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Lok Adalats (L.A)

Mains- GS-2-Polity

1. Lok adalats must look beyond swift disposal of cases and focus on just and fair outcomes.

Object

1. The objective of instituting Lok Adalats is to make justice accessible and affordable to all.

Expectations

1. The expectation from Lok Adalats are

a. Efficient performance

b. Balance between speed and quality of judgement.

c. Empowerment of the poor.

d. Strengthening pre-existing judicial systems instead of creating a dual structure.

History

1. L.A existed even before it got statutory recognition.

2. In 1949, Harivallabh Parikh, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, popularised them in Rangpur, Gujarat.

3. The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, inserted Article 39A to ensure “equal justice and free legal aid”.

4 To this end, the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, was enacted by Parliament and it came into force in 1995.

5. The law was set to provide free and competent legal services to weaker sections of the society and to organise Lok Adalats.

Domain and performance

1. Motor-accident claims, disputes related to public-utility services, cases related to dishonour of cheques, and land, labour and matrimonial disputes (except divorce) are usually taken up by Lok Adalats.

2. From 2016 to 2020, National Lok Adalats have disposed of a total of 2.9 Crore cases.

Pendency and solace

1. Indian judiciary is criticised for the long pendency of cases.

2. Over 66,000 cases are pending before the Supreme Court, over 57 lakh cases before various HCs, and over 3 crore cases are pending before various district and subordinate courts.

3. Because of this people approach Lok Adalats.

Best features

1. litigants are forced to approach Lok Adalats mainly because it is a party-driven process.

2. It allows the parties to reach an amicable settlement.

3. Lok Adalats offer parties speed of settlement, as cases are disposed of in a single day.

4. There is good amount of procedural flexibility, as there is no strict application of procedural laws such as the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

5. The Lok adalats are affordable as there are no court fees for placing matters before the Lok Adalat.

6. One more advantage is the finality of awards, as no further appeal is allowed.

7. The awards issued are having the status of a civil court decree.

Current issues

 Subject matter-specific NLAs

1. Subject matter-specific NLAs were organised in 2015 and 2016.

2. However, from 2017, this practice was discontinued.

3. Thereafter, each NLA has been handling all types of cases on a single day.

4. This was done to reduce the costs of organising the NLAs, and  to allow parties more negotiation time.

5. But this, in turn, led to a significant drop in the number of cases settled. 

e-Lok Adalat

1. To overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, e-Lok Adalats were organised.

2. Performance of the NeLA was less efficient than physical National Lok Adalats organised in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

3. Phase three of the e-Courts project , may prove to be a game-changer in improving the efficiency of the adjudicatory process.

Quality of justice delivered

1. There are questions about the quality of justice delivered in pursuit of speedy disposal of cases.

2. In a majority of cases, litigants are pitted against entities with deep pockets.

3. In many cases, compromises are imposed on the poor who often have no choice but to accept them. 

4. In most cases, litigants have to accept discounted future values of their claims instead of their just entitlements just to bring a long-pending legal process to an end.

5. Poor women were made to compromise matrimonial disputes under a romanticised view of marriage. 

Way forward

1. A just outcome of a legal process is far more important than expeditious disposal.

2. Quality of justice should commensurate with the speedy disposal of cases.

Source : The Hindu