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Gujarat 'improves' structural capacity to deliver justice. But with little impact

Gagan Sethi speaking at the release of India Justice Report 2019
By Our Representative
Even as ranking Gujarat eighth among 18 major states -- 12th in police, 9th in prisons, 7th in judiciary and 6th in legal aid – the Gujarat part of the India Justice Report 2019, released at a formal function at the Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), Gandhinagar, has said that the state has improved its position on several counts, though it has a long way to go in a few others.
Sponsored by the Tata Trusts, and prepared in partnership with DAKSH, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Common Cause, Centre for Social Justice, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and TISS-Prayas, giving details on Gujarat in the report, Maja Daruwala, chief editor of the report, told the audience that, while Gujarat ranked eighth and Maharashtra first, there was not much difference in the overall score.
Thus, while Gujarat scored 5.09 on a scale of 10, Maharashtra scored 5.92. But, on the other hand, the worst performing state, Uttar Pradesh, whose law and order situation today is “a matter a grave concern”, scored a poor 3.32.
Suggesting that the report does not deal with how states have performed in the actually delivering justice to their people, Shireen Vakil the Tata Trusts admitted, it concerned with the “structural capacity” of the four pillars – police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid – for the delivery of justice.
Noting that the report’s main concern was to score physical, financial, and human resource-related aspects of the justice delivery system, Daruwala said, talking with Counterview, “We propose to look at the governance aspect in the next report.”
The report, significantly, ranks Gujarat No 1 in filling up reservation of scheduled caste (SC) police officers, and, the state “exceeded SC officer quota by 20%”, and even improving in filling up scheduled tribe (ST) vacancies on this score.
Ironically, the improvement in SC recruitment among police officers does not appear to have had any impact on reducing the crime against Dalits and Adivasis in Gujarat. According to available data in 2018 as many as 1,545 cases were registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as compared to 897 cases registered across the state in 2003.
Ironically, the improvement in SC recruitment among police officers does not appear to have had any impact on reducing the crime against Dalits and Adivasis in Gujarat
Then, cases of rape against Dalits and Tribal women have increased seven times from 14 cases of rapes registered in 2001 to 104 cases registered in 2018. However, the conviction rate in cases registered under the SC/ST Act is less than 5 percent in the three years from 2014-2016 where figures are available.
 Pointing out that the aim of the report was not to look at the impact of the structural improvement in justice delivery system on reducing crime rate, Daruwala admitted, “We also wanted to make inter-religious comparisons. Unfortunately no data on this, including those for the minorities, for any of the four pillars is available. All of it has been wiped out.”
Mohit Shah, former chief justice of the Bombay High Court, told the audience, who mainly consisted of faculty and students GNLU and social activists, said, “The main issue that needs to be addressed is how the justice is being delivered to the common people.” Referring to pending vacancies judges across states in this context, he insisted on the need to train lawyers to become good judges.
Giving several instances, Shah said, “We have seen how this has helped fill up vacancies with competent judges. While there is no reservation quota for judges, such training has seen a notable rise in the number of ST-ST judges.”
Insisting that the issues the report has taken up need to be analysed at the district-level, Gagan Sethi of the Centre for Social Justice said, Gujarat has taken “significant strides in improving the representation of women in its police force” from 4% in 2015 to 7.2% in 2016 and 10.5% in 2017, though adding, “It needs to sustain this momentum.”
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Also see Cops' 'inability' to deliver justice? Model Gujarat ranks 12th among 18 major states

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