By Alexa Franczak
Visiting the High Court of Delhi is not an easy process. Unlike Canadian courts where in most cases one can simply walk into any courtroom, attending High Court required a reason for attending, but more importantly, a visitor pass. Luckily, a friend has a few lawyers in her family and I was able to get a pass to watch some of the proceedings.
Before my visit, I was heavily encouraged to dress indistinctly in a white dress shirt and black pants to blend in with the barristers in their uniform court dress with white bands and a black coat. It was apparent that how one dressed signified whether they belonged in the courthouse or not.
It was hard not to compare the experience between attending a Canadian courthouse versus attending one in India, and this contrast remained apparent throughout my visit. The difficulty of actually entering the courthouse was one of such differences. Unlike Canadian courts where the open court principle allows the public access to most court proceedings, the security measures in place at the High Court of Delhi ensured that no one was wandering into the courthouse without an authorized purpose.
Because of the 2011 Delhi bombing, which killed 17 people and occurred right outside an entrance gate of the high court, security was very stringent. Getting a visitor pass required identification with your address, photocopies of your identification, your picture taken, and a lawyer accounting for the purpose of your visit to High Court. The visitor pass must then be approved and printed by an official.
As is the case with most matters concerning Indian bureaucracy, this was a time-consuming process and a hassle. Due to this requirement for all visitors regardless of their reason for attending court, there was long wait time for all visitors to enter the courthouse. I could easily see how this must be a frustrating process for visitors, especially those who must attend court proceedings that last several days. While the problem of access to justice in India obviously include issues of corruption, legal fees, time costs, and accessibility, surely the most basic things – such as entering the courthouse – contribute to that.
Unsurprisingly, the monotony of court proceedings is exactly same in India.