Money and Elections: Necessary Reforms in Electoral Finance


In light of the modifications in electoral finance laws made in the 2016 and 2017 Budget, this report builds on existing discussions to clarify how such reforms in election law can be evaluated. It examines the evolution of key legal provisions before identifying barriers and systemic issues in the field on the basis of India’s unique experiences. It further enumerates potential solutions on the basis of international practice and draws up proposals to overcome existing regulatory barriers so that such solutions may be effectuated:

1. Electoral finance law must pivot towards transparency, strictly requiring disclosures of candidate assets and liabilities (including the source of assets), registration and reporting requirements for political parties, and the applicability of the Right to Information Act, 2005 to such parties.

2. Rules regarding funding and expenditure need to be tightened by placing an absolute cap on anonymous donations, banning corporate donations (except possibly to an Election Commission-controlled Trust), regulating political advertisements, preventing foreign sources of donations, outlining permissible categories of expenditure, regulating third-party expenditures, and laying a limited base for public funding.

3. The enforcement of the proposals above must be accompanied by the possibility of strict penalties such as the deregistration of defaulting political parties, along with increased provision for the independence of the Election Commission of India.   

Issues related to electoral finance have a long and troubling history in our polity with many previous attempts to tackle the problems involved. However, the matter has come back into focus with the last few Union Budgets creating avenues for funding through new instruments, measures that reduce public scrutiny on certain fronts, and changes that affect past foreign donations. This report was released at the Vidhi Dialogue event featuring Dr S.Y. Quraishi, Prof Rajeev Gowda, and Dr Aditya Sondhi.

Download the full report- Money and Elections: Necessary Reforms in Electoral Finance

Waste Picker Welfare Law in Karnataka


Vidhi's report on Waste Picker Welfare Law in Karnataka focuses on the importance of Waste Pickers to India's Solid Waste Management and the need for a Waste Picker Welfare Law to ensure their well being.

The report specifically explores three themes- 

One, the vital contributions of waste pickers across India in tackling its solid waste management crisis. Two, the plight of waste pickers in the country due to the non recognition of waste picking as a genuine profession under the law and finally, the need for a law that specifically recognizes it as a genuine profession and grants them their associated rights

Download the full report on Waste Pickers Welfare Law In Karnataka

A study of Karnataka High Court’s Writ Jurisdiction


A High Court’s writ jurisdiction is considered to be an ‘extraordinary jurisdiction’ whereby the High Court – which is at the apex of the State judicial machinery, becomes directly accessible to ordinary citizens seeking relief against any authority, including any Government. A detailed study of the manner in which this extraordinary jurisdiction is invoked and exercised, is in the interest of both the Judiciary and the State, since writ petitions constitute a bulk of a High Court’s burden, with most being filed against the Government.

Vidhi's Report on the Karnataka High Court’s writ jurisdiction is based on a data driven study of writ petitions filed before the Karnataka High Court across a period of five years before the Bengaluru Bench (2012-2016) and three years before the Dharwad and Kalaburgi Benches (2014-2016). 

The data has been studied to understand the nature of writ petitions filed against the Government, functioning at different levels of governance.  This gives us a nuanced understanding on the issue of ‘Government litigation’ and highlights the supply-side issues which contributes to making the ‘Government’, the biggest litigant. This study has also shed light on some of the inefficiencies in the functioning of the Karnataka High Court, both on the judicial and administrative side.

The raw data which has been collected for the purposes of this study will be uploaded shortly.

Download the full report on Karnataka High Court Writ Jurisdiction

Financing Urban Local Bodies in Karnataka


Vidhi's report on financing urban local bodies looks at the legal impediments that restrict urban local bodies in Karnataka from being financially independent. 

The report finds that City Corporations of Benglauru, Mysuru, Mangaluru and Davangere rely heavily on State Government grants and are unable to maximize their revenue potential due to shortcomings in the law. 

Due to limited enforcement capabilities, outdated guidance value, high number of litigation and archaic survey records of properties, City Corporations are unable to maximize their property tax collection. 

Download the full report on Financing Urban Local Bodies in Karnataka

Government Litigation: An Introduction


There is a wide consensus that India is in need of large-scale governance reform. In order to adequately address such a mammoth challenge, we need to delve deeper into factors that contribute to the inefficiency of public institutions. One such constituent is the high volume of government litigation. While it is well known that litigation clogs bureaucratic machinery, hardly any attempts have been made to understand the issue. In an effort to address this gap, Vidhi has taken an initiative to publish a series of reports on government litigation in India. 

The following report sets the context for the series by introducing government litigation as a challenge. It provides a literature review of current debates and policies to address the challenges, following which it highlights the scope of the series and its intended objectives. 

Download the full report on Government Litigation: An Introduction

The Law isn't Straight: A Queer Person's Guide to Accessing Rights


Despite progressive judgments of the Supreme Court in NALSA v Union of India (2014) and Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017), the overall legal regime for queer persons in India remains severely lacking. Recognising the slow nature of legal change and the need for alternate strategies in the meantime, this manual is an attempt to help queer persons navigate their daily lives under this flawed regime. The manual deals with identity documents, violence, education, health and personal finances. 

While this manual seeks to be a useful starting tool for LGBTQ+ persons in their attempt to access the legal system, it does not reflect the diverse experiences different persons have while trying to access their rights. We would be grateful for your feedback and hope to update the manual to make it as useful as possible.

Download the full manual titled The Law isn't Straight: A Queer Person's Guide to Accessing Rights

Tilting the Scale: Gender Imbalance in the Lower Judiciary

Screenshot 2018-02-12 18.14.11.png

Discourse on judicial reforms in India has tended to focus on the issues of judge vacancies and case delays, to the exclusion of other institutional issues which plague Indian courts. One such problem that has received scant attention is the lack of judicial diversity.

To spark conversation on this important issue, this Vidhi Briefing focuses on one parameter of judicial diversity, namely gender. It presents, for the first time, state and district-wise data on the gender composition of the lower judiciary. These findings raise several implications, which will be examined in-depth in future reports.

Through these reports, we hope to bring much-needed attention to issues concerning the lower judiciary which, despite being the first or only point of contact for most litigants, is relatively neglected in academic and policy discourse compared to the higher judiciary. We also hope to encourage conversation on additional data and research needed to understand possible causes for low gender representation and ways to rectify this. A lack of equal representation, particularly when as severe as it appears to be in India, raises serious concerns that merit deep and sustained investigation. 

For a spreadsheet containing the district-wise gender composition of the lower judiciary in India, click here.

Download the full report on Tilting the Scale: Gender Imbalance in the Lower Judiciary

Comments on the draft Uttar Pradesh Self-Financed Independent Schools (Regulation of Fees) Bill, 2017


Vidhi responded to a call for public comments on the draft Uttar Pradesh Self-Financed Independent Schools (Regulation of Fees) Bill, 2017. Vidhi’s submissions critiqued the Bill based on inconsistency with existing legal frameworks and Supreme Court decisions, as well as pari materia legislations on fee regulation across different States. The submissions recommend several changes to the existing Bill based on the above analysis. Vidhi’s submissions can be accessed here.

Report on Ranking Lower Judiciary Appointments


A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court initiated a suo-moto Public Interest Litigation in May 2017 to assess the feasibility of setting up a Central Selection Mechanism to make selections to the subordinate judiciary across the country. Whilst the debate on constituting such a central authority to coordinate appointment of subordinate judges is ongoing, the process in which such appointments are currently carried out remains unclear. Further, no empirical assessment of lower judiciary recruitment processes and its success in filing vacancies has been undertaken.

In this Vidhi Briefing, we attempted to study how the process of appointment of judges plays out in practice, by collecting state-wise data on the appointment of District Judges, via direct recruitment from the bar and Civil Judges (Junior Division)’. Based on this information, we ranked the performance of states in appointing judges to their subordinate judiciary on two metrics - average time taken to complete a recruitment cycle and percentage of vacancies potentially filled. This Briefing provides useful insight into fault lines of the present system of appointments that must be addressed, regardless of whether the current scheme of subordinate judicial appointments is preserved or a central mechanism is constituted.

Download Full Report on Ranking Lower Judiciary Appointments

Report on Systematizing Fairplay - Key Issues in the Indian Competition Law Regime


Since the enactment of the Competition Act in 2002, the business milieu has changed considerably globally and in India. More and more businesses are now being run in the virtual world and newer models of business exist now which would have been inconceivable a decade ago. Given the intertwined relationship of competition law and the markets, in order for the law to remain relevant, it is imperative that it develops in line with market realities and revamps from time to time.

Almost 15 years have elapsed since the inception of the Competition Act and it is now an opportune time to take stock of its performance and devise a workable way forward. In this Report, we therefore, identify key structural and procedural issues in the Indian competition law framework and discuss relevant experiences from the European Union and Singapore, to understand how similar concerns are addressed by their regulatory frameworks. Drawing from these practices, we provide key recommendations to deal with these concerns in the Indian context. As India gears up to meet the challenges posed by a buoyant economy, it needs to cure these anomalies in its competition law framework to be able to fully reap the benefits of a thriving market based economy.

Download the full report on Systematizing Fairplay - Key Issues in the Indian Competition Law Regime

Submissions to the Standing Committee on the No Detention Policy


The Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development recently invited comments on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017. An amendment is sought to be made to Section 16 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which prohibits schools from holding back or expelling any student till they have completed an elementary level of education i.e. grade 8. Through this amendment, this prohibition on holding back and expelling (popularly known as the No Detention Policy) will be partially done away with.

Currently, students up to grade 8 are evaluated through a system of ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation’ and cannot be made to repeat a grade. If this section is amended, schools will be required to conduct exams for students in grades 5 and 8. If they fail this exam, they will be given additional instruction and required to give a re-examination within two months of the results being declared. If they fail this re-examination, states must frame rules/guidelines to prescribe whether they will be held back in the same grade. However, they will still be prohibited from expelling students.

Based on a survey of available data on educational indicators (including drop-out rates, retention rates, transition rates and learning outcomes), we found that there is no clear evidence to show that the No Detention Policy has caused a deterioration in education outcomes. Any such deterioration may be attributed to a variety of factors, including high student-teacher ratios and insufficient school infrastructure. We therefore recommend that no amendment should be made to the provision unless rigorous evidence is available on the impact of the No Detention Policy. If such an amendment is to be made, it must be based on the research findings of the National and State Advisory Councils. Further, it must contain sufficient safeguards: a sunset clause, a prohibition on the use of terms such as ‘pass’ and ‘fail’, and must be accompanied by detailed detention regulations.

Download Submissions to The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development

Organ Transplant Law: Assessing compatibility with the right to health


With instances of commercial dealings in human organs being discovered on a regular basis, it has become clear that there is a need to re-examine the law regulating organ transplants. In this report, we therefore analyse the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994, and the degree to which it has met its objectives. Using information obtained from different authorities under the Act, we assess its content and functioning against a set of 'right to health' indicators. 
Based on this, we recommend changes to the law, which include the harmonisation of the definition of 'brain death' across different laws and amending the Act to ensure that victims of human trafficking are not treated as offenders.

Download full report- Organ Transplant Law: Assessing compatibility with the right to health

Regulation Of Credit Rating Agencies In India


Credit Rating Agencies form an essential part of the financial markets. SEBI has regulated them since 1999. However, in the years following the financial crisis, specific concerns have been raised regarding their regulation globally, as well as in India.

This report highlights the concerns regarding the regulation of credit rating agencies in India, examines the solutions adopted by regulators in other jurisdictions, and makes recommendations to strengthen the regulatory framework in India.

Download the full report-Regulation Of Credit Rating Agencies In India

Strengthening Mediation in India: A Report on Court-Connected Mediations

Regulation of mediation practices and frameworks is a global debate, with different facets of such regulation being the subject of numerous academic and policy reform discourses. In India, mediation was formalised as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, and brought on the statute book with an amendment to Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. With more than a decade’s passage, a review of court annexed mediation in India is imperative to reinvigorate the framework with necessary reforms.

In an interim report, we had studied four jurisdictions, namely Australia, Singapore, United States of America and the United Kingdom, to ascertain best practices and takeaways which may facilitate the establishment of an efficient framework for court connected mediation in India. 

The final report compiles and presents the data provided to us by the mediation centres at the Delhi, Karnataka and Allahabad High Courts. It also presents the main discussions covered during round table and individual interviews conducted with mediators and administrators at the Delhi Mediation Centre and the Bangalore Mediation Centre. Based on the data gathered, the report analyses the performance of court connected mediation programmes and makes institutional and legislative recommendations to strengthen mediation in India.

This report was prepared in collaboration with the Department of Justice of the Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India, and has been submitted to the Department. The final report and the data collected from the mediation centres can be downloaded from the links provided below.

Download the full report- Strengthening Mediation in India: A Report on Court-Connected Mediations

Download the data collected from the mediation centres

Environmental Clearances and Monitoring in India: Report Card for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

One of the biggest challenges facing environmental law in India today is a weak implementation framework. Although laws, rules and regulations abound, compliance and enforcement are poor, with grave consequences for the environment and the rule of law. This is exacerbated by a lack of transparency-information about violations is hard to come by, making it more difficult to hold authorities accountable. 

This Report Card for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is an attempt to make more information of this kind available. We have analysed over 550 environmental clearances granted by the MoEFCC to assess the performance of its duties under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification against three parameters-speed, quality of appraisal and post-clearance monitoring. Our findings demonstrate that although the time taken for granting environmental clearances has significantly reduced, there are still serious deficiencies in the quality of appraisal and a neglect of monitoring duties by the MoEFCC. 

Environmental Clearances and Monitoring in India: Download the Full Report

Regulation of Private Schools in India

The last decade has witnessed growth in both the number of private schools in India and the proportion of children enrolled in them. The proportion of private schools rose from 19.49% in 2007-08 to 22.74% in 2014-15.  Around the same period, the share of enrolment of children between the ages of 6-14 in private schools rose from 19.3% to 30.8%.

The regulation of private schools in India remains an understudied topic, with little literature on the theory and practice of regulation, or on comparisons of different regulatory policies. The Right to Education Act, 2009, lays down norms and standards for private schools, including infrastructure norms, minimum teacher qualifications, pupil-teacher ratios and curricular standards. However, some aspects of private school operations continue to be governed almost exclusively by State laws, such as fee fixation and inspection of schools. Others are now governed by a combination of the RTE Act and State laws, such as recognition, hiring of staff and curriculum.

In this report, Vidhi has examined the existing regulatory framework for private schools in India, with a view to identifying common challenges and areas in need of reform. We have studied regulations for private schools in five States and proposed a normative framework for evaluating them. Based on the conclusions drawn from the evaluation, as well as existing international, constitutional and national legal obligations on private schools, we propose a roadmap for drafting State-level model regulations for private schools.

Regulation of Private Schools in India- Download Full Report


Grievance Redressal Mechanisms in Public Healthcare Establishments

In India, the right to health is not a statutory right and the National Health Policy, 2017 does not endorse a rights-based approach. It states that policy reform in healthcare should be through incremental infrastructure development, and suggests the setting up of medical tribunals to address disputes on standards of care, price of services, negligence and unfair practices.  However, setting up yet another tribunal may not be the best solution.

In this report, Vidhi has done an empirical analysis of complaints filed against public healthcare establishments to get a sense of the kinds of complaints made, the forums utilised and the remedies granted. Further, we have also analysed the existing legal and policy framework applicable to public health establishments in relation to grievance redressal. Though multiple avenues like the Consumer Protection Act, the Clinical Establishments Act, NHRC and writs are available for complaining against health right violations, each has its own shortcomings.

A lesser developed and a lesser used avenue is the internal grievance redressal mechanism in public healthcare establishments, and the focus of this report is to revamp this mechanism, to ensure that all kinds of complaints are resolved effectively. This report is a step towards informing the debate on enforcement of the right to health in public health establishment through internal grievance redressal mechanisms.

Grievance Redressal Mechanisms in Public Healthcare Establishments-Download Full Report

Cleaning Delhi's Air: Implementation Action Plan

The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has recently published an Implementation Action Plan to tackle Delhi’s air pollution. Using the IIT Kanpur’s Comprehensive Study on Air Pollution and Green House Gases (GHGs) in Delhi as its basis, this Action Plan suggests measures to control pollution from five major sources of air pollution in Delhi—emissions from coal-fired power plants, vehicular emissions, burning of crop residue, emissions from ready-mix concrete batching plants and construction sites. Although the Central Pollution Control Board has already drawn up a Graded Response Action Plan (‘Graded Action Plan'), its main thrust remains the stringent enforcement of existing standards/rules/bans. In this Action Plan, we attempt to go beyond the routine recommendation to strengthen monitoring and compliance and identify a range of actions—legislative, executive, policy, financial—that are needed to give effect to the many solutions that have already been proposed to combat Delhi’s air quality crisis.

Cleaning Delhi's Air: Implementation Action Plan- Download Full Report

Inefficiency and Judicial Delay: New Insights from the Delhi High Court

DHC img.png

In India, pervasive delay in courts is typically blamed on judicial vacancies, and reforms tend to focus on long-term measures to increase the number of judges. A new study by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, however, uses the Delhi High Court as a case study to demonstrate links between inefficiencies in court functioning and delay, and presents clear quantitative evidence on how several kinds of inefficient behaviour exhibited by counsel or the court manifest in case delays. We found a striking 97% of cases filed in the Delhi High Court and at least 60% of hearings in the court are affected by some inefficiency, and cause cases to be delayed.

To contextualise and explain the Delhi High Court’s high disposal rates in recent years, this report also closely examined cases that were disposed relatively quickly, and mapped the nature of cases and case categories that do not require prolonged adjudication. We found that speedy disposal of a case may reveal more about the case’s relative simplicity, rather than the court’s ability to handle its entire workload. To address delay and backlog, the report recommends institutional, policy and legislative reforms that focus on eliminating existing inefficiencies in functioning, measures that must accompany moves to increase judge strength and judicial infrastructure.

Inefficiency and Judicial Delay: New Insights from the Delhi High Court

alt : Inefficiency-and-Judicial-Delay_Vidhi.pdf

Manual on Plain Language Drafting

Indian laws continue to be drafted in an archaic fashion. Combining multiple legislative ideas in one single clause, reliance on redundant tools such as provisos and notwithstanding clauses, use of archaic, vague and foreign words and the employment of gendered language are some such practices. Poor, complex drafting renders a law inaccessible to the common person. The need of the hour, thus, is to simplify legislative drafting.

With the object of making laws simpler and accessible to all, Vidhi has come up with a Manual on Plain Language Drafting. The Manual sets out guidelines for the simple drafting of a law - the first part comprises guidelines dealing with the structure of a law (order of chapters and clauses, structural elements of preliminary clauses, definitions, etc.), while the second part lists out language guidelines (use of foreign words, grammar and sentence construction, etc.). To demonstrate the benefits of simple drafting, these guidelines are then applied to re-draft an existing law – The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act, 2007. Vidhi hopes that this Manual will serve as the starting point of the much needed journey towards the simpler drafting of laws in India. 

Manual on Plain Language Drafting

alt : Drafting-Manual_Vidhi