New Delhi: Nyaaya, a website to better understand laws, was supposed to launch on 26 January 2017. Its small five-member team decided to test a beta version this month.
Social media, however, had other plans. In just the initial four days, the website saw 20,000 visitors and for all intents and purposes, the website ceased to be on a trial mode.
News organisations like Scroll, the New Indian Express and Legally India picked up on the development as well.
Nyaaya.in is an initiative associated with the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, which works with the government on improving existing laws and drafting better laws.
The idea for a legal portal with explainers was originally conceptualized by philanthropist Rohini Nilekani , who’s also a patron of Vidhi, says Srijoni Sen, CEO of Nyaaya.
Based on two pillars that any start-up firm today swears by - mobile optimisation and a strong tech base–Nyaaya has the ambitious plan to convert not just central but state laws into easily available documents which can be read and understood by anyone.
As a website trying to explain Indian laws, the team of five–two for tech and three for law – at Nyaaya has its work cut out.
The website’s ‘about us’ section lists its mission–to demystify India’s laws, both central and state laws. For this, the team plans to compile all central and state laws, explain them in simple English and make the website interactive.
Why this will be a mammoth task is because the complete list of central laws of India alone available on Indiacode—a government website—runs into 47 pages with an average of 20 laws per page.
Then the team will look at state laws, which are often not as easily accessible.
Going into local languages is the next step in the process.
An app-user is also not the Nyaaya team’s target audience, as the website is intended to be accessible when someone is looking up the Internet to understand certain laws.
The website is also planned to serve as a resource for other organisations with which Nyaaya could partner. For example, an organization working with undertrial prisoners could use the Nyaaya guide on criminal law, Sen says.
The team has worked since August and collated central laws, which can be found on the website.
At first glance, the website has a clean, user-friendly look and feel. It’s designed to be light and is mobile-optimized.
At present, there is a detailed guide through the criminal justice system which includes what to do and whom to approach, both from the perspective of a victim of a crime and an accused. The document available goes step by step and covers topics in the form of frequently asked questions, which makes for an easy read. In addition to this, it has illustrations accompanying headings to avoid the document becoming too wordy.
Aside from the criminal law guide, there are resource materials for right to education, sexual harassment, domestic violence, anti-corruption, law related to drugs and atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The key, according to Sen, is to target laws which people could need on a regular basis.
Each segment includes a quick explainer and for those who want to read further, has a copy of the law with provisions explained separately on the side as well.
The tech team has also done a good job with the search engine optimization because you type ‘nyaaya’ and the website (and its logo) is bound to show up.
—Easy FAQ type resource materials written in simple English.
—Simple colour scheme with pastel shades.
—Easy to access available resources because of design
—At present, there are fewer resources on the website, so it doesn’t appear clunky. However, with more explainers, the home page in its present format could become too long or full.