Country’s second-best justice delivery structure in TN, says report

While talking about justice delivery systems, it is also important to take into account the state government’s abuse of law and judiciary, say human rights activists

OBC, reservations, Tamil Nadu, fundamental rights, Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled castes
Justice N Anand Venkatesh gave the verdict while quashing a magistrate’s order to the Coimbatore Police to file a case against those who participated in the cutting of a cake decorated with the Tricolour motif in 2013. | Photo: Wikipedia

The India Justice Report 2020, released recently by Tata Trusts, claims that Tamil Nadu has second-best justice delivery structures in the country.

Maharashtra came in the first place for the second time in a row and southern states Telengana and Kerala attained the third and the fifth rank, respectively.

While Telengana has shown improvement in capacitating justice delivery structures (11th rank in 2019), Kerala (2nd in 2019) has slipped down.

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An initiative of Tata Trusts, India Justice Report is a collaborative effort of organisations such as the Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, TISS-Prayas, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and How India Lives. The report looks into how the states are faring on creating justice delivery structures so that justice can be delivered quickly and effectively. The first such report was published in 2019.

The report has been prepared on the basis of government data on four justice delivery structures: police, judiciary, prisons and legal aid. Factors such as how much budget has been allocated to these institutions by the states, are there sufficient human resources available, how much workload each employee carries, the diversity followed in appointing the employees, availability of necessary infrastructures were taken into the account.

Tamil Nadu moved from third place in overall ranking in 2019 to second in 2020. With regard to police, the state was ranked 5th (1st in 2019); prisons was 6th (10th); judiciary retained its 1st rank; and legal aid was 11th (12th in 2019).

On filling up vacancies in the four institutions, police and judiciary saw a downward trend. Similarly the representation of women as judges in the high court showed a decline. Though each legal aid centre covers almost 50 villages, there was a lack in appointing paralegal aid volunteers. This even after the state’s budget allocation to legal aid went up from 66 per cent in 2017-2018 to 82 per cent in 2019-2020.

The decline or improvement in the ranking has nothing to do with the quality of justice delivered, according to the researchers.

“The main aim of the report is to look at the capacity and quantity of the justice delivery systems but not the quality. So there is no relation between the Sathankulam custodial death incident and the decline in police ranking,” said Valay Singh, lead — projects, Tata Trusts, and also one of the writers of the report.

But still, the justice delivery infrastructure found in Tamil Nadu is remarkable compared to other states. While talking about justice delivery systems, it is also important to take into account the state government’s abuse of law and judiciary, said advocate and human rights activist S Balamurugan.

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“Since Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are faring well in other economic and human indexes, there is no surprise that they are doing well in maintaining justice delivery systems. But that doesn’t mean the people here are served justice rightly. Police brutality and bureaucratic harassment make it difficult for an ordinary person to access the judiciary,” he said.

Suppressing dissenting voices by using acts such as UAPA, the state pushes an individual to prove himself innocent. Though they can hire the services of a lawyer, in many cases they are unable to get bail, since the powers are misused, said Balamurugan.

“There is no doubt that the legal aid centres in the state are helping people. But they are not proactive and voluntary. They help only when the people approaches them. Also, the unfilled vacancies alone cannot be cited as a reason for delay in justice,” he added.

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