Embedding and recognising access, equality and diversity

Paper presented at the 2015 CLEA Conference in Glasgow

Meera Mathew
Indian Law Institute

Access to justice and accessibility of proficient legal remedies are vital rudiments in underpinning good governance in any given country, as they boost respect for human rights by the State and its agencies with statutory and private bodies. Laws, despite restrictions, must be constructive at the hands of the needy and the underprivileged. Likewise, the schemes commenced by the government should be utilized to fully tackle deep-rooted problems of the deprived and the disadvantaged. The common wealth countries and common law system follow the adversarial system wherein the parties submit their own resources to find and present evidence to the decision-maker. There are so many issues when such parties are deprived by reason of their socio-economic status. Corruption, intense poverty, illiteracy for large swaths of the population, a lack of adequate educational institutions, and poor infrastructure are just some of the daunting challenges that confront the majority states. The cumulative effect of all these factors is that despite the availability of institutions to seek justice, bringing perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice remains largely a mirage for many victims. Ironically, it is these parties have the highest rates of dealings with the justice system, and yet are the worst provided by it. Despite so many initiatives taken so far, access to justice in many countries, is slowed down by a number of obstacles inimitable to situations concerning human rights abuses. This paper addresses the core issues that are present in common law countries where in it has become difficult to envision how the state can cope with such a justice delivery system. It is stated that there is malfunction of states to fulfil their obligations to elevate the level of awareness of their citizens to their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Further it is pointed out that in order to protect the individuals from the oppressive exercise of government authority and majority power, much initiatives are to be done and monitored. The paper focuses on various elements and comes to the point that duty-bearers such as judiciary and administrative officials should undergo training workshops to sensitize them on the challenge faced by needy groups in accessing justice. Further it is stated that the member countries, though, are at the threshold of a transformation and legal community, have immense role to adhere to the ethics and code of conduct while rendering in the administration of justice. Further the paper examines the need to create awareness among people of basic human rights and know how to assert, claim, and access them. Moreover, they should be provided legal assistance as well as be empowered to participate in policy-making, dialogue with the government and donors, and access funds. Last but not the least, it is concluded by stating that human rights-based approach to access to justice, key to realizing the “larger freedom” of being free from want and fear and being free to live in dignity, is very much required to get rid of marginalization of communities and sectors in society and thus to embed and recognise access, equality and diversity.

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