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Saturday, May 28, 2022

For the people

Eight cases of marital discord were lingering for around a decade at different courts of the Capital. In one hearing,all were straightened out.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
March 25, 2009 12:26:39 am

Lok Adalats have emerged as a ray of hope in the country’s much reviled justice disposal system,with speedy and flexible approach to the delivery of justice

Eight cases of marital discord were lingering for around a decade at different courts of the Capital. In one hearing,all were straightened out. While Radha (name changed) is set to get adequate alimony towards the upbringing of her children,her in-laws will be let off the hook as she gradually withdraws the cases against them.

“No amount of money can bring back my son but I will at least be spared the further trouble of making endless rounds of courts to get monetary reprieve that will help my two granddaughters study,”— said 65-year-old Jahri Devi after a Lok Adalat brought an end to her three-year-old legal ordeal. The insurance company was asked to pay her a compensation of around Rs 5 lakh towards the death of her 24-year-old son Rajesh Shah in September 2006. The tragedy had left Shah’s mother,wife and two daughters,then aged two and four,in penury.

It had been almost a year since 70-year-old Jaspal Singh started doing the rounds of courts in an effort to regain his property in Defence Colony that he had mortgaged against a bank loan. Getting it back by the order of a “special court” in a recent sitting in the span of a mere half-an-hour was nothing short of a miracle for him.

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The three case studies have one thing in common. Relief for the litigants have come not from regular courts that usually entail elaborate technical procedures and often a ruinous cost of litigation,but what is fast becoming the mascot of the “alternative dispute redressal system”,Lok Adalats.

Fast-tracking justice
Lok Adalats have quickly emerged as the only forward-looking facet in the country’s much reviled justice disposal system owing to protracted trials,methodological procedures and damaging litigation expenses. Lok Adalats,also known as “people’s courts,” is informal and flexible and does not require even the hiring of a lawyer by either party. Apart from a few minimum requirements with respect to procedures and approaches,the rest of the exercise is simple and differs according to the nature of the cases.

The number game
The statistical data regarding the settlement of disputes by Lok Adalats in the last two years drive home their success in the national capital.

The Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) had organised its first mega traffic Lok Adalat in September 2007. In four such events that year,more than 80,000 challans were cleared and Rs 88.67 lakh recovered. This year,around 60,000 challans have been settled,with collections of Rs 37.17 lakh.

Traffic Lok Adalat was the first step. After that,the DLSA organised courts for disputes pertaining to cases of cheque-bounce,motor accidents,matrimonial discord,bank-related matters,electricity and other civil rows. The most significant challenge was to lessen the ever-mounting backlog of cheque-bounce cases at magisterial courts.

And Lok Adalats delivered. During 2007-08,DLSA settled more than 83,000 cases and disbursed Rs 3.50 crore as compensation to affected parties. Notably,as per the district court’s official website,more than five lakh cases pertaining to bounced cheques were still pending as on August 1 last year.

“Lok Adalats are trimming down the backlog. Encouraged by the growing participation of parties,we plan to reduce the backlog load to an extent where courts can concentrate on important criminal and civil matters,” said DLSA’s project officer Sanjay Sharma.

Motor accident cases have also witnessed expeditious disposal at Lok Adalats. While an amount of Rs 3.52 crore was distributed to accident victims in 2007,more than Rs 7.32 crore was awarded in 2008.

Encouraged by the results,DLSA has now started permanent Lok Adalats for such cases and initial results have been excellent,added Sharma.

Buoyed by the results,DLSA widened its ambit and organised its first matrimonial Lok Adalat in October last for settlement of matrimonial disputes,matters pertaining to custody,alimony and domestic violence. The event had over 250 litigants appearing before the special courts.

“Come 2009,and matrimonial Lok Adalats have been marked out for the first and third Sunday of every month,” said Sharma,who has been looking after the affairs of the DLSA since 2007.

Going paper-free
Adding another feather to its cap,the DLSA also organised the first paperless e-Lok Adalat in February for settling bank-related disputes. The event marked the beginning of e-courts in the Capital and also saw the speedy disposal of more than 12,000 cases in just five hours.

“We are committed to make these events a regular characteristic of the justice disposal system. At present,the biggest challenge before us is to spread awareness among citizens and ensure accessibility so that justice is not denied to anyone due to economic or any other disability,” said Sharma. Developing cooperation and zeal among all stake-holders is another challenge,as there are times when the concerned parties are reluctant to refer the matter to Lok Adalats,added Sharma.

“The concept has just taken off. Spreading awareness remains the foremost challenge,” he added.

Cases solved
* Traffic lok adalat: In 2007,80,000 challans were cleared and Rs 88.67 lakh recovered.
* This year,around 60,000 challans have been settled,with collections of Rs 37.17 lakh.
* Lok Adalat for cheque bounce cases: 2007-08,DLSA settled more than 83,000 cases and disbursed Rs 3.50 crore as compensation to affected parties.
* Motor accidents adalats: Rs 10.84 crore was distributed to accident victims in 2007and 2008.
* Matrimonial lok adalats: 250 cases were referred in first lok adalat in 2007

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