Consultation by Department of Justice and UNDP Examines Approaches to Ensuring Access to the Law by the Poor and Marginalised

Nov 18, 2011

New Delhi -  “The objective should be to build courtrooms without walls to enable people to access justice without barriers,” said Salman Khurshid, Union Minister for Law and Justice and Minority Affairs at a consultation organised by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice and UNDP to examine approaches to ensure access to the law by the poor and marginalised.

New Delhi, 18 November, 2011: Speaking about the recently launched National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reform, Mr.  Salman Khurshid, Union Minister for Law & Justice and Minority Affairs stressed that the objective should be to build “courtrooms without walls” where all people are able to access justice without confronting barriers.  Minister emphasized the need for convergence between different departments, legal service authorities, law colleges and NGOs. He was speaking at a consultation organised   by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Delhi today.

“We need to build a culture of resolution within society where justice emerges from a process that is comprehensive, collaborative and through dialogue,” said Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource Development. “The barriers that the poor and marginalised face in accessing justice are not limited to the legal domain but are socio-economic and psychological in nature as well,” he added. The Minister called for a tripartite agreement between the Information Communication Technology Department, the Justice Department and the HRD Ministry that could effectively meet the challenge of ensuring greater access to justice by marginalised communities across different contexts.

The consultation began with the release of two publications brought out by the Department of Justice, Government of India and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Kanoon ko Jaane is a handbook aimed at spreading awareness on legal rights, entitlements and processes. The handbook will be used in adult literacy programmes, an example of successful convergence between government initiatives on justice and literacy. Recognising the growing importance of young legal professionals in facilitating access to justice, a study on the Status of Legal Service Clinics in Law Schools examines innovative approaches and provides recommendations on managing law school-based legal services clinics.

According to Patrice Coeur-Bizot, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, “Legal empowerment is an important strategy to promote inclusion, foster economic growth and achieve human development outcomes.” "As the Government of India prepares its 12th Five-Year Plan with the aim of ensuring faster, more inclusive growth, this Consultation can provide timely inputs on strategies to enhance access to justice for marginalised citizens and institutional capacity development that are critical to fostering inclusion, ” he added. 

Since 2009, the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice have partnered on a programme to empower marginalised people, particularly women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and other excluded groups to seek and demand legal services. The focus of the project Access to Justice for the Marginalized” has been both on empowering the poor and marginalised to be aware of and demand legal services while at the same time, supporting national and local justice delivery institutions to deliver justice to the poor.

Neela Gangadharan, Secretary, Department of Justice said “The joint project with UNDP provides a unique opportunity to be linked to reality and grassroots development processes through forging links with a large number of stakeholders dedicated to delivering justice to the poor”.

Till date, close to 15, 00,000 people have been made aware of their rights and entitlements. Training to paralegals, lawyers, community justice workers and non-government agencies has helped enhance legal and representational capacity of civil society organizations and networks in 7 states - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

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Nandita Surendran

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