following.

  • Only the Saket court complex provided a guide map upon entry, arguably the most basic feature to enhance accessibility, and only one court complex had a help desk. In fact, overall it was concluded that the Saket court is clearly the most well-equipped and well-designed court. However, certain deficiencies were found in the provision of blind or general signages, directions, maps and management of entry and exit points.
  • Five court complexes in Delhi provided ramps in some places, but no court complex offered any tactile pavement or braille signage to aid persons with visual impairment.
  • Most court complexes did not have clean or usable washroom facilities for women (and no court complex had designated washrooms for transgenders). The Bharatpur court complex in Rajasthan, had no washroom for women.
  • Only three court complexes, all in Delhi, were air-conditioned. 50% of the courts surveyed did not have designated waiting areas, but just scattered seating in some places. Courts situated in NCR had especially low seating capacity.
  • Five court complexes from the NCR, did not have the provision of a canteen, while three did not have provisions for clean drinking water.

The report ultimately concludes that there is a chronic lack of infrastructural development in district court complexes. Further, this problem is compounded when one factors in persons with disabilities, persons who are illiterate, women and transgenders.

The court complexes were assessed through in-person visits, using parameters from the Baseline Report on Court Development and Planning System (Infrastructure and Budgeting), brought out by the National Court Management Systems (NCMS) of the Supreme Court.

By adapting NCMS standards, researchers developed a 60-point survey. Tables and illustrations visually depict the observations, and a translation in Hindi has been provided to increase readability.

The full report can be accessed here.

Image Courtesy: Vidhi Centre report.

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