Nyaaya: A digital guide to complex justice system
New Delhi: Legal processes are often tiresome, frustrating, lengthy and bureaucratic. Awareness and knowledge of law is still not an integral part of people’s consciousness. The barriers of language, education and technological reach add to the absence of legal understanding in our society.
By creating a free online resource, Nyaaya is trying to simplify the heavily jargonized legal language, facts and practice for common people, and build a knowledge reserve about law that is more accessible to non-experts through simple interpretation. Nyaaya is a searchable repository of every central and state law in the country that provides information on laws in simple English and Hindi, and is managed in a way that users find answers with little effort.
Nyaaya was the winner of the SM4E awards, organized by the Digital Empowerment Foundation in 2017, in the category of communication, advocacy and development activism for creating an online and easy-to-comprehend repository of Indian laws.
“Nyaaya is based on a very simple idea. Laws were not written to be an exclusive, niche product meant for experts. They concern everyone in India and are applicable to almost everything. Hence, it’s very important for laws to be accessible, simple and coherent,” says Sumeysh Srivastava, outreach lead at Nyaaya.
The law portal has been active since 26 January 2017 and has had more than 400,000 users. The portal was revamped on 16 February 2018, with design and product updates intended to make it easier to use and to access relevant information.
Nyaaya was originally conceived by philanthropist and chairperson of charitable foundation Arghyam, Rohini Nilekani, who approached the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, a non-profit legal think tank, with the idea of creating a legal portal like the water portal that Arghyam has set up. “Rohini was keen on financing an open access platform that would help citizens better equip themselves with knowledge of the justice system, and enable society and the law to be more in sync. This idea fell right into Vidhi’s line of thinking and the Nyaaya website is an outcome of this discussion,” says Srivastava.
Nyaaya is supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and the Lal Family Foundation, and is run by a six-member team.
The design of the portal is such that various categories of laws—from domestic violence and sexual harassment to laws on drugs and against corruption—are tidily arranged for easy navigation. There are straightforward, short and lucid explainers for each of them, and for those who seek further reading, there’s a copy of the law with provisions explained separately on the side.
The team agreed on a portal structure that it believed worked for users, outreach and technology. It worked on a fresh content that fit this structure while wire-framing the design, testing it on users and prototyping the technology.
Nyaaya uses different social media networks to make its content more widely available with accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and also uses other niche platforms like Reddit, Quora and WhatsApp to reach different audiences.
Realizing that these technological mediums work differently, the team uses each platform with a specific goal and takes a different approach. For instance, Nyaaya believes that Twitter isn’t great for getting traffic to the website, but is a great tool for visibility and brand image. So on Twitter, it acts more as a curator, where the team shares content that users and followers may be interested in, even if it’s not Nyaaya’s content.
“We have also tried to make laws less boring by trying to explain them through references to movies, TV serials and everyday situations. Being online also allows us to collaborate and learn from other organizations who are also looking at questions of accessibility with reference to public information,” says Srivastava.
Nyaaya’s vision, he adds, is to ensure that each and every member of society fully understands their rights and obligations, as per the letter of the law. The team now plans to grow its content significantly with new topics every few weeks and to have content in other regional languages to increase accessibility of the law. “We will also continue to solicit feedback and improve our tech for speed, reliability and convenience. Very soon, we hope to have a new and improved search as well as multi-language support,” adds Srivastava.
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.