Access to Justice For Marginalised People In India

PRAVEEN DALAL MANAGING PARTNER OF PERRY4LAW AND CEO OF PTLBRight to Free Legal Aid is a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of Constitution of India. Similarly, Right to Fair Trail is also a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of Constitution of India. These Rights intend to ensure a “Right to Justice” to those who cannot afford the “Costs and Forms” of availing Justice in India. In short, Right to Free Legal Aid is the backbone for granting access to Justice to “Marginalised People” of India.

It has been more than 60 years since the Constitution of India came into force. However, till now the objectives of achieving Right to Free Legal Aid and Right to Fair Trail are distant dreams. This is really frustrating as 60 years is a very long time to achieve this objective.

Our Legal and Judicial Systems are marred with many “Loopholes” and “Deficiencies” that would not allow us to achieve the objective of “Omnipresent Justice” in India. The Government Machinery and System is suffering from Corruption, Lack of Transparency and Accountability and Colonial Mindset. We are still not open to use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for “Extending the Reach of Justice” to different corners of India.

Computerisation of Courts has helped India in reducing the “Backlog of Cases” in the past. However, mere Computerisation of Court would not serve any further purpose in the present times. We have to migrate from “Computerised Courts” to “Electronic Courts” as soon as possible. Indian Government has been discussing establishment of E-Courts since 2003. However, till the month of August 2014, we are still waiting for the establishment of first E-Court of India. All Indian Government has been able to achieve is establishment of few “Computerised Courts” and labelled them as E-Courts.

Now we have to rely more upon “Software Element” than dependence upon Hardware alone. For instance, use of software can curb bench hunting in India and increase disposal of cases upto 25%. Recently, the Delhi High Court has ruled that marriage registration certificate can be issued by the Registrar on the basis of video conferencing of the concerned parties.

Software and Applications can also be used for “Dispute Resolution Purposes”. We have Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 that empowers the parties to a dispute to resolve their disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (ADRMs) like Arbitration, Conciliation, Mediation, etc. However, the Arbitration Act is “Outdated” in nature as it does not specifically support use of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) in India. There is an urgent need to enact new Arbitration Law for India that also recognises use of ODR in India for dispute resolution.

While other Nations are working towards using ODR for dispute resolutions yet India is in no mood to do so. For instance, the UK Government has started a Consultation on the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to help UK consumers resolve complaints and disputes. ODR is also been proposed to be used for Cross Border E-Commerce Transactions, Cross Border Technology Transactions, Domain Name Dispute Resolution, etc. Even Legal Standards for Online Dispute Resolution for Cross-Border Electronic Transactions are under consideration.

These “Technological Remedies” are not difficult to adopt but the “Political Will” to do the same is missing. India can not truly achieve the task of bringing Access to Justice for Marginalised People of India till the Indian Government “Truly Accept and Adopt” use of ICT for that purpose.

We have a new Government at the Centre with a “Strong Leader” in the form of Mr. Narendra Modi that can help in achieving this much needed objective. I am confident that Access to Justice for Marginalised People of India would be a reality very soon as Mr. Modi prefers to use ICT for bringing various “Public Reforms”.