Key Takeaways from the DAKSH Paths to Justice Survey 2017

Meera Emmanuel January 25 2018
Vidhi, human rights courts

The 2017 survey report by research organisation DAKSH, titled Paths to Justice: Surveying Judicial and Non-judicial Dispute Resolution in India, draws attention to significant trends in accessing court and non-court dispute resolution channels in India.

Responses were collected from 50,000 households across India. The respondents were selected on a random sampling approach, based on 2011 census data.

The survey was aimed at collecting information pertaining to the kinds of disputes that people have faced, the modes of dispute resolution they choose, reasons why some people prefer to not resolve their disputes, experiences with the police, and costs of resolving their disputes.

Some notable takeaways from the DAKSH 2017 survey report include the following.

Preference for informal systems at initial stages of disputes

In the initial stages i.e. in trying to understand a prospective dispute, people tend to rely on informal mechanisms. In this regard, respondents said that they were more inclined to approach friends and family (74%), village elders or local leaders (49%), and caste or religious panchayats (25%), rather than lawyers, police, or legal services authorities.

In fact, the police (40%) and lawyers (32%) topped the list of people whom respondents said they would not approach when facing a legal dispute. This was followed by caste/religious panchayats, religious authorities and the media.

However, of the 5.8% of survey respondents who were looking to resolve disputes faced, 70% said they would approach the court, whereas the remaining opted for non-court mechanisms.

Issues surrounding the police process

91% of the respondents said that they had never filed a police complaint. The majority (56%) of this sub-group said that they did not file a complaint on the advice of friends or family. 22% reported that they were dissuaded by the police from filing the complaint.

7% of the respondents who did file a complaint did not take it forward. Of this figure, 35% reported that they were discouraged by the police to carry forward their complaint. About one-fifth (20%) did not pursue the complaint as they felt it would cost too much in terms of time, effort or money. In the same sub-group, 18 per cent said that they were paid or pressurised to drop the complaint.

Also, only 18% of people who had a dispute filed an FIR. Out of these, only one-third (31%) had their FIR registered immediately. Three possible reasons have been quoted: (a) the police wanted a compromise, (b) they did not believe the complainant, or (c) no reason.

More civil disputes than reported criminal disputes

Crimes were found to constitute only 5.6 per cent of the total disputes. Two reasons have been quoted for this relatively small percentage i.e. possible stigma associated with reporting crimes, and the fact that many crimes (hurt, theft etc.) are considered too trivial to report.

The majority of civil disputes related to recovery of money (30.2 per cent) and land-or property-related matters (29.3 per cent). In the 2016 survey carried out by DAKSH, nearly 66% of civil litigation stemmed from land-and property-related cases.

Litigation more burdensome than non-court methods for lower income persons  

Litigation costs (about Rs 1,049 per day) were found to be close to twice that of costs incurred in out-of-court methods (about Rs 659 per day).

Those with an annual income of less than Rs 50,000, spent over 10 days’ worth of their income on courts, and 5.5 days’ worth of their income on non-court proceedings per day. In sharp contrast, those in the annual income range above Rs. 3,00,000 spent less than a single day’s worth of their income in court as well as non-court proceedings daily.

Higher income respondents were also found to show a strong preference for the court system as opposed to lower income respondents.

The cost of litigation was quoted as the second reason for opting not to go to court. The first factor was that the opposite party opted for a non-court method. The third quoted reason was ignorance of how to go about filing a case/the legal system being too complex to navigate.

Challenges faced in litigation outweigh those faced in non-court mechanisms

A high percentage of those adopting the court mechanism reported having faced violence, threats and pressure, physical/mental stress, among other problems.

Only about 15% reported that they faced no such challenges in pursuing litigation. In contrast, over 28% of those adopting non-court mechanisms reported that they did not face any problem in going about dispute resolution.

Inexperienced persons prefer non-court mechanisms

While 63% of those who approached courts had previously approached the courts or a non-court mechanism, 69% of those who approached a non-court mechanism had never had any prior experience in dispute resolution.

Bribery still taints the dispute resolution process

Of the persons who were willing to disclose whether they had been asked for bribes, 42% of those who used the court system stated they had been asked to pay bribes. 10% of those relying on non-court mechanisms said they had been asked for bribes.

In both cases, 58% of the respondents stated that they did in fact pay the bribe.

Read full survey report below.

Paths to Justice-watermark