Police, judiciary, prisons and legal aid: Areas of improvement and concern in Gujarat

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Sponsored by India’s oldest philanthropic organization, founded in 1892 by Jamsetji Tata, the 146-page study, “India Justice Report”, carried out by well-known civil society experts from the Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, TISS-Prayas and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, has sought to rank 18 major states on police, judiciary, prisons and legal aid.

A note on Gujarat ranking:

Caste reservation in police

According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BP&RD), there should be reservation among police officers in Gujarat to the tune of 7% for SCs, 15% for STs and 27% for OBCs. Data for the last two years shows that it’s meeting its SC benchmark, but not its ST and OBC benchmarks. Further, while it has improved in filling ST vacancies, it has regressed in filing OBC vacancies.

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Increasing the share of women in police force

In 2016 and 2017, Gujarat has taken significant strides in improving the representation of women in its police force. From 4% in 2015, the share of women has increased to 7.2% in 2016 and 10.5% in 2017. Assuming other states in the set of 18 large and mid-sized states remained where they were, this would have resulted in Gujarat rising from rank 9 to rank 3 on this metric. It needs to sustain this momentum.

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Judges’ vacancies

Gujarat has pressing levels of judge vacancies in both its High Court and subordinate courts. In 2016-17, our review period, it was 39% in the High Court and subordinate courts. In 2017-18, the latest data available, the High Court number has increased to 42%, while the subordinate court number has dropped to 27%.

This should be also seen in the context that, as of August 2017, the average pendency was 9.5 years in the state’s subordinate courts and 3.3 years in its High Court. In the 5-year period, Gujarat has been improving on filling vacancies and reducing workload of judges. It needs to do more along those lines.

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Cases in subordinate courts

As of August 2018, about 27% of case in Gujarat subordinate courts had been pending for more than 5 years. Among the set of 18 large and mid-sized states in the India Justice Report, this was the fifth-highest. The data also shows that, even with improvements in filling judge vacancies and clearance rates, it would take an average of 9.3 years to settle a case in Gujarat subordinate courts.

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Women judges in its subordinate courts

Across India, women judges have a marginal presence at the High Court level in most states. But in subordinate courts, they are present a whole lot more. Gujarat, however, is a laggard on this count. As of July 2017, only 15% of its subordinate court judges were women. This was the third-lowest in the set 18 large and mid-sized states and the fifth-lowest in the country. The average for the set of 18 large and mid-sized states is 29%.

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Prison staff and prison cadre vacancies

As of December 2016, our review period, Gujarat had vacancy levels of 38% in prison officers and 32% in prison cadre staff. In December 2017, it slid further for prison officers (39%), but improved to 25% for cadre staff. Still, Gujarat could do better, given that the state’s prisons are filled to capacity—its occupancy rate was 97% in December 2017.

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Undertrial population

Nearly two-thirds of inmates in Gujarat’s prisons are undertrials. After reducing between 2009 and 2012, this value has constantly hovered in the 63-65% range. Its total inmates are increasing and the number of undertrials is keeping pace with that increase.

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Coverage of legal services clinics

Both in villages and in jails, legal services clinics in Gujarat are servicing a larger catchment than is ideally prescribed. In villages, against the average norm of 6 villages, each clinic is servicing, on average, 37 villages. Likewise, against the standard of having a clinic in each jail, each clinic is servicing 2 jails.

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Usage of Lok Adalats to settle pre-litigation cases

Lok Adalats are proving to be an effective forum to settle pre-litigation cases, and some states are using it actively to route such cases to them. Among the large and mid-sized states, Gujarat is ranked only 12th in terms of share of pre-litigation cases among all cases settled by Lok Adalats, with a figure of 31%. It can increase this further, and thus avoid further burdening of its courts.

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Allocation and spending on pillars of justice

For every rupee that Gujarat has been adding to its budget, the increase in its spending on police, prisons and judiciary has not been not keeping pace. In the five-year period between 2011-12 and 2015-16, the average increase in how much Gujarat spent on each of the three fundamental pillars—police, prisons and judiciary—trailed the increase in the total amount spent by the state. The situation was especially bad in prisons.

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Click HERE to read full report

 

 

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