Charcha 2021: Everyone Making Justice

Why only population-scale citizen agency can close the justice gap in India.

The eve of India’s 75th Independence Day saw the beginning of a conversation on how citizen agency in the justicemaking process is helping close the gap in our systems of law and justice.   In conversation were organisations like SAMA, an online dispute resolution platform; Haqdarshak, a next-gen welfare delivery service; Gram Vaani, an organisation utilising vocal media to air and resolve legal issues in rural areas as technology-based service providers in sectors of justice delivery. The panel also included IDIA (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access) who work to empower underprivileged children with legal education; AALI (Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives), a feminist legal advocacy and resource group; and, Zenith, Reap Benefit and Agami, foundations which empower the youth to be the next generation of justice makers through providing of legal aid, curating open data forums, and advancing ideas that serve justice.

The discussion,  moderated by Agami, titled Everyone Making Justice, was a part of Charcha 2021. The role of citizens, especially young citizens to bridge the justice gap in India, is one of the highlights. The conversation brings into fore the prevalent needs in the country’s justice delivery system and seeks to comprehend a sustainable solution. Here are a few snippets from the conversation:

  • “New Power”: The panellists unanimously agree on the importance of the youth as the driving force behind creating waves in the system of justice delivery. The youth, in their early twenties, with their willingness to listen, adapt, think creatively and through their uncanny foolishness and stubbornness, have emerged as the power the country needs to make a difference and bring in change. They act in their roles of case managers, volunteers, leaders, entrepreneurs and founders of new branches of thought and action, with unprecedented care and consideration. The youth are not waiting for a ‘future’ to make a difference, rather, they are building the future NOW. In the words of Kuldeep Dantewadia, fellow speaker, “The youth are not the future, they are the here and now.”

  • “Sometimes messengers are more important than the message”: This saying by Haqdarshak’s Aniket Doegar summarises another prevalent theme of the discussion, i.e., the importance of on-ground volunteers or workers, who hail from the same communities and cultures as the ones receiving their aid, co-operation or service. Understanding what is acceptable and what is not, sharing a common language, building a basis of trust transcends the initial barriers and hiccups paving the way forward for a better system of access to justice. 

  • “Aim to provide quality service at a sustainable price instead of distributing largess.”: The discourse also brought into light the importance of creating a sustainable system or model of providing aid. Charity, while being a generous concept, may not be able to unfalteringly continue in its course. It is dependent on perpetual donations and subscriptions. A reasonable price, for a service provided, hence emerges as the only suitable alternative. This provides the volunteers with a living and attracts larger participation.

  • “Start with ‘Do you know?’”: It has been well acknowledged that the root of all difficulties lies in the lack of knowledge. A dearth of available information,  poor accessibility, correct statistics, up-to-date reports, lack of transparency on a wide variety of schemes and policies in addition to a deficiency of legal awareness among people are some of the roadblocks faced by young justice makers. It is now high time that the citizens, in all parts of the country, be made aware of their rights, legal responsibilities and fundamental duties, granted and asked of them. The closing statements to the discussion stressed heavily upon dissemination of legal education, especially among women and in rural areas to bridge the justice gap in the country. 

Justice Hub has been contributing to the justice-making movement by providing access to data and thereby empowering everyone to see and solve justice problems using such data.

Watch the full discussion below: