The 1st Regional Conference on Access to Legal Aid: Strengthening Access to Justice in the Global South concluded this Tuesday. The Conference witnessed the participation of over 191 participants from 51 countries. The first day of the conference witnessed two roundtables – the Chief Justices’ Roundtable on Equal Access to Justice for All in the Global South and the Ministerial Roundtable on Achieving the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030: Access to Justice – Global South.
The Chief Justices Roundtable concluded on 27 November 2023 with the adoption of the New Delhi Principles on the Role of Judiciary in Ensuring Equal Access to Justice for All in the Global South. The New Delhi Principles set out a bold vision and establish crucial role of the judiciary in ensuring right to legal representation; importance of digital platforms for sharing legal information that enables easy access to courts and its procedures for all persons; and to further integration of technology in the court processes making access to legal remedies easier, faster, and equitable.
The Roundtable chaired by the Chief Justice of India brought together 21 Chief Justices and senior judges from 15 countries in the Global South, was convened to discuss the role of the judiciary in ensuring the right to legal representation including availability of legal aid services that are credible, effective and accessible to all; technological innovations that are significant in advancing equal access to justice; and good practices on expanding access to legal information as well as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Discussions touched upon the differences and commonalities across jurisdictions, including the nature of codification of the right to legal aid; the institutionalization and funding of legal aid institutions; and the provision of legal aid services. The varied stages at which legal assistance is available for suspects, arrested and accused persons were discussed, and a consensus was reached on its provision from the initial stages of criminal proceedings. Emphasis was placed on improving court efficiency in terms of e-filing, virtual hearings, and simplification of court procedures.
The New Delhi Principles outline a set of 12 principles for enabling equal access to justice for all. These include principles on – Equal Protection of Laws, Non-discrimination, and Equality, Right to a Fair Trial, Legal Representation in Criminal Cases, Legal Representation in Civil Cases, Right to Legal Aid, Accessibility and Affordability, Technology Innovations and Advancements, Legal Education and Public Awareness, Public Participation and Accountability, Continuous Improvement and Promoting Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms.
Emphasising that the New Delhi Principles are a significant step forward in efforts to ensure access to justice for all, Chief Justice of India Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud while speaking at the valedictory event stated, “I am confident that these principles will serve as a base document for further discussion and engagement between nations in the global south”.
Additionally, 36 ministers and representatives of ministries concerned with justice programmes from 18 countries participated in the Ministerial Roundtable on Achieving the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030: Access to Justice – Global South, which was chaired by the Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State, Ministry of Law & Justice (Independent Charge). Meghwal reiterated the theme of ‘Global South: Together for Everyone’s Growth, Everyone’s Trust’ as the premise of these discussions, in resonance with the 2nd Voices of Global South Summit, held virtually by India in the previous week.
The Roundtable highlighted the need for stronger south-south collaborations in efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It was reaffirmed that access to justice is a fundamental right and that access to inclusive legal aid services is a vital part of enabling access to this right and an indispensable pillar of peace, justice and strong institutions. At its conclusion, the participants of the roundtable committed to preparing and adopting a ‘New Delhi Statement on Advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Access to Justice in the Global South’ by 2024.
Santosh Snehi Mann, Member Secretary, National Legal Services Authority, India stated that “the recommendations contained in these outcome documents will make a real difference in the lives of millions of people across the Global South.”
Read New Delhi Principles and Outcome in the pdfs below:1.NALSA_RLAC_New-Delhi-Principles_27.11.23_Outcome-Document