On the 7th and 8th of January, Justice Adda and Kokum Design Trust, in association with the Konrad Adenaeur Stiftung, organised a conference on Design for Justice, focusing on three themes – justice-making, justice spaces and justice users, followed by a book discussion and a facilitated distillation of the conference proceedings for concrete policy recommendations. Digital Futures Lab presented an essay on a conceptual framework for the design of artificial intelligence for courts in India.
- A few key problems in the justice system emerged from the conference proceedings - delays, gatekeeping of knowledge, complex processes, and lack of resources.
- There is citizen interest in holding public justice institutions accountable and accessible. It is just that there is information asymmetry when it comes to access to public services, be it in the form of opaque land acquisition processes or just finding the appropriate office/official in a public institution.
- Goa’s changing socio-political context, especially the presence of more migrants who are unfamiliar with the local language, makes it critical to think of ways to make public institutions more accessible.
The day’s presentations, consisting of 15 ideas and 3 case studies by student fellows, followed a modified PechaKucha format, with each participant provided 6 minutes to present their thoughts. The presentations were on topics as wide as exploring place and justice-making in Azad Maidan to land conflict in Goa, to the changing nature of the Latin quarters in Goa with increased commercialisation and tourism. Some of the common themes that emerged from the presentations included concerns around information asymmetries in public institution-citizen interactions and the need for thoughtful design of public spaces as a necessary corollary to justice-making.
The case studies by student fellows with backgrounds in architecture, engineering and law explored three public institutions in Goa – the collectorate, a police station and a court. Emerging from fieldwork and sustained engagement with mentors, the presentations traversed a range of issues pertaining to the spatial and experiential design of these institutions. For example, one of the examples showcased how a pregnant woman was waiting in one of these institutions, as her husband had to travel farther away for a photocopy, provoking thoughts on why basic services cannot be institutionalised in these public settings. Another common concern was how intimidating these institutions are, with one presenter equating stepping into a public complex with stepping into a horror house. The underlying thought was that public institutions need to be more welcoming and easier to navigate for those who seek their services.
Later in the day, a book discussion was organised for Siddharth Peter De Souza’s ‘Designing Indicators for a Plural Legal World’. The author argues that rule of law indicators used globally, in different reports, become the bare minimum standard to which jurisdictions try to tailor their legal systems. But these indicators do not capture the nuances of plural legal systems around the world. An underlying question to rethink what justice means for the people informs the book, with a suggestion to use access to justice indicators instead and embrace the ‘messiness’ that comes with the plurality of legal systems. The discussants, Prof. MRK Prasad and Advocate Albertina Almeida, discussed the book in the context of the focus on quantitative data, citing the author’s example of reliance on university indicators as an appropriate embodiment of the preoccupation with numbers and rankings, instead of trying to solve actual problems.
The final programme for the day consisted of a hive mind analysis facilitated by Joanna Pyres from Circlewallahshive-mind. Groups of four to five discussed three questions – what makes the justice system stuck, what do you want the justice system to be and how will such a justice system be built. This was a useful exercise as the groups contemplated each of these questions and listed issues. Group composition changed for each question and groups were encouraged to read out their responses to the questions and give explanations where necessary.
The hive mind analysis from the previous day served as the starting point for Day 2’s activity, which was to distill the conference proceedings further for concrete policy recommendations. Some of the key things that make the justice system stuck included delays, lack of resources, gatekeeping of knowledge and information, and lack of accountability and professionalism. These problems were further thematically categorised into themes such as governance, infrastructure, training, culture and accountability mechanisms. The participants were then divided into groups of four to think of policy recommendations under themes of their choosing that would feed into the case studies. These were to be presented in the form of catchy news headlines.
This activity was followed by a discussion on the next steps and participant insights on how to disseminate findings from the case studies, including through social media and other platforms or means to engage with different types of audiences.
The 2-day conference was well-organised, providing a platform for people from different professional and academic backgrounds to gather and exchange ideas on justice.