Indians largely tend to shy away from the very idea of litigation. The tales told by those who see it up close will not encourage the rest: inordinate delays, multiple appearances, and the whole bureaucratic tangle starting from the filing of a petition until the final judgment. Enough to leave a lay person intimidated. But while navigating the judicial process is a harrowing experience in itself, there are more material reasons that would dissuade potential litigants from approaching the courts: the state of court infrastructure.
Anyone who has visited a public institution can testify how infrastructure plays a key role in ensuring the quality of service delivery. Courts are no exception. We collected data in a nationwide survey of 665 district courts, including feedback from 6,650 litigants, to put together evidence on the quality of India’s judicial infrastructure. The conclusion is clear: our courts need large-scale improvements to make them more welcoming, accessible and purpose-driven. Here, we chalk out how a day in court for a litigant looks like in most parts of India using this primary data. A handful of readers who have already encountered the system would empathise, but for the majority, who have never had occasion to visit a district court in India, this could be an eye-opener.