Building Better Courts: Surveying the Infrastructure of India’s District Courts

Reports by Judicial Reform ยท August 1, 2019
Author(s): Sumathi Chandrashekaran, Diksha Sanyal and Reshma Shekhar

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.

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About Sumathi Chandrashekaran:

Sumathi Chandrashekaran is a lawyer working in the field of public policy. She has previously worked at Vidhi as a Senior Resident Fellow and led our Judicial Reforms Vertical. Sumathi has completed her LLB from Delhi University, and a post-graduate course in public policy from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.


About Diksha Sanyal:

Diksha was a Research Fellow at Vidhi and was engaged with the Justice, Access, and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI) Project. She graduated from NUJS in 2016 and thereafter worked as a litigator and researcher at the Centre for Law and Policy Research, Bangalore. At Bangalore she was involved in constitutional litigation and lawyering in the public interest on issues pertaining to disability rights, the right to education and health, among others. She is interested in feminist and queer jurisprudence, adjudication of socio-economic rights and constitutional theory.


About Reshma Shekhar:

Reshma is a Research Fellow with the Judicial Reforms team. At Vidhi, her research has been on areas of judiciary that need systematic reform focusing on general issues relating to physical infrastructure of the lower judiciary, training of judges, working of central tribunals, and,specific issues of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court involving case pendency, disposal, court administration and management. Outside her core area of work, she is interested in data design, visualisation and information architecture. Reshma graduated with a B.A.LL.B (Hons.) degree from the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Cochin in 2015. Prior to joining Vidhi, she worked at Wipro Technologies as an in-house counsel for the Legal and Compliance team. Link to full bio