Legal aid is “not charity” and lawyers, thus, must project grievances of the marginalised sections of the society with utmost “commitment and sincerity”, Supreme Court judge and executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) Dipak Misra said on Saturday. Speaking at an all-India meet organised by NALSA in the national capital, Justice Misra, the senior-most SC judge, emphasised that grant of legal aid cannot be reduced to a “mere formality” but has to be considered a strong pillar to withhold the superior right of “access to justice”.
Justice Misra said that Lok Adalats, which help settle disputes by consensus of parties, would have to adopt diverse strategies, apart from being cost-effective, so that they command the faith of litigants in this alternative dispute resolution mechanism that could go a long way in establishing social amity. “Last year, the cost of disposing of one case (in Lok Adalat) was approximately Rs 12. If pre-litigation expenses are excluded, it is Rs 23. The purpose of pre-litigation is to arrest the inflow of cases to courts,” he said.
Justice Misra said that more than 11 lakh people were benefited in the last National Lok Adalats, held in February, as 6.41 lakh cases were settled. “In the pre-litigation held that day (February 11), more than 3 lakh cases were disposed of – (the) benefit was received by people slightly more than 7 lakh,” he said. The next Lok Adalat, on April 8, is expected to yield more positive results, he added.
Justice Misra said that if five National Lok Adalats are held every year, the high courts and the entire district judiciary will, in effect, work extra for 90 days. Justice Misra said that 17.02 lakh work hours were saved in the last Lok Adalat by drawing curtains on pending cases as well as pre-litigation disputes, which would eventually lead to “building of the economy”.