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What will the Corona Crisis mean for justice innovation in the developing world?

The Corona crisis has given us an opportunity like never before to embrace change. A chance to embrace technology in everything we do. And this includes the legal system.

In my previous article, I wrote about this being a David vs Goliath moment for the legaltech players in championing their work. We are hearing more and more people stressing the need for technology and innovations in our legal systems - starting from audio-video conferencing to facilitate court proceedings, artificial intelligence platforms to predict outcome of a case or to get the most accurate data for legal research. The Corona crisis, if flipped, indeed means a time to bring these innovations to forefront.

As someone who has lived in a developing country, a crisis has come knocking every few years. Riots, earthquakes, bomb blasts, floods, droughts - lives have had to pause all of a sudden. Roads have been deserted before. Supermarkets have been empty before. All around, there had a fear of death, fear of uncertainty. Somehow, we managed. Somehow, life moved on.

Facing uncertainty has been a part of our lives. It has been ingrained in our minds that systems may not work. Outcomes may not be predictable and uncertainty can shift things in a matter of minutes. Even though things seem normal from outside, our internal selves are in a constant crisis mode.

This includes our legal system too. A judge may come to the court on the day your case comes up for hearing, if you are lucky. Your case file may appear on his/her desk in good shape, if you are lucky. He/she may hear your case, if you are lucky. It is all a matter of chance. Sometimes the outcome of a case comes, sometimes it does not come - for decades, for generations. There is no other way but for us to accept this uncertainty. Will the new technologies will change this?

A culture of what we call ´Jugaad´ fosters in my country - including in our corporate life. The word literally means winging it. We make things work - anyhow. And if they don´t work, well, life moves along - anyhow.

What would the Corona crisis change for the world of justice innovation then? Perhaps, there will be some great legaltech unicorn, perhaps the courts and the law firms will more eagerly embrace technology or perhaps classes of more law schools will go online.

What would it really mean for the people? Would there be a way in which they will approach justice differently?

The crisis will indeed raise more justice issues. There are already more cases of domestic violence and employment issues being reported. There will be more crime, more conflict - out of anger, frustration and stretch on the limited resources. Hopefully some innovation will be able to help them, heal them. What would really make an impact will be the low-tech or no-tech solutions.

Some will fight hard. Some will go to the police and the court. If this means adopting new technology, well, they will do that too. Most will fall back on their informal networks. They will speak to their elders, community or religious leaders and get advice on solving the crisis. The advice will mostly mean - settling the trouble and finding a middle way. Sometimes, even, accepting the way things are.

Acceptance of the unknown is indeed a way to heal our fears. Most people in the western world will have problems with this approach and may call it fatalistic. But you see, we are people whose lives are faced with uncertainty - We take our chances. But sometimes the faith, that one day things will be alright is all we have. The internal crisis mode, one day, will lead to peace. And peace is indeed a higher virtue. Isn't absence of peace - a need for justice, after all?

* Views expressed here are my personal views.

This article was originally published on April 5, 2020 on Kanan Dhru's LinkedIn Page.


About the Author

Kanan Dhru is Community Manager at HiiL and Founder at Lawtoons.

She has over 10 years of experience in the areas of law, policy-making and justice innovations and has won numerous national and international awards for her work.

With a law degree from the London School of Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Administration, Kanan consults governments at the state and central level in India, advises non-profit organisations, mentors startups and manages several international communities apart from teaching and writing for prominent newspapers and magazines.

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