May 27, 2024

BENGALURU EXPRESS

Truth Triumphs

Bangalore Changemakers Come Together to Make Justice More Accessible

Bengaluru, May 6: “Access to justice” is often hailed as a key component of India’s development. However, the glaring reality of the existing geographical, social and economic disparities continue to make the legal system daunting and inaccessible for most in our country. In fact, while over 80% of Indians are eligible for legal aid services, less than 1% of the total population have availed of legal aid services.

Nyaaya is an open access digital repository of simple, actionable, reliable and accessible legal (SARAL) information. It works to ensure Indian citizens understand their rights and are equipped with the tools to enforce them. Nyaaya works with its Access to Justice network of over 600 lawyers, law students and partner civil society organisations to create and disseminate actionable legal information to those in need to make them aware of the law and enforce their rights.

In Karnataka, Nyaaya has launched the Samvidhaan Fellowship for 7 district based lawyers in Karnataka who work with community based organisations and local state authorities to legally empower underserved communities with a mission to make justice mechanisms accessible to the last mile.

Furthering this mission, on April 29 Nyaaya assembled a constellation of changemakers, with the representatives from the judiciary, police force, government, law schools, civil society organisations as well as lawyers to collectively understand the various barriers to justice and outline a roadmap to overcoming them at the Bangalore International Centre.

The workshop was attended by Mr. Raghavendra Shettigar, Deputy Secretary, Karnataka State Legal Services Authority, Mr. Suneel Kumar, Retd. DGP (CID) of Karnataka Police, Ms. Pushpa Muddulingannavar , Deputy Director (Women Welfare) of the Department of Women and Child, Government of Karnataka, representatives from law schools and philanthropic organisations along with our Karnataka based partner organisations, Best Practices Foundation, SICHREM, Solidarity Foundation, Hasiru Dala, Enable India, Vimochana, Stree Jagriti Samiti, CIVIC and Nyaaya’s team of district level lawyers.

The participants identified multiple systemic and societal challenges in accessing justice, citing examples of members of the LGBTIQ community being scared to complain to the police for fear of facing bigotry and punishment, children of migrant workers not getting government school admissions owing to lack of ID, women being unable to pursue legal remedies as they were not allowed to leave home or the resources are too far away.

Some of the specific obstacles identified in the workshop are :

Citizens are often unaware of the first points of contact (POCs) and process to be followed for a legal solution.
❖ Where they are aware of it, they may fear or mistrust the POCs.
❖ This is exacerbated by unavailability or lack of empathy amongst the POCs, as well as rampant corruption and lack of accountability.
❖ When citizens are aware of the process to be followed within the justice system, they often find it complex.
❖ There is inadequate moral and systemic support to help people navigate complex justice systems.
❖ In many cases, the support available involves middlemen who can feed incorrect or inadequate information about remedies for their own benefit.
❖ Where a citizen can overcome the above barriers, they still have to face the financial burden of seeking a legal solution to their problems.
❖ The opportunity cost associated with pursuing these resolutions at the expense of time that can otherwise be spent on earning living wages acts as a multiplier to the financial burden. Delay in finding that solution can also intensify this barrier.
❖ Lack of geographical proximity and limitations on mobility can affect people’s ability to reach justice systems.
❖ Lack of appropriate identity documentation and documentation to help prove their entitlements also affect citizens’ abilities to pursue legal solutions.
❖ Social inequity, in the form of marginalized groups being deliberately excluded from legal awareness programs, retribution for legal action, forced compromises, lack of sensitization amongst POCs, can also act as an immense barrier.
❖ Inadequate or delayed funding makes it difficult for enough POCs to be available and for changemakers to affect change without passing on the cost to their partners.

The discussion highlighted that despite the collective will to ensure that justice percolates to the last mile, there are numerous systemic hurdles that changemakers need to address and overcome.

WCD’s Pushpa Muddulingannavar added that they struggle with the lack of human resources and are very understaffed at the district level, another problem is there is a delay in receiving funds from the Centre.

Since the workshop focused on creating systems to close the gap, the participants spent the next half of the workshop ideating together for viable and sustainable solutions. Some of the other suggestions included capacity building of counselling centres and para-legal volunteers from law colleges and civil society organisations at the grassroots to enable sensitive and actionable guidance to the aggrieved. It was emphasised that informal justice delivery mechanisms must be strengthened and work together with formal structures for speedy dispensation of justice.

The group came out of the discussion with renewed enthusiasm and resolve to create a holistic system in Karnataka where every citizen will be aware of their rights and be unafraid to seek justice with minimal barriers. “ We don’t see this as a one time event but a series of immersive discussions where we will bring together stakeholders from relevant fields to collectively find solutions and work towards ensuring legal rights are accessible and actionable for everyone”, said Anisha Gopi, the Team Lead at Nyaaya.

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