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Judicial Reform In India: A Story Of Too Many Laws, Much Little Justice

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We are witnessing India in an extraordinary situation today. The entire country has been practising lockdown. The sole purpose is to contain the coronavirus and save the country from going into recession. But amidst all this, we are witnessing lakhs of people gathering at the inter-state bus terminal in the capital. They want to reach their home as soon as possible by hook or crook. And this incident brings the whole government at its knee. No matter who is responsible, no matter what the situation was, no matter it was anticipated or not, the government is exclusively accountable, and if it remains inactive to ensure the safety and security of these people, it’s a blot on the governance system.

Migrants stranded at the Anand Vihar ISBT, Delhi amid the nationwide lockdown.

In recent days we also witnessed an unimaginable Tom and Jerry game between the defending councillor and the courts, including the SC in the Nirbhaya Rape case judgment. It took the system seven years to execute the culprits with capital punishment even when the all accused accepted their crime in the very beginning. Most of us wonder what the reason is! It is witnessed that some people hate that defending advocate for what he was doing as required by his profession. We cannot miss the fact that the same happened in the deadly criminal Kasab’s case. He was also provided councillor on the sponsorship of the government of India, and to execute him; the government took years.

One the other hand, recently, when a lady doctor was brutally raped in Hyderabad, and the Telangana Police immediately shot the accused after they accepted their crime with all shreds of evidence. The public lauded it in general, excluding some handful of people who care about the convention of fixing punishment through established law.

There are multiple examples when it is evident that the system has taken an abnormally long time to shut an open and shut case. There is a history to it.

In 1977, Smt. Maneka Gandhi’s passport was seized by the airport security for a reason which was never expressed. She claimed that there was unreasonable behaviour from the organ of the government. Consequently, she moved the Supreme Court recognizing it a violation of her Fundamental Right of visiting abroad under Article 21 of the constitution of India. And the Hon’ble Supreme Court made a milestone judgment in the case which is named as Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union of India. The security authority followed the “procedure established by the law.”

It means that if a process is done by the government agency with the established procedure of law, even if it is not reasonably required, the court will uphold it. And that interpretation gave the law enforcement organs of the government to go unchecked multiple times in terms of violating the boundary of human dignity.

But, in the Maneka Gandhi case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court gave a judgment stating that the Supreme Court will not remain satisfied only by the adherence of individuals or agencies to the “established procedures as per law,” but it will also refer to the “due process of law.” That means now the Supreme Court was making legal review possible for the need and necessity of the activities performed by the organs of the government following the “procedure established by the law.”

Unfortunately, the Indian judiciary, despite identifying the need to make the ‘due process of law’ as the guiding principle for the administration of justice, it is helplessly still following only the ‘procedure established by the law.’ The reason behind it is that the judiciary is too late to solve the cases. The Indian court is surprisingly perching on 45 million cases. So by the time a case gets on the verge of judgment, the whole set of situations around the dispute appear to be changed. And hence, the judging authorities have to rely on the need for written records, and there is a review of only the ‘established procedures as per law.’ It was classically manifested when multiple dates of hanging the culprits of Nirbhaya’s rape and murder were postponed when many loopholes were capitalized to push back the judgment of executing the culprits. It is anybody’s guess that the culprits were not going to be spared.

This is a challenge that the judiciary, executive, and all enforcement agencies are facing. To provide citizen-centric governance, judges should not rule the country or be the de-facto governor because they are accountable to none. The moment, the rule book exclusively starts governing systems, and human cognizance stands at bay, and that decreases the confidence of people in the judicial institutions.

If we watch the contemporary situation of the exodus of the migrant labourers on foot for hundreds of kilometres, doesn’t it sound strange and dangerous for the Indian judiciary? Do we intend to be a developed nation without citizens’ indomitable belief in the country’s judicial, political, and societal establishment? This is practically and fundamentally neither possible nor should be tried. 

The judiciary has to lay down paths for the curation of relevant laws for the advancement of the country. And it also has to maintain the principle that the law-making institutions are the only competent authority for governance. The approach of checks and balances requires the judiciary to be active and self-regulatory, but the best way it is possible is through the increased competency of the judiciary. It must focus immediately on the administration of judicial institutions so that it may perform as per the requirement. The decision of retired CJI Mr Gogoi, to get into the law-making body can be an instrumental move to get the needed reforms done with a decisive and stable government like the current one. With the mantra of ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’ India must also endeavour to strike down the situation of ‘Much Laws and Little Justice.’

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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