Hurdles galore at most courts in Karnataka, says study

Researchers discovered that Karnataka scored poorly when it came to waiting areas, ease of access for the disabled, security and in information that court websites are mandated to display.

A year-long study by a legal think tank has ranked Karnataka 15th out of 28 in the country over the quality of its courthouses.

The study, by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, in association with Tata Trusts and Jaldi (Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India), found that the state could only be given a score of 54 out of 100 when considering parameters like accessibility, navigation, waiting areas, hygiene, barrier-free access for the disabled, electronic displays to show case information, security, amenities and online information.

Arghya Sengupta, research director at Vidhi specified that as the lower judiciary is the first point of contact for most litigants in India today, a user-friendly court equipped with all necessary facilities lies at the core of accessibility to the judicial system.

Out of the 29 district courts surveyed by the study in Karnataka, during which 290 litigants were interviewed (10 for each court), researchers discovered that the state scored poorly when it came to waiting areas, ease of access for the disabled, security, and in information that court websites are mandated to display.

The study said that 28 court complexes were accessible by public transport and that all court complexes had designated parking space. Sixty-one per cent of litigants said they reached courts by public transport. Eight per cent said they reached the court complex by walking. Once at the courts, however, lack of information hindered 93% of litigants from effectively moving on where they needed to go. 

Often, they had to wait for their cases to be heard or for their legal aides to arrive. However, 18 out of 29 court complexes were not equipped with waiting areas. Litigants said waiting areas were especially deficient in seating and lighting. Relief at washrooms was also sketchy and although 86% of court complexes had fully operational restrooms, 47% of litigants said that running water was often not available. 

“The government should consider this as part of Swachh Bharat,” Sengupta added.

Only three court complexes were accessible to wheelchair-bound individuals and none had braille notices. Only three courts had an eCase display board which helps notify litigants about the status of their cases.

The worst-scoring courthouses were in Yadgir (37%), Hassan (34%) and Chikkamagaluru districts (38%). Bengaluru scored 77%, although according to
Alok Prasanna Kumar, a senior resident fellow at Vidhi, courthouses in the
city are rife with inefficiencies.

In a second study focused on courthouses in Bengaluru (Rural), which was also released by Vidhi on Thursday, the six court complexes in this disposed of 1.2 lakh cases over a three-year period, although 1.1 lakh cases are in pendency.

The total case pendency in the state is 14 lakh.

The average lifespan of a civil case in these courts amounted to nearly 1,600 days (or 4.3 years). Criminal cases took an average of nearly 900 days to dispose.

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