By Rajiv Shah
Released at a formal ceremony in Delhi, an in-depth study has ranked Gujarat 8th among 18 major states in its “composite ranking” across four different areas it has covered for its analysis – police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid. The states that are found to be performing better than Gujarat in the overall delivery of justice are Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka and Odisha.
Analysing three different pillars in order to arrive at a composite ranking for India’s justice delivery system – human resources, diversity, and intention – the study finds that in human resources (manpower, quantity and quality) Gujarat ranks 10th, below Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana; in diversity (gender representation, for instance) it ranks eighth, below Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttarakhand; and in intention (e.g budgetary allocation) it ranks third, below two states, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
Sponsored by Tata Trusts, India’s oldest philanthropic organization, founded in 1892 by Jamsetji Tata, the 146-page study, “India Justice Report: Ranking States on Police, Judiciary, Prisons and Legal Aid”, has been carried out by experts from well-known civil society experts from the Centre for Social Justice (IDEAL), Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), DAKSH, TISS-Prayas and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
Seeking to rank states in delivering fair and speedy justice, the study says it has used only government data, stating, “Sadly, taken collectively, the data paints a grim picture of justice”. It regrets, India’s justice delivery system “is starved for budgets, manpower and infrastructure”, and “no state is fully compliant with standards it has set for itself”. It criticizes “sluggish” governments for being content with creating “ad hoc and patchwork remedies to cure deeply embedded systemic failures.”
Based on these three pillars, the study says that Gujarat ranks 12th out of 18 major states in so far as police’s capacity to deliver justice is concerned. Several of the advanced states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well as some of the so-called Bimaru states such as Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found to have ranked better than Gujarat.
Lamenting utter shortage of police personnel, the study says, Gujarat’s sanctioned strength is one of the lowest in India in proportion to its population. Falling well below the national average (151 for 100,000 population), it is 120 in Gujarat, worse than Madhya Pradesh (147), Rajasthan (142), Madhya Pradesh (125), and Rajasthan (122). Illustratively, the study says, India’s “BRICS partners Russia and South Africa with far smaller populations have two to three times India’s ratio.”
While constabulary forms 85 per cent of the total police personnel, here the situation is even worse. While among major states Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the only ones that have “reached the sanctioned strength”, the six states where the shortfall is of more than 25 per cent are Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.
As for the numbers of people one police station, the study finds that here again Gujarat’s performance is, again, one of the poorest. Thus, it has a whopping 140,000 people per urban police station as against 33,000 people in Odisha.
Coming to prisons, the study finds that Gujarat ranking 9th among 18 major states, and states performing better than Gujarat include both advanced and Bimaru states – Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Gujarat is found to be one of the seven 18 major states (others being Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Kerala and Tamil Nadu), which have seen a “decline in average budget utilization in the five-year period between 2011–2012 and 2016–2017.”
In fact, it says, “In ten states, prison expenditure did not grow at the same pace as state expenditure; with Gujarat showing that while state expenditure rose by 12.5 per cent, prison expenditure actually fell by 9.3 per cent in 2015–2016.”
The study comments, “This reinforces the overall neglect prisons face, remaining largely ignored in terms of state priority, which necessarily impacts on their declared objective of being centres for the correction and rehabilitation of inmates. Overcrowding and staff shortages can be as hard on prison staff as prisoners.”
Pointing out that improvement in prisons “has been uneven”, the study shows that here also Gujarat has fared badly. “Between 2012– 2016, Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Haryana, Bihar and Maharashtra reduced vacancies at both officer and cadre staff levels”, adding, “Shifting as they are meant to, towards reform and rehabilitation, prison systems are required to have a special cohort of correctional staff.”
Citing The Model Prison Manual, 2016, which seeks recruitment of welfare officers, psychologists, lawyers, counsellors, social workers among others as part of welfare units for the wellbeing of prisoners, the study says, Gujarat, along with Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have “less than ten sanctioned posts”, while several other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Telangana “had not sanctioned even a single post for correctional staff.”
The study further says, while the Model Prison Manual, 2016 requires one correctional officer for every 200 prisoners and one psychologist/counsellor for every 500, only state Odisha (124) is below this figure, while this figure is above 95,000 inmates per correctional staff in Uttar Pradesh, “followed by Gujarat with more than 12,000 inmates per correctional staff.”
Ranking Gujarat seventh among 18 major states in judiciary, the study praises the state for doing well despite relatively lower per capita expenditure. Thus, it says, “Higher per capita expenditures do not necessarily translate into better infrastructure, lower vacancies, or speedier disposal of cases. Illustratively, while Punjab and Haryana had high per capita spends for judiciary, both also had high vacancies across courts (46 per cent in the High Court and about 20 per cent in the subordinate courts).”
“On the other hand”, it says, “Gujarat and Odisha, with relatively lower per capita spends, were able to dispose of more cases than the number filed in that year (2016–2017) in subordinate courts; Gujarat cleared nearly 30 per cent more cases than were filed, while Odisha cleared nearly 6 per cent more. Its judiciary improved its capacities across more indicators than other states.”
Stating that the ‘changes’ indicated by the trends, whether positive or negative, “are not evenly spread across all the indicators and the complex picture hides particularities within states”, the study says, “Gujarat, for instance, performed well in reducing the number of pending cases and vacancies. However, cases pending for 5-10 years and over 10 years cumulatively accounted for 27 per cent of the total number of cases pending.”
Pointing out that “not a single High Court or state’s subordinate judiciary had reached its complete complement of sanctioned judicial posts”, the study regrets, high judicial vacancies in the subordinate courts of Gujarat some other states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh Bihar, are over 30 per cent, as against less than 12 per cent in while Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
The study finds, “Eight states had reduced vacancies at the lower levels, but only three had done so at the High Court level. Gujarat and Rajasthan were the only two states to have reduced at both levels, but still had vacancies. Gujarat had 35 per cent judge vacancy in its subordinate courts and 39 per cent in its High Court. Rajasthan had 12 per cent judge vacancy in its subordinate courts and 35 per cent in its High Court.”
In fact, according to the study, 10 of the 18 large and mid-sized states, which include Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab Haryana – have been working “with more than 25 per cent non-judicial staff vacancies.” It adds, “Illustratively, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh had the highest average pendency in subordinate courts. Here subordinate court vacancies in 2016–2017 stood at over 30 per cent.”
Further, the study says, “Cases in Gujarat’s subordinate courts remained pending for up to 9.5 years on average”, as against in Rajasthan’s subordinate courts, where “the average wait was 3.7 years.” It adds, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Gujarat “had at least one in every four, or 25 per cent of all cases, pending for more than 5 years.”
Coming to legal aid, the study finds, the study finds Gujarat ranking sixth among 18 major states, with Kerala, Haryana, Punjab, Telangana and Maharashtra performing better. It says, while India’s legal services institutions (LSI) are supposed to not just represent in court cases, but also spread legal literacy, facilitate actualization of the entitlements of people under welfare laws and schemes, etc., things are not so rosy at the ground level.
Thus, while as of 2018, there were 664 district legal services authorities (DLSAs) and 2,254 sub-divisional/taluka legal services committees, several states, which include Gujarat along with West Bengal, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh haven’t established DLSAs in all their judicial districts.
The study says, “Ideally each jail should have a legal services clinic of its own”, praising Gujarat having the “most jail legal services clinics – 48 clinics in 27 jails, followed by Punjab 32 clinics in 26 jails, and Chhattisgarh 34 in 30 prisons. Further, in Gujarat, the study adds, level services authorities were more forthcoming in providing information compared to other states.
Instead of automatically transferring the entire list of queries to the relevant districts, the Gujarat and Karnataka legal services authorities “collated all the information they received from the districts before sending out their response to our queries.” It comments, “The good practices followed by these departments and authorities saved a lot of time.”
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