Increasing Access to Justice for Marginalized People: GoI-UNDP Project
In 2009, a Project on Access to Justice for Marginalized People was launched by the Department of Justice in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Project aims to empower the poor and disadvantaged sections of society to seek and demand justice services. The Project also seeks to improve the institutional capacities of key justice service providers to enable them to effectively serve the poor and disadvantaged. The Project is presently in the second phase (2013-17) of implementation and extends to States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The interventions under the Project are focused on strengthening access to justice for the poor, particularly women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and minorities. The Project seeks, on the one hand, to improve the institutional capacities of key justice service providers to enable them to effectively serve the poor and disadvantaged. On the other hand, it aims to directly empower the poor and disadvantaged men and women to seek and demand justice services.
The first phase of the Project was implemented from 2009 to 2012. A new phase of the Project was initiated in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for the period from 2013 to 2017. The Project aims to build upon the achievements of the previous phase and continue to work on creation of demand for justice and ensuring its supply. In the new phase, a technical support team has been placed with the Department of Justice for supporting the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms.
The broad deliverables of the Project include:
- Supporting national and local justice delivery institutions such as NALSA, SLSAs & SJAs
- Developing legal and representational capacity of Civil Society Organisations and networks providing access to justice services to disadvantaged groups
- Enhancing legal awareness of women and men belonging to marginalized groups
- Informing policies and institutional structures through action research and studies
One of the important lessons learnt from past experiences is related to flexible programme design which has scope for innovations. Innovations on legal aid and legal empowerment that were implemented by civil society partners through Micro Capital Grant have proved to be successful and have the potential for replication on scale. Some of the most successful initiatives like creation of Peoples Bio Diversity Register, ensuring rights of forestdwellers, setting up of law school based legal aid clinics, use of ICT for legal literacy, creation of simplified materials on socio-legal issues, community radio, and films were brought in by those civil society partners who had a background of working in these areas. These successful pilots have huge potential for scaling up. Convergence efforts with National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA) MoHRD at central level have opened new avenues for mainstreaming legal literacy through “Saakshar Bharat Programme”.
THE WAY FORWARD/KEY PRIORITIES
The following are the two priority areas for 2016 from the A2J project:
- The Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India has signed up a Memorandum of Understanding with National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA), MoHRD. Under the partnership legal literacy will be mainstreamed into adult education through the State Resource Centres (SRC) in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
- A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed up with Common Service Centres eGovernance India to mainstream legal literacy through CSCs in the state of Rajasthan.