No evidence of any gender or religious bias in the district courts, finds study

What is the News?

A study by the Development Data Lab has found no evidence of any systemic gender or religious bias in the district and subordinate courts across India.

The lab works with governments, firms, and civil society organizations. It generates policy-relevant knowledge using data.

About the study:

  • Data used: The study looked at 2010 to 2018 records of all district and subordinate courts available on the government eCourt platform. This is the first such study of judicial data in India.
  • Classification: The study classified judges and defendants according to gender and religion (Muslim and non-Muslim).  It was to examine in-group bias or whether existing structural inequalities led to worse judicial outcomes for women and Muslims.

Key Findings:

Women and Muslims Judges in Lower Courts:

  • Women represent 48% of our population, but they constitute only 28% of district court judges.
  • Similarly, Muslims represent 14% of India’s population but only 7% of lower court judges.

Outcomes of Cases:

  • Male defendants did not get better outcomes in conviction or acquittal when their cases were assigned to men judges. Similarly, women defendants did not get better outcomes before women judges.
  • Equally, the judicial outcomes of Muslims were virtually identical whether their cases were assigned to Muslim or to non-Muslim judges.
  • However, the lack of bias in Indian lower courts in cases involving Muslims and women does not rule out judicial bias in its entirety.

Drawbacks of the study:

  • The study examined bias by religion. But leaves outcaste which is a crucial variable in India.
  • The study examines systemic bias during conviction and acquittal. But it leaves out significant markers of the judicial processes such as framing of charges, granting bail, and determining the quantum of punishment.

Other key Studies:

 A study by Delhi-based Project 39A:

  • In 2016, there were 385 death row convicts in India. Among them, two-thirds belonged to the backward classes or were religious minorities. All the 12 women death row convicts at that time belonged to backward classes or castes or were religious minorities.

Study by National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB)

  • In 2019, Muslims and Dalits constitute the biggest set of undertrials in the country, disproportionate to their share in the population.
  • The share of Scheduled Castes among undertrials stood at 21% while their share in the population is at 16.6%(2011 Census).
  • Scheduled Tribes and Muslims make up for 10.5% and 18.7% of all undertrials respectively. While their respective share in population is 8.6% and 14.2%.

Source: Indian Express

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