GovNext India Foundation is dedicated for obtaining justice for the people by voicing their grievances through the legal process. It is committed to protect and deliver prompt social justice with the help of law, to defend and fight for the rights and privileges of citizens, so that the benefits of welfare measures embodied in the legislation reaches millions of poor people and every citizen is respected and fairly treated. GovNext has been campaigning for integrity and honesty in public life and integrity of Institutions. GovNext is devoted to promote democracy, good governance and public policy reforms through advocacy, interventions and by formal and informal engagement with policy makers, dissemination of ideas, events, and campaigns and have submitted proposals on a number of issues including consumer protection, taxation reforms, public health, housing, right to information, right to education and employment generation. GovNext has been organizing a series of seminars on critical issues in Governance, Administrative Reforms, Ethics in Governance, Self Governance etc.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere- Martin Luther King, Jr.” Public interest litigation is a litigation undertaken for the purpose of redressing public injury, enforcing public duty, protecting social, collective and diffused rights, interests or vindicating public interest. PIL is working as an important instrument of social change and is working for the welfare of every section of society. The innovation of this legitimate instrument proved beneficial for the developing country like India. PIL has been used as a strategy to combat the atrocities prevailing in society. It’s an institutional initiative towards the welfare of the needy class of the society. In Bandhu Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, SC ordered for the release of bonded laborers. In Murli S. Dogra v. Union of India, court banned smoking in public places. In a landmark judgement of Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India ((1995) 1 SCC 14), Supreme Court issued guidelines for rehabilitation and compensation for the rape on working women. In Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan Supreme court has laid down exhaustive guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of working women in place of their work.
Subjects of PIL are matters relating to general public:
GOVERNANCE- Police Reforms, Judicial Reforms, Administrative Reforms, Corruption.
“Good Governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development- Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary General)”. Governance is broadly the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It consists of the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences. It is now recognized around the world that no amount of developmental schemes can improve the quality of the citizen’s lives without Good Governance.
The biggest challenge at the governance front is to ensure that those at the helm of affairs do not abuse it and the goods and services meant for the poor and weaker sections are delivered to them in a fair, just and efficient way. Poor, inefficient or corrupt governance mechanism generates and reinforces poverty and subverts efforts to reduce it. That is why strengthening governance is an essential precondition to improving the lives of the poor, according to an approach paper of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission.
Challenges of governance have increased since the liberalization of the Indian economy, when the government started retreating from key areas of governance leaving vast gaps in control and regulation of vital sectors such as education, healthcare and civic amenities. Obviously a lot of lessons need to be learnt from global best practices and also from our own experiences in different states. A vital lesson is that globalization is inevitable in an interconnected world but changes do not have to come at the cost of the people. That is why globalization also requires strengthening the institutions of the state- Legislative, Executive, and Judicial- in order to make the system responsive to the needs and aspirations of a rising and restless younger generation.
GovNext believes that citizens can intervene in making governance more responsive and efficient in order to ameliorate the sufferings of the common citizens and to create an environment of hope, fairness and compassion. We recognise that the issues of governance are complex and intertwined with each other. We also recognise the complexities of challenges of modern administration in critical sectors like policing, justice delivery, education, healthcare, transportation, land management, infrastructure, skill promotion, employment generation and urban management. The issues also need domain expertise, goodwill and deep insights, besides structural changes.
The need for reforming the police system in India has been recognized for many years. The system of policing in our country is essentially based on the Indian Police Act of 1861, which was designed to sustain the British colonial rule. Since Independence, several attempts have been made to devise a statutory framework for an effective, accountable and people-friendly police service, but the considered recommendations of various expert committees and commissions have largely been ignored. Although many states have enacted their own versions of the Police Act, the basic framework of these Acts and their supporting structure, namely the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Civil Procedure Code, remain largely unchanged.
Deficiencies on this front have led to decline in trust in the state’s capacity to protect life and liberty and to enforce rights. Also with the ever increasing instances of gross lapses in police conduct vis a vis citizens it is necessary that trust between citizens and the police is restored. This can only happen if there is transparency and basic accountability in the day to day functioning of the police and police stations. The deficiencies in this vital area need to be plugged through Police Reforms, better citizen police interface, transparency, accountability, effective and integrated approach to public order maintenance, etc.
The last few years have witnessed some genuine efforts to reform the police due to the unstinting efforts of the civil society and some positive judgments by the Apex Court. The Supreme Court ‘directives’ of September 22, 2006 contained in the ‘Prakash Singh vs Union of India and Others’ is one such landmark judgment. The Court had issued seven clear and time-bound directions to the Centre and State governments which have still not been complied with by many states.
In September, 2005, a Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC) was constituted by the Government of India under the Chairmanship of Mr. Soli Sorabjee to draft a new Police Act that could meet, inter alia, the growing challenges to policing and to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the people. The Model Police Bill, which was submitted to the Government in October 2006 made recommendations for bringing about attitudinal changes in the police and eliciting the cooperation and assistance of the community. Further, the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) set up by the Government on August 31, 2005 in its 5th Report, titled “Public Order” submitted a detailed blueprint for revamping the police administration system.
These three formulations taken together form a very credible base for reforming the system of policing to meet the contemporary needs of a pluralist democracy undergoing rapid socio-economic change. There should be a coherent position on police reforms, which each of us can take forward, individually and collectively. The media also has a valuable role to play in disseminating relevant information, raising public awareness about the criticality of effective and citizen-friendly police service and building a constituency for good governance, including good policing.
Justice is integral to the functioning of our democracy, to uphold the rule of law and to preserve the faith of citizens in the judiciary. A strong, independent, accountable and efficiently functioning judiciary is also essential for preventing corruption and abuse of power and for dispensing justice, fairly and expeditiously to all our citizens. For this we need to effectuate Judicial Reforms. This would entail simplification of the judicial processes and making it accessible to all, reduction in procedural complexities, addressing the problem of inordinate delays in the dispensation of justice, ensuring that judges of adequate quantity and quality dispense effective and timely justice, increasing judge strength and commensurate infrastructure with adequate use of Information Technology and electronic connectivity, transparency in the appointment of judges and ensuring judicial ethics and putting in place accountability mechanisms in order to stem increasing corruption in the judiciary.
To sum up, the desired judicial reforms should take into account the following areas of concern
GovNext works to make a difference through litigations, mediation and events. It uses democratic instruments available to citizens to try and address civic, environmental and developmental challenges arising out of lack of transparency and accountability in the system. It has taken several initiatives in areas of governance, environment and human development and its work on police, administrative and judicial reforms is widely acknowledged by experts and administrators alike. The new thrust of initiatives for the GovNext is in areas of education, health, dignity of work, cyber space, farmers and misuse of public money.
Huge pendency of cases - There are more than 3 crore cases pending in different courts of India. About 60,000 cases are pending in Supreme Court, 42 lakh cases in different High Courts and about 2.7 crore cases pending in District and Sub-ordinate Courts. The impact of these delays and the denial of justice - is the cumulative loss of public confidence in the judiciary, and a resort to lawlessness and violent crime as a method of negotiating disputes. Even judges of the apex Court have attributed the deteriorating law and order situation in this country to the failure in the effective and timely delivery of justice, rendering citizens with little alternative but to take the law into their own hands. The pendency has to be reduced and ultimately eradicated with a time bound target.
Delays in the administration and dispensation of justice – These delays starting from procedural hassles through the conduct of the proceedings right up to the delivery of the final judgment are inordinate and the consequent ‘pendency’ of cases is known to be shockingly huge running into almost 3.00 crore cases today as mentioned above.
Inadequate judge strength - There are not enough judges. Current Judge to Population ratio is 10 to 1 million. The Law Commission report in 1987 recommends atleast 50 to 1 million. Population has increased by over 25 crore since 1987. The grim situation are further compounded by the fact that there is inordinate delay in the existing vacancies in the High Courts.
Justice accessible to all - As envisaged by the framers of our Constitution, justice should be easily available/ accessible to all and opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizens by reason of economic or other disabilities such as distance, etc. Also, the huge financial burden on the litigant in order to secure justice should be taken into consideration when discussing reforms in the judiciary.
Need for decentralisation of the system of administration of justice by establishing other tiers of systems within the judicial hierarchy to reduce the volume of work in the Supreme Court and the High Courts and alternative methods of dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration, plea bargaining, pre-litigation counselling, special forums for special categories of cases, etc, to be encouraged.
Need for planning and management of existing capacity / resources, including time management, use of technology, human resources.
Lack of accountability and transparency in the system – There is no accountability for delays and there is no recourse/system of redressal either. There is no provision for litigants or lawyers to lodge complaints against delays (or any other grievance) except to file “early hearing applications”, etc. before the very judges who themselves might be partly contributing to the delay. The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) has recommended that courts be accountable to the people. There should be a complaint redressal/ grievance redressal cell to provide feedback on the functioning and members of the judiciary, with swift action and response.
Lack of financial autonomy of the judiciary - The Judiciary does not have powers to create additional courts, appoint court staff or augment the infrastructure required by the courts. Any progress on judicial reforms has to take into account all these factors, but unfortunately the problem is compounded by a lack of effective will across the board to institute these reforms.
Administrative Reforms are essential for efficient management of India’s resources, fair and responsive policy-making, and a timely delivery of goods and services to citizens. Its biggest area of concern has been systemic transparency and accountability of government administration and participation of citizens in processes of decision making, particularly those affecting their lives and livelihoods. We have always sought autonomy to institutions like the CBI, CVC and CAG and independence for investigating agencies from the political executive. There should be no interference in the autonomy of the CAG, whose reports on coal block and spectrum allocation exposed huge discrepancies in administrative decision making. It also works to strengthen institutions like the Lok Pal and Lok Ayukta and the idea of ombudsmen in different walks of life.
Corruption is commonly defined as misuse of public office for private gain. While private gain is typically interpreted in terms of monetary benefit, it can assume the form of non-monetary benefits such as improved chances of re-election and helping friends or members of one’s own social, professional, caste or religious networks, political party, vote bank, fraternity or cadre, to obtain public resources disproportionately or out of turn or to shield them from punishment for their wrongdoings. The 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission’s 4th Report on “Ethics in Governance” says that “Corruption is an important manifestation of the failure of ethics and values system in a society. Unless values are restored, nothing much can be done to improve the conduct of human beings. Creation and strengthening of institutions for monitoring adherence to these value systems and enforcing them by properly designing a set of incentives and disincentives are of utmost importance in promoting ethical conduct by public servants.
The solution to the problem of corruption has to be more systemic than any other issue of governance. Merely shrinking the role of the state by resorting to poorly thought through and/or badly implemented deregulation and mindless privatization is not necessarily the solution to the problem – it is simply abdication of its responsibility by the government. As the events in the recent economic meltdown in US and elsewhere has shown, such policy actions just relocate unethical behaviour. Existing institutional arrangements have to be reviewed and changes made where those vested with power are made accountable, their functioning made more transparent and subjected to social audit with a view to minimize discretionary decisions. All procedures, laws and regulations that breed corruption or come in the way of efficient delivery system have to be eliminated. The perverse systems of incentives and disincentives and their application to public life makes corruption a high return low risk activity. This needs to be corrected. Also, social monitoring through empowered autonomous and credible structures of civil society must be established for all levels of public offices, from the lowest to the highest.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), 2014 which measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption around the world has placed India at 85th position out of a list of 175 countries. “Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair, Transparency International.
The deterioration of the environment leading to gradual degradation of land, water and air is a matter of grave concern. Over the years, there has been a steady pollution and contamination of precious resources such as air, water, soil etc as well as the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of many wildlife species due to devastation of their natural habitats. This has been caused due to reckless use of such scarce resources and irresponsible disposal of waste into the environment. This degradation has obvious implications on human health, the economy, food production, tourism, flora and fauna and the overall environment in which we live and bring up our children. We have filed a number of petitions in public interest over a range of environmental concerns.
Human development is identified with expanding the richness and dignity of human life and reduction of distress and poverty. It is the ultimate goal of any welfare, social policy or public initiative. Still, the measurement of Human development is a contentious subject. Some economists and policy makers treat economy’s GDP-driven growth rate as a marker of Human Development. However despite intrinsic connections between the expansion of GDP and overall development, the approach is problematic due to occurrence of jobless and unproductive growth. That is why development agencies like the UN, World Bank, think tanks, NGOs and governments look for more composite and multifarious methods of measuring human development. Some of these include a study of per capita calorie intake, income, expenditure and social well-being. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite index of life expectancy, education, income and a host of other socio-economic indicators. The HDI also explains how a country with a lower GDP growth rate can score better on human development index.
In the recent years more robust and multi-dimensional methods of measuring human development are being developed. These take into account non-monetary indicators like education, health, sanitation, water, electricity and employment opportunities. The multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is not a replacement for HDI but is increasingly being seen as complementary to it not only for defining poverty but also for targeting under-development with policy interventions. India’s track record in dealing with the issues of human development is worse than the poorer neighbours like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, according to economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Since liberalization of its economy in the early nineties, India has witnessed impressive economic growth but we are among the worst performers on the HDI front featuring a dismal 135th rank among 187 countries. In contrast our Asian neighbors like China (91) and Sri Lanka (73) are doing much better. We have also been concerned about issues like malnutrition, unemployment, inequalities, poor quality of schools and hospitals, lack of opportunities and vulnerabilities of large sections of our people. We have also been taking up issues of transparency, accountability and good and responsive governance which have a direct bearing on issues of poverty eradication and human development.
GovNext works to make a difference through Public Interest Litigations, Advocacy and Events. It uses democratic instruments available to citizens to try and address civic, environmental and developmental challenges arising out of lack of transparency and accountability in the system. It has taken several initiatives in areas of governance, environment and human development and its work on police, administrative and judicial reforms is widely acknowledged by experts and administrators alike. The new thrust of initiatives for the GovNext is in areas of education, health, dignity of work, cyber space, farmers and misuse of public money.