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A power-packed Lok Adalat: hefty discounts,1,000 pending cases settled

Sitting over an electricity bill of Rs 1.23 lakh,Habeeb Ansar,a laundry-owner at Chawri Bazaar,on Saturday chose to settle for a discount of over 60 per cent and agreed to pay Rs 33,000.

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi |
March 15, 2009 1:34:08 am

Sitting over an electricity bill of Rs 1.23 lakh,Habeeb Ansar,a laundry-owner at Chawri Bazaar,on Saturday chose to settle for a discount of over 60 per cent and agreed to pay Rs 33,000. Ansar-like stories were common at the “paperless” Lok Adalat for power defaulters in Delhi.

Fourteen courtrooms opened on an otherwise quiet weekend at the Delhi High Court grounds to negotiate with BSES power defaulters,pouring in as early as 9 am on the opening day of the Adalat.

The Adalat settled disputes,some pending in courts,on payment defaults up to Rs 5 lakh.

“This is truly a burden off the courts. I did not expect such a huge response to our initiative for a one-stop point to settle power disputes. It’s a pleasant surprise and a relief,” Justice Madan B Lokur,Chairperson of the HC Legal Service Committee on a tour of the BSES counters in the afternoon,told Newsline.

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Counters had experts from the three wings of the discom — legal,technical and enforcement— in attendance. At the enquiry counter,consumers were greeted,their bills processed electronically and forwarded via computer to the Adalats functioning from inside HC courtrooms.

The consumers,armed with token numbers,were met by a BSES lawyer and the Lok Adalat panel of a senior lower court judge or a High Court Legal Services Committee lawyer to negotiate a discount.

By 4 pm,each adalat had managed to settle at least 60 to 70 disputes of power theft or meter tampering. “The Adalat had initially started with 12 courts,but opened two more during the day to accommodate the rush.

Over 1,000 cases were settled today,” Head of Legal Department (BSES) Raj Arora said. He quoted a success rate of roughly 95 per cent settlements.

The final figures will come out on Sunday,the second and final day of the Adalat.

But though consumers like Balkishan “bargained” with the Adalat for a better discount on a bill of over Rs 50,000,reduced to Rs 17,000 (to be paid in four instalments with three-month gaps),Jyothi Singh,a lawyer on the Adalat panel,was firm: “Look,you cannot bargain here. Pay up or fight in court with a lawyer who will alone cost you Rs 5,000.”

Meanwhile,few IP university law students were busy directing the crowd outside.

“My friends helped litigants with queries and often ushered them into the right courtroom. It’s been busy since morning,” Tashneet Khurana,one of the 12 students roped in by the High Court panel said.

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