The conversation around access to justice is often limited to judicial delays and pendencies while other issues such as court infrastructure seem to be overlooked. The deficiency in infrastructure is a factor that affects judicial delays and becomes relevant in improving access to justice. Without all necessary support structures, it is not feasible for a user to navigate optimally, making court infrastructure a crucial aspect in determining how efficiently litigants are able to accustom themselves and utilise the available infrastructure. However, not much focus, in academic research, has been channeled towards the study of court infrastructure in India.
It was in 2012, the Supreme Court set up the National Court Managements and Systems (NCMS) Committee, with an immediate aim of upgrading the court management systems, on the instructions of the then Chief Justice of India. With the objective of understanding how all the district courts in India are faring against the benchmarks laid down by the NCMS Committee, and to fill the lacuna of lack of empirical data to drive this discourse, Vidhi commissioned a survey of 665 districts across India. This was supplemented with interviews of 10 litigants per district complex on the user-friendliness/ functionality of the facilities made available and a study of the court websites to see what essential features are there. The data from 665 courts and their websites and responses from 6650 litigants reveal some of the most appalling statistics regarding lack of navigation tools, unhygienic washroom conditions, complete absence of facilities enabling barrier-free access for persons with disabilities and poor security facilities for courtrooms.