New Delhi: Delhi and Kerala are among the top performing states while Bihar and Manipur are among the states having the poorest infrastructure in lower judiciary, a survey conducted by a leading independent legal think tank has said.
The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in a study conducted across 665 district courts across 29 states and nine Union Territories has come out with a survey on the physical and digital aspects of court infrastructure.
After Bihar and Manipur, other states ranking lower in infrastructure are Nagaland, West Bengal and Jharkhand and among the high ranking states after Delhi and Kerala are Meghalaya, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
Based on the data collected, nine parameters were formulated to understand the state of infrastructure of every district court complex surveyed. These parameters were identified as: Getting There, Navigation, Waiting Areas, Hygiene, Barrier-Free Access, Case Display, Security, Amenities and Website.
According to the survey, 81 per cent (539 of 665) court complexes are accessible via public transport, whereas 80 per cent or 532 of the court complexes have designated parking.
"Of the litigants interviewed, the majority (53 per cent) used public transport, while 43 per cent used private transport to get to the court complex. Four per cent walked to the court complex. The largest number of court complexes inaccessible by public transport were found in the states of Gujarat, Sikkim and Tripura," the survey said.
The survey said as per the National Court Management Systems (NCMS) committee, set up in 2012, there should be a guide map, a reception centre along with a facilitation centre, and a document filing counter at the entrance of the complex.
On the issue of navigation, the survey said that study was restricted to examining whether each court complex had two features -- guide map and a help desk.
"Only 20 per cent district courts (133 out of 665 court complexes) had guide maps and 45 per cent (300 out of 665 court complexes) had help desks. In aggregate, West Bengal and Sikkim were among the worst performing states on this parameter. In order to move around the court complex, litigants were rarely able to find their way themselves, and mostly asked lawyers for directions (59 per cent or 3935 litigants)," the survey said.
With regard to waiting area available in the court rooms, the NGO said despite this being a basic requirement, only 54 per cent or 361 district court complexes had designated waiting areas.
"Nationally, litigants reported that waiting areas needed more seating (69 per cent or 4602 litigants), better ventilation (37 per cent or 2468 litigants) and better cleanliness (26 per cent or 1734 litigants).
Maintaining that presence of clean and well-equipped washrooms are essential, the survey said while 88 per cent or 585 court complexes had washrooms, only 40 per cent (266 out of 665 court complexes) had washrooms that were fully functioning.
"Although washrooms should be present on each floor, only 53 per cent (354 out of 665 court complexes) met this requirement. Goa, Jharkhand, UP and Mizoram had the least number of court complexes with functional washrooms. Around 100 district court complexes did not have a washroom for women," the 80-page report said adding that 45 per cent litigants were of the view that running water was the key requirement.
The report said,"Only 27 per cent or 180 court complexes were accessible through ramps or lifts, whereas only 11 per cent or 73 court complexes had designated washrooms for persons with disabilities, and only 2 per cent or 13 court complexes had built-in visual aid features," it said.
The district court complex at Chandigarh stood out as the only court complex in the entire country to have all three features, i.e., ramps, tactile pavements, and designated washrooms, it said.
Only 26 per cent of the court complexes had electronic case display boards both at the entrance and in the waiting areas, the survey said adding that "None of the court complexes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Uttarakhand and Manipur had electronic case display boards at both the entrance and waiting areas,".
The study also surveyed amenities necessary for a litigant during the course of a day while visiting a court, i.e., an ATM, a bank branch, a canteen, first-aid care services, oath commissioners, photocopy facility, police booth, post office, public notaries, stamp vendors, and typists.
"If a court complex had all of these services, it was considered to be a full-service' court complex. Only 39 per cent of the states in India had full service court complexes. The least-provided facilities included bank branch (65 pc), post office (63pc), and first-aid care (59pc), while services such as photocopier (100pc), typists (98pc) and stamp vendors (97pc) were mostly available," the survey said.
With regard to security, the survey looked at three aspects -- baggage scanning facility, emergency exit signages, and fire extinguishers.
"Only 11 per cent of the court complexes had a working baggage scanning facility, while 71 per cent had fire extinguishers and 48 per cent had emergency exit signs. States that did not have a baggage scanning facility in any of the court complexes were Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Manipur, Mizoram, Odisha and Tripura," it said adding that signages were absent in 26.61 per cent of the court complexes.
The survey asked whether websites had basic functionalities: court picture, court map, case status, court orders, cause list, details of judges on leave, calendar, and circulars/notices.
"89 per cent of the websites uploaded causelists, case orders and case status. Court Maps (36 pc) and Judges on Leave (32 pc) were the least available features. States and Union Territories with courts whose websites did not host any of these basic features include Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry followed close behind where the court websites had court pictures and maps, but none of the other features.