India Justice Report 2019: Uttar Pradesh worst in delivery of justice

Uttar Pradesh has fared the worst in delivering justice to its people followed by Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, according to the Tata Trust’s India Justice Report 2019 which has examined the standards for delivering justice that were promised and provided by the states and union territories.

Maharashtra topped the list of the large states in delivering justice, followed by Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana. Among the small states, Goa topped the list followed by Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram ranked low among smaller states (where the population is less than one crore each).

The report–the first of its kind–has highlighted serious lacunae in India’s criminal justice system and ranked states and union territories based on their capacity to deliver justice across the four key pillars–police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid–after examining government data on budgets, infrastructure, human resources, workloads, diversity and five-year trends of police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid in each state.

Siloed data of the past seven years was sourced from the National Crime Records Bureau, Bureau of Police Research and Development, National Judicial Data Grid, National Legal Service Authority, Prison Statistics of India (2016), Supreme Court of India, Department of Justice–Ministry of Law & Justice, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Finance and Revenue Departments of Central and State Government, Census 2011 and other public sources.

Releasing the report recently, former Supreme Court judge, Justice M B Lokur described the study as pioneering and said the findings highlighted very serious lacunae in the justice delivery system.

“I fervently hope the judiciary and the government will take note of the significant findings, and the states too will act to urgently plug the gaps in the management of the police, prisons, forensics, justice delivery, legal aid and filling up the vacancies.”

Maja Daruwala, the chief editor of the India Justice Report 2019, wrote:  “Constitutional promises of equality before the law (Article 14) or the universal duty of all governments to ensure the protection of life and personal liberty (Article 21), however, will remain unfulfilled so long as justice remains a luxury accessible only to the privileged and powerful.”

The data, collated and analysed in the report, paints a grim picture of justice in the country and highlights that each individual sub-system is not just starved for budgets, manpower and infrastructure but that none of the states have been fully compliant with the standards they have set for themselves.

Vacancies were found to be a major challenge in the three institutions, namely police, prisons and the judiciary. According to available data, 22 per cent of the posts were vacant in the police (as on 01-01-2017); 33 per cent–38.5 per cent posts vacant in prisons (as on 31-12-2016); and 20 per cent–40 per cent seats vacant against the sanctioned posts in the judiciary (2016-2017).

At the same time, the report indicated that most states had failed to utilize the budgets sanctioned to them by Central Government for strengthening the criminal justice system.

As regards police, Only 6.4 per cent of the police force has been provided in-service training for dealing with the public. All states and union territories failed in achieving representation of their respective diversity quotas for Schedule Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes.

They fell short on religious minority diversities: between 1999–2013, the Muslim representation in the police has remained consistently low at 3-4 per cent including in Jammu and Kashmir.

Women are poorly represented in the police force and constitute only 7 per cent of the total of 2.4 million police personnel in the country. Across the country, 47,557 police personnel protect 14,842 VIPs. There are 15,488 police stations in India of which 9,932 serve the rural population and 5,036 serve the urban population.

One urban police station covers between 33,000 people (in Odisha) and 2,40,000 people (in Gujarat). On the other hand, one rural police station covers between 30,500 people (in Telangana) and 2,33,000 people (in West Bengal).

Prisons in India are overcrowded with a 114 per cent occupancy rate. 17 out of 36 state and union territories have prison occupancy of 100 per cent. Overcrowding in prisons is due to the fact that nearly 68 per cent of under-trials (as of December 2016) are waiting for investigation, inquiry or trial. With 180 per cent occupancy, Delhi prisons are most occupied.

95,366 inmates are being handled by one sanctioned correctional staff in Uttar Pradesh. 19 out of 35 states and union territories spent on an average Rs 2,500 per month per inmate on food, clothing, medical, vocation and welfare activities. India ranked 15th out of 217 countries in under-trial incarceration. There are only 621 correctional staff across India.

Subordinate courts in India have a pendency of 28 million cases–out of which 2.3 million cases have been pending for more than 10 years and 6.7 million cases for more than five years.

Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Tripura, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand are the states which have more than 20 per cent pendency of cases for over five years in the subordinate courts.

The representation of women in the lower judiciary accounts for 28 per cent and 12 per cent at the high court level. Seven states and one union territory were found to have no women judges in their high court benches.

As regards legal aid, about 80 per cent of the Indian population is eligible to avail free legal services. Since 1995, only 15 million people have been provided legal services by the legal aid services authorities established at the national, state, district and sub-divisional levels.

There were 664 district legal services authorities and 2,254 sub-divisional/taluka legal services committees (as in 2017). Tripura, West Bengal, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are states that are yet to establish district legal services authorities in all their judicial districts. There is only one legal aid clinic for every 1,603 villages in Uttar Pradesh.

India has about five legal aid lawyers per 1,00,000 population where the per capita public spending on legal aid is only Rs 0.75 paise per annum

In 2017-2018, a total of 7.85 million cases were disposed of countrywide by Lok adalats. Out of this, 5.92 million cases were disposed of by the national Lok adalats and 1.93 million cases were disposed of by Lok adalats held by the state legal services authorities.

Law and order is a state subject and there is a wide variation among Indian states in terms of capacity and efficacy to deliver justice. Justice delivery is however weak across all states and those who suffer most as a consequence of state failures are the most marginalized citizens of the respective states.

(By arrangement with IPA/The Leaflet)

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