Justice for All

18 Dec 2007

New Delhi, 18 December, 2007: The Union Minister for Law and Justice Shri H.R. Bharadwaj joined representatives from Government and civil society to discuss strategies to strengthen access to justice on 18 December in New Delhi.

The two-day National Roundtable on Access to Justice (17th and 18th December) brought together a broad range of professionals and experts who deliberated on reforms required to improve legal aid services for the poor and strengthen the criminal justice system.

The participants based much of their discussion on lessons learned from a pilot initiative of the Government of India and UNDP. As part of this initiative, government and civil society have worked together across 44 districts in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana to increase awareness about legal rights, improve access to legal services, and help service providers such as the police and the judiciary address grievances of the poor.

For instance, women who are victims of domestic violence have been able to access psycho social counselling. An electronic database, which was launched by the Minister today, will provide users with easy access to information on justice sector institutions. Another innovation of the project was to train paralegals to conduct fact finding missions and enhance access to justice for women.

These efforts reflect the commitment of the Government of India and UNDP to usher in reforms in the justice sector. In the long term, they will help women, poor people and minorities and improve access to justice in India. ENDS

For more information, please contact Dharampreet Singh, Team Leader, Strengthened Access to Justice in India at dharampreet.jsingh@undp.org or 46532309.

Notes to the editor:
The Strengthened Access to Justice in India (SAJI-I), a project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Government of India, has been implemented in 44 districts of Haryana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. UNDP provided technical assistance and funding to this programme. The project started in January 2006 and ended in November 2007. The total budget was US $1 million.

The strategies developed during this roundtable will help design a five year UNDP programme on access to justice.

In India, UNDP works to support governments (at all levels) and communities in villages and towns to bring the marginalized into decision-making processes, improve their access to government services, expand their income opportunities, and conserve the natural resources that are often their main source of income. At the same time, UNDP supports the government and vulnerable groups to stem the spread of HIV by expanding awareness, alliances and action beyond the health sector. In areas prone to natural disasters, UNDP helps further efforts aimed at building the resilience of communities at risk from natural disasters.