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Supreme Court judge and executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) Justice Dipak Misra on Sunday appealed for developing a culture in India for settlement of disputes through amicable resolution instead of lining up in courts. Speaking at the all-India meet of NALSA in the national capital, the senior-most judge of the apex court said that access to justice for all is a pledge that could be fulfilled more effectively if people are encouraged to resort to an alternate dispute resolution system.
“In our country, there has to be development of (a) settlement culture,” said the judge. It was a duty incumbent upon the chairmen of the legal services authorities, as “captains of his army”, to realise NALSA’s motto of “access to justice for all”, he said.
Appealing to judges and judicial officers associated with legal aid and services to display exemplary dedication and sincerity, Justice Misra emphasised that people’s right to access justice is not only a constitutional and statutory right but also a “basic human right”.
“Anyone involved in legal aid cannot conceive an idea of scepticism and cynicism…no one should entertain any doubt with regard to realisation of services…there has to be complete dedication and sincerity,” said the judge. Supreme Court judge and chairman of the legal services authority in the apex court Justice Ranjan Gogoi spoke about the importance of providing access to justice to the needy and marginalised sections of society amid obstacles arising from financial and geographical constraints, and time-consuming litigation.
Justice Gogoi recalled that NALSA had spearheaded significant public interest litigation in the top court, such as getting legal recognition for transgenders and measures for improving the condition of Vrindavan widows in 2012. “But I don’t see anything moving in this direction now,” said the judge, suggesting that NALSA should consider this aspect.
The judge said that there could be a debate on whether the Legal Services Act should be amended to substitute serving judicial functionaries as heads of these bodies so that a “more satisfying and fulfilling end” could be achieved. Justice Gogoi said that statistics on disposal of cases in Lok Adalats and those given legal aid demonstrated a good picture but it must also be remembered that they could just be “a drop in the ocean” in a country having population of 130 crore, out of which 30 per cent live below the artificially drawn poverty line. He called for a more “proactive role” by NALSA so that a “just social order” is achieved in a country where poverty, unemployment and oppression are still rampant.