The Indian justice system does not have the best record. The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2019 ranks India 111 and 77 out of 126 countries in terms of order & security and civil justice, respectively. The system, which comprises mainly of prison, police, judiciary, and legal aid, needs to fix many loopholes and prioritise security in the country so that citizens can rely on a free and fair judicial process.
Despite being the biggest democracy of the world, women constitute only a small percentage of India’s government. Nearly the entire process of addressing a crime revolves around police, prison, judiciary, and legal aid—the four major constituents of the justice system, but only 10 percent of the country’s prison staff are women. And women make up only 26.5 percent and seven percent of the judiciary and police force, respectively.
While a more inclusive justice system is the need of the hour, there are other important aspects in which India is lacking too. Take the lengthy, cumbersome process, for instance. Most people do not even go through the court process, as justice seems very far away. There is a need to boost legal aid in non-urban parts of the country and budgets need to keep pace with economic changes.
The recently published India Justice Report 2019, supported by Tata Trusts, gives insights beyond just numbers and suggests seven practices that can ensure a more efficient administration of justice in the country.
Ensure better police-to-population ratio
Efficient and responsive policing is required to ensure the law of the land is maintained. The Tata Trusts study, which has looked into only civil police and not armed police, stated India has the lowest police-to-population ratio in the world, with 151 police personnel for every one lakh people. This skeletal force is also in charge of police stations, patrolling, guard duties, and surveillance, among other duties.
It is important that the police force, which is a public resource, is rationally deployed for best performances. The study suggests a cost-benefit analysis that takes into account the increasing human resources and economic price of unaddressed registered crimes, and disorder due to a lack of manpower.
Build a diverse team
While bolstering the human resources in any areas of the justice system, concerned bodies should strive to bring on board members of groups that are underrepresented. Along with women, it is also helpful to include individuals from Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Tribes, and religious minority groups.
Diversity in the police force will add organisational value and help, in practice, to look after and understand the nation’s deeply diverse population. Citing government data, the Tata Trusts study stated that while the government has mandated a target of 33 percent reservation for women, nine states of India do not facilitate the reserved quota.
Make justice services accessible
Indian courts are infamous for holding onto pending cases. This is also one of the reasons why most citizens do not consider taking matters to the court.
Hence, the main service to seek justice does not percolate to the masses, who are apprehensive to take on the rich fearing bias.
It is of utmost importance that courts and lawyers are available to the common Indian to be able to claim their rights and seek justice. Infrastructure in courts, police stations, and legal aid clinics should be made flexible and easily accessible, especially in rural areas. Every Indian should be able to avail of professional legal services from wherever they live.
Do better budget allocation
Budgeting is a key determinant of efficiency and work delivery. As such, the justice system should be mindful of economic changes and allocate budgets accordingly. The budget cannot remain constant at all times and must be able to cover rising demands.
Data shows that in the last five years, 14 out of 33 states and union territories (based on available information) reported police expenditure higher than that their total State expenditure.
Budgets should be practically dedicated to all segment of the justice system, including judiciary and prisons. Other departments should not fall short while prioritising others.
Review plans and performance
To increase efficiency, there should be a timely review of plans and performance to ascertain the on-ground practice and see where operations need to improve.
An open system will help understand the best practices and identify issues that need attention.
This will make planning easy for short-term and long-term action and goals. The activities should also be followed up with close monitoring when said plans are being implemented, making it easier to address any gaps.
Maintain data for transparency
The need for transparency is uniform across government bodies. But it is important that the system keeps track of plans and any activities – completed and failed – to take steps towards a more transparent government.
This can be followed up with routine publication of verified and accurate data and sharing information across government bodies. This will give people a clear overview of how the justice system functions and keep the population aware of processes. The study suggests that each cog of the criminal justice system should begin by being completely compliant with the obligation to pro-active disclosure under Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Conduct independent research
There is only a handful of research done in how the justice system works in the country. Independent and empirical research will not only provide insights but will be crucial in guiding the policy makers in their decisions.
Studying the different facets of the justice system in India will also help in formulating better laws and improving governance. Having independent bodies assess the administrative practices of government bodies is also indicative of the truly democratic nature.