The ‘State Capacity & Access to Justice’ webinar series, under the Access to Justice initiative at IDFC Institute, is conceptualised as a platform for sharing learnings that enhance the state’s capacity to deliver a more equitable and accessible form of justice. The fourth session, held on 20th October 2021, featured Ms. Maja Daruwala, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Chief Editor of the India Justice Report (IJR). The session’s premise was to underscore the importance of examining the institutional capacity of the criminal justice system for delivering fair and expeditious justice in India. Towards this end, Ms. Daruwala presented the findings from the IJR 2020 that ranks Indian states on different capacity indicators underlying the performance of the four pillars of justice—judiciary, police, prisons and legal aid. During the session, Ms. Daruwala specifically focused on the Indian police, through a comparative analysis of a few states on dimensions of human resource, diversity, training, and technology.
The data indicated that there was an overall vacancy in the range of 20-30% among constables and officers across the country. However, as of January 2020, while vacancy among constabulary reduced to 18%, officer level vacancy rose to 30%. The possible implications on workload and culture, of fewer officers supervising inadequately trained police, was a key concern highlighted by Ms. Daruwala. Further, women continued to be underrepresented in the police, constituting 10% of the force on average. Diversity in the police forces also appeared to be insufficient as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes were found to be poorly represented in the police. The data highlighted inadequate training capacity, with only 201 training institutes for 21 lakh police personnel, and training constituted only around 1.13% of the total national spending on the police. Further, over 90% of the police dealt with the public without up-to-date training as per the Status of Policing in India report (2019). In terms of accessibility, it was observed that police stations were relatively inaccessible to populations in rural areas compared to urban areas. On a technology front, the IJR examined the status of citizen portals and found that no state offered the complete bouquet of mandated citizen services.
The overarching recommendation was that the justice system should be treated just as important a priority as education or healthcare. Although there remains a huge vacancy in the police force, the IJR stresses the importance of improving diversity, inclusion and training rather than merely filling vacancies. Diversity is a hallmark of effective policing and adequate representation of women and minorities must be prioritised, especially during recruitment and promotions. As a vital lever of change, training should be strengthened as well. Further, installing CCTVs in every police station, as mandated by the Supreme Court, would help improve police accountability. A few members in the audience also pointed out the need to look at indicators that influence police performance such as police response time, rethinking the way police and police stations function and the benefits of leveraging technology to support inadequate police capacity.
Ms. Maja Daruwala is the Chief Editor of the India Justice Report and convenor of the India Justice Report Collective. A barrister from Lincoln's Inn, she has worked as an advocate for human rights and social justice for over 40 years. Her advocacy focuses on engendering accountability and civic participation for good governance outcomes and the realisation of human rights. With an interest in systemic reforms, Ms. Daruwala works on a range of issues relating to civil liberties, including, police and prison reform, right to information, women's rights, freedom of expression and human rights advocacy capacity building.