Need to ensure that E-Lok Adalat remains the ‘People’s Lok Adalat’: said Justice N.V. Ramana, Judge, Supreme Court of India and Executive Chairman, National Legal Services Authority, during the virtual accomplishment ceremony of the online Lok Adalat.
The Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority (RSLSA) under the aegis of National legal Services Authority organised the state’s first online Lok Adalat. It was organised all over the state, including the aspirational districts such as Barmer, Dhaulpur, Jaisalmer, Karauli, and Sirohi. In the online lok Adalat, 47,654 cases were taken up out of which 33,476 cases were settled. Out of the settled cases, 29092 cases were pending in the courts and 4384 were settled at prelitigation stage.
The virtual accomplishment ceremony of the online Lok Adalat was attended by Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V.Ramana, Judge, Supreme Court of India and Executive Chairman, National Legal Services Authority; Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ajay Rastogi, Judge, Supreme Court of India; Hon’ble Mr. Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Judge, Supreme Court of India; Hon’ble Mr Justice Inderajit Mahanty, Chief Justice, Rajasthan High Court & Patron-in-Chief RSLSA; and Justice Sangeet Lodha, Judge Rajasthan High Court & Executive Chairman, Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority.
In his address, Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana, Judge, Supreme Court of India and Executive Chairman, NALSA said that the concept of Online Lok Adalat has the potential of transforming the legal landscape of India, and is reflective of the innovative approach being adopted by Legal Services Authorities since the onset of the pandemic. He pressed for the need to ensure availability of online Lok Adalats down to the grassroots level, where the facility of video conference is not always available. He said “We have to ensure the e-Lok Adalat remains the ‘People’s Lok Adalat’, and take it to other parts of the country.”
His Lordship further said that “As a result of the pandemic, people’s lives have changed drastically. Social stigma with respect to the disease, had led to a number of issues such as forced evictions of frontline workers, families of Covid patients, and even of people who are merely suspected of having the illness.”
He emphasized that during such times, the role of Legal Aid Institutions has become all the more important and we at NALSA are constantly striving to ensure justice is accessible in such unprecedented times. “In order to ameliorate the situation, a broad range of legal services have to be provided to the needy including victims of domestic violence, daily wagers, tenants, undertrials, convicts and migrants.”
His Lordship further said “One such service, during these difficult times, is the introduction of e-Lok Adalat. A well-organized digital solution in the form of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), a combination of technology and ADR, will give new momentum to Lok Adalats in India. However, the crucial challenge lies in popularizing the idea of e-Lok Adalat at the grossroots level, and take steps to provide access in those areas where people do not have the facility of video conferencing.
His Lordship further said “The Legal Services Authorities also received numerous grievances relating to denial of wages. As many as 32,782 of cases were received by the Legal Services Institutions. The plight of the migrants did not go unnoticed by the Legal Services Authorities, assistance was provided to 57,79,546 migrants in coordination with the District Administration in terms of transit, food, and medical aid. The Legal Services Authorities have ensured that justice is not denied to any individual due to lack of legal representation. Legal Services Authorities across the country have evolved procedures to ensure implementation of directions for easing pressure on prisons. SLSAs have actively assisted High Powered Committees identify and complete the necessary formalities for the release of prisoners, both under trials and convicts, during the pandemic. Accordingly, Legal Services Authorities provided legal assistance to 22,024 undertrial prisoners during trial. Moreover, representation has been provided to 19,184 persons at the remand stage, wherein 8,779 bail applications have been filed for such persons at the remand stage out of which 6,113 applications have been allowed. 6,311 convicts were assisted in filing applications for parole/furlough.”
He further said “Legal Services Authorities with the aid of the National Legal Aid Helpline and State Legal Aid Helpline effectively provided legal advice and assistance in 6,26,369 cases. Online Lok Adalats are being organized by Legal Services Authorities.”
“Technology has played a critical role in this transformation and the Legal Services Authority have been trying to keep up with the changing times by using technology as its strongest aide. A number of webinars have been conducted by the Legal Services Authorities on numerous legal topics in order to enhance the Knowledge of the masses, critical for enhancing access to justice.”
Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ajay Rastogi, Judge, Supreme Court of India said “ A system of Justice delivery which is within the reach of poverty stricken is a measure of the quality of our justice. The failure to provide equal justice to all threatens the stability of our institution”. He further said that the alternative dispute mechanism has to reach to the disadvantaged persons residing in the remote corners of the country.
Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Judge Supreme Court of India praised the efforts of the Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority in reaching out to the needy and marginalised sections of the society. He further highlighted the importance of “ Access to Justice”.
Justice Indrajit Mahanty, Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court and Patron in Chief of Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority said that during pandemic Rajasthan High Court disposed of maximum cases. He also highlighted the crucial role being performed by Legal Services Institutions in the State of Rajasthan.
Hon’ble Mr. Justice Sangeet Lodha, Judge, Rajasthan High Court, Executive Chairman, RSLSA, said “The challenge was to conduct the Lok Adalats in a way that they not only get familiar with the Online System but also participate in it. From the very beginning, this aspect was kept in view, and the operational framework of the Online Lok Adalat was devised accordingly.” He also added that RSLSA intends to organise more such Lok Adalats in the near future.
NALSA took up online Lok Adalat in the State of Rajasthanas a pilot project and is planning to expand it in incremental manner to the other parts of the country. The project was approved in the month of May 2020, and the operational framework was developed in a manner as to make it accessible to the common man.
-India Legal Bureau