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IU Maurer School of Law professor to play key role in major study on Indian judiciary

Aug. 19, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Maurer School of Law announced today (Aug. 19) that Jayanth Krishnan will serve as project director for an intensive study on the lower judiciary in India. Krishnan is professor of law, Charles L. Whistler Faculty Fellow and head of the India Initiative at the Maurer School's Center on the Global Legal Profession.

Jay Krishnan

Jayanth Krishnan

The research Krishnan is overseeing is being supported by a $261,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to the National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS), a non-governmental association based in the state of Maharashtra that has been a pioneer in people-centered advocacy in India. Integrally partnering with Krishnan and NCAS will be the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a human rights organization working on access to justice issues on behalf of vulnerable populations, and Jagori Grameen, located in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, which works on equity, gender and justice issues for marginalized communities.

As an important part of its mission, the Ford Foundation supports such research to secure equal rights and opportunities for all people. Its efforts help vulnerable populations gain access to the social, political, and cultural institutions that govern their rights.

This grant, in particular, will also enable the production of systematic, rigorous research that seeks to improve the status quo. "India has one of the most backlogged, delay-ridden court systems in the world and the system has reached a crisis point," Krishnan said. He pointed out that between 30,000 and 40,000 cases are pending before the Supreme Court of India alone, and the number in the lower courts is thought to be in the tens of millions. Many of these cases have been pending for decades.

Krishnan and his colleagues will conduct a pilot study of district courts in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh in order to arrive at a preliminary understanding of what is happening in these forums. The study will also include an analysis of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) forums in India.

"So little is known empirically about the district courts," Krishnan said. "Lots of people have anecdotes, and there have been a handful of smaller studies, but data on the lawyers and litigants who are laboring in these forums are sparse -- and these are forums that affect the vast majority of everyday Indian claimants."

As India continues to serve as a pivotal country on the world stage today, a more efficient, functional legal system upon which Indians -- particularly the marginalized and disadvantaged -- can access is crucial. According to Krishnan, who has been writing on the Indian courts and legal profession for more than a decade, the Ford Foundation grant to NCAS will allow research to be produced that can then provide academics, policymakers, the bench, and the bar with empirically grounded recommendations. Krishnan and his colleagues expect to complete the research within 36 months.

This research builds on the Maurer School of Law's commitment to global initiatives in India and other countries. Under the aegis of the school's Center on the Global Legal Profession, in 2010 six students served as summer interns in New Delhi in a wide range of legal practice settings. For more information on the Center on the Global Legal Profession, see