Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Justice for the poor


Justice for the Poor: Perspectives on Accelerating Access
Edited by Ayesha Kadwani Dass and Gita Honwana Wench; 
Oxford University Press, Rs. 895.

The book clarifies conceptual issues relating to justice from the perspective of the weak and the marginalized. The essays in the volume address crucial questions: What are the most appropriate, practical, and effective strategies for securing access to justice for the poor? What are the means for evaluating justice programming form a results-based perspective? What level of interplay exists between poverty, good governance, and accountability in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and in ensuring participation and non-discrimination in developmental decision-making? Covering major issues such as access to justice in plural legal systems, denial of women’s rights, public interest litigation, and the effects of globalization, the book examines judicial reform initiatives and critically appraises the institutionalization of strategies for ensuring access to justice by the poor. It offers practical recommendations for development and justice programming.

Making justice accessible to the poor The Hindu
Amartya Sen in his recent book An Idea of Justice commends the comparative method of discoursing on key questions of social justice. Even as one finds Sen's suggestion unexceptionable, its practical application is difficult because of the paucity of comparative material. To be precise, the Anglo-American outlook on key social questions occupies so much of the knowledge space that it virtually blocks every other perspective. This book breaks this embargo as it deliberates on the accessibility of justice to the poor through essays which specially dwell on the UNDP-supported experiments.

The 18 essays in this collection have been organised around five themes: access to justice, first, in the international context and then in plural legal systems; the link between public interest litigation and access to justice; the relationship between democracy, governance and justice programming; and the developments and obstacles encountered in the implementation of various regional initiatives. And the editors have provided an introduction to each of these segments, apart from the one for the entire group. This methodology has, apart from ensuring that no contribution suffered editorial neglect (because a succinct summary of each essay is given by the editors), rendered the work reader-friendly in the sense that one can easily zero in on the theme of one's interest. However, in opting for the descriptive, the editors have lost an opportunity to interlink the various contributions and meld them into a composite entity. As a consequence, the book remains just a collection of discrete essays.

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