New Delhi: Nearly 62% of 9,329 litigants surveyed believed that a judge did not pass an order quickly in their case, according to a study.

Nearly half of these litigants also believed that lack of judges in subordinate courts caused delays in general.

This, combined with the fact that litigants lose nearly 50,000 crore annually in wages or business lost, as reported by the Times of India on Thursday, which comes to 0.4% of the country’s GDP, because of litigation is an indication of how expensive litigation can be.

It is an important perception, given that chief justice of India, T.S. Thakur said that there were over 4,000 vacancies in lower courts across the country.

The study, entitled Access to Justice Survey 2015-16 conducted by research organisation Daksh India was released on Saturday at a conference.

This survey also highlighted that 63.5% accused spent less than a month in jail even after they were granted bail owing to a variety of reasons. One of bigger reasons for not availing bail was insufficient money to pay the bail.

The study, Daksh co-founder Harish Narasappa said, was to bring the focus to the litigants rather than the judicial system and institution.

Daksh’s study was conducted over November 2015 and February 2016, across 305 locations in 24 states.

An important question raised was how representative of the legal system the survey was, since it only analysed 9,329 litigants across the country.

G. Mohan Gopal, chairperson, National Court Management Systems Committee & ex-director National Judicial Academy, speaking at the conference, said that while looking at the loss caused to litigants was an important number, the economic gain out of litigation—right to property, contractual rights.

Supreme Court judge Madan B. Lokur, who chaired the session on the way forward for improving access to justice, pointed out that there was need to ensure not just access, but physical access to courts. Infrastructure, he said, required improvement. For doing so, cooperation between state governments and its judiciary was imperative. Chief justices of high courts could play crucial roles in ensuring funds were released by governments to have better physical infrastructure and computerisation of courts.

Lokur also said that there needed to be greater push towards adopting technology in court systems. Mediation, as means of alternate dispute resolution, could be the only way of reducing pending cases, he added. He also lamented the state of legal aid in the country, reflected by Daksh’s report—merely 1.9% of the litigants surveyed had a legal aid lawyer appointed by the court.

“We’re not able to get our act together in terms of legal aid," Lokur said.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover agreed saying that legal aid was the only service in the country that did not have any accountability. She added that the phrase access to justice needed revisiting, as the research in the area was focused more on access to the legal system or courts rather than justice, which could mean something different.

Daksh India’s study has definitely taken a step in the right direction in understanding the legal system and its challenges, according to experts speaking at the conference.

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