Study on Access to Justice


Every Indian is equal before the law and is entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law (Article 14 Indian Constitution and Article 26 ICCPR). However, the reality for Dalit and Adivasi citizens who suffer atrocities is often that of the delayed or denied justice.


Recognizing high rate of atrocities faced by Dalits and Tribals, the Parliament passed the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST (PoA) Act) in order to “prevent the commission of offenses of atrocities against the members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims for such offenses an for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” (Preamble)


However, hurdles exist at every stage of the justice process, including at the stage of registration of cases, investigation of cases, charge sheeting and at the trial stage. Cases registered under SC/ST (PoA) Act and pending trial in 2010 were 45,247 (including previous years). Of these, 5,748 (13%) were acquitted, and convictions resulted in only 3430 cases (8%). At the end of that year, 37,768 (79%) cases were pending trial (NCRB, Crimes in India 2010, New Delhi).  In other words, there are serious issues of delayed trials and low conviction rates that work against the very purpose for which the Special Courts were set up.


Focus of the study:

Civil society organisations (CSOs) play a key role in ensuring access to justice for victims of atrocities. A study by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) found that conviction rate in cases on which CSOs intervened is up to 30% higher than the respective State average.


Together with NDMJ and with the support of Christian Aid, Nazdeek is conducting a study on access to justice in cases of atrocities against Dalits and Tribals in five States in India. The study involves five civil society organisations, one per each State, who have been assisting victims of atrocities in their search for justice through the criminal justice administration system. Partner organisations have been selected within the International NGOs Partnership Agreement Program (IPAP) sponsored by DFID.


Through data collection and extensive interviews with human rights defenders, victims of atrocities, witnesses, public prosecutors, Investigating Officers and other actors, the study will examine what types of interventions have been tried so far and with what results, in order to identify key lessons, strategies and best practices.


The study also looks at the judgements pronounced in cases taken up by partner organisations, in order to understand the merits of the cases and how CSOs had tried or been able to strengthen these case.


These findings will be shared widely for the larger benefit of the Dalit community, civil society organisations and human rights defenders. In doing so, the study will take forward the debate and interventions to ensure justice to victims of atrocities. As a conclusion of the study, a report is due to be launched by the end of 2013.


Organisations participating in the study (IPAP Partners):

Center for Dalit RightsRajasthan

Dalit Stree ShaktiAndhra Pradesh

Dynamic Action GroupUttar Pradesh

Navsarjan TrustGujarat

Sampurna Gram Vikas KendraJharkhand


Facilitating partner organisation:

National Dalit Movement for Justice


Goals of the Study:

Strengthen legal and advocacy interventions by civil society organisations

Ensure prompt justice to SC/ST victim-survivors of atrocities


Objectives of the study:

– Track strategies and progress of SC/ST atrocity cases on which IPAP partners intervened

– Identify challenges experienced by Partners and best practices to support victim-survivors in SC/ST atrocity cases

– Document experiences of victim-survivors and witnesses

– Analyse Special Courts judgments of cases involving Partners

– Develop recommendations to strengthen interventions by CSOs


Benefits for Partners & Advocacy Movement:

– Strengthen effectiveness of CSO engagement in SC/ST atrocity cases

– Identify best practices, strategies, and lessons

– Document and highlight tireless work of Partners in supporting victim-survivors of atrocities

– Share and disseminate findings with national and international networks

– Increase accountability in the criminal administrative justice process



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