Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2003


This profile was prepared when Mandira Sharma was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Mandira has persuaded two dozen key decision-makers in Nepal's justice system to join in discussions about why they have lost the people's confidence and what to do about it. They are the very people in charge of the flawed system. To give them a window into how the rule of law goes awry in Nepal, she is highlighting the treatment of detainees in police custody.
The treatment of detained people who have not yet been charged with a crime is a strategic issue. Evidence is collected during detainment, which thus becomes a crucial stage of the legal process. Detainment is also the point of rampant violation of prisoners' rights, and it has been an invisible injustice. Confronted with the evidence of errors–and with the futility of blaming each other for them–high-level police, judges, and lawyers are designing new systems to improve their own and subordinates' compliance with the law.
Mandira has an organization with a staff of 21 lawyers in Kathmandu, in the central zone of Nepal's five development regions, and she has created branches in two more. She sees that in these places, police behavior has improved. Within two years, she expects her work to spread into the remaining two regions. Working from the top down, she has secured both broad parliamentary support for more extensive legal aid, and, from her steering group, concrete policy steps that will make it mandatory for police to demonstrate that they are following the rules. While she sees police reform as a necessary precondition for changing popular attitudes about the law, Mandira is also building community-level monitoring of the justice system.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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