Grappling at the Grassroots: Access to Justice in India's Lower Tier

40 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2013 Last revised: 19 May 2014

Jayanth K. Krishnan

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Shirish Naresh Kavadi

National Centre for Advocacy Studies

Azima Girach

Centre for Social Justice

Dhanaji Khupkar

Independent

Kalindi Kokal

National Centre for Advocacy Studies

Satyajeet Mazumdar

Centre for Social Justice

Ms. Nupur

Centre for Social Justice

Gayatri Panday

Centre for Social Justice

Aatreyee Sen

JAGORI Grameen

Aqseer Sodhi

Centre for Social Justice

Bharati Takale Shukla

National Centre for Advocacy Studies

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

From 2010 to 2012, a team of academic and civil society researchers conducted extensive ethnographies of litigants, judges, lawyers, and courtroom personnel within multiple districts in three states: Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh. This Article provides an in-depth account of the everyday struggles these actors face in the pursuit of their respective objectives. The findings illustrate a complex matrix of variables — including infrastructure, staffing, judicial training and legal awareness, costs and continuances, gender and caste discrimination, power imbalances, intimidation and corruption, miscellaneous delays, and challenges with specialized forums — impact access to justice in the lower tier.

The results of this study offer competing yet complementary narratives. On one hand, there is immense despair, frustration, and anger among the various sets of respondents about the current state of the lower tier. At the same time, however, there is great hope and optimism among individuals who work in the judicial sphere, as well as litigants desperately seeking to gain relief from long-endured grievances, toward what the lower tier can offer. Indeed, if the lower tier is empowered with greater resources and certain perverse aspects of the legal system can be reformed, it has vast potential to promote social change that advances the socioeconomic status of India’s most disadvantaged groups.

Keywords: India, lower courts, economic and social rights, litigation, lawyers, judges

Suggested Citation

Krishnan, Jayanth K. and Kavadi, Shirish Naresh and Girach, Azima and Khupkar, Dhanaji and Kokal, Kalindi and Mazumdar, Satyajeet and Nupur, Ms. and Panday, Gayatri and Sen, Aatreyee and Sodhi, Aqseer and Shukla, Bharati Takale, Grappling at the Grassroots: Access to Justice in India's Lower Tier (2013). Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 27, 2014, Forthcoming; Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 268. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2297152

Jayanth K. Krishnan (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Shirish Naresh Kavadi

National Centre for Advocacy Studies ( email )

Serenity Complex, Pashan Road
Ram Nagar Colony, Pashan
Pune, Maharashtra, 411021
India

Azima Girach

Centre for Social Justice ( email )

Bodakdev, Vastrapur
Ahmedabad - 380 015
Gujarat
India

Dhanaji Khupkar

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Kalindi Kokal

National Centre for Advocacy Studies ( email )

Serenity Complex, Pashan Road
Ram Nagar Colony, Pashan
Pune, Maharashtra, 411021
India

Satyajeet Mazumdar

Centre for Social Justice ( email )

Bodakdev, Vastrapur
Ahmedabad - 380 015
Gujarat
India

Ms. Nupur

Centre for Social Justice

Bodakdev, Vastrapur
Ahmedabad - 380 015
Gujarat
India

Gayatri Panday

Centre for Social Justice

Bodakdev, Vastrapur
Ahmedabad - 380 015
Gujarat
India

Aatreyee Sen

JAGORI Grameen ( email )

Dharmsala
India

Aqseer Sodhi

Centre for Social Justice ( email )

Bodakdev, Vastrapur
Ahmedabad - 380 015
Gujarat
India

Bharati Takale Shukla

National Centre for Advocacy Studies ( email )

Serenity Complex, Pashan Road
Ram Nagar Colony, Pashan
Pune, Maharashtra, 411021
India

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