Mammoth exercise underway to settle pending legal cases

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New Delhi, Nov 23 (IANS) Faced with 39 lakh pending cases, Supreme Court Chief Justice P. Sathasivam Saturday inaugurated a day-long National Lok Adalat. For the first time, cases are being taken up simultaneously all over the country for settlement.

Organised by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, the Lok Adalats are taking place in the Supreme Court, 24 high courts and all the district courts and taluka-level courts of the country.

Inaugurating the National Lok Adalat, Chief Justice Sathasivam said that the main object of the adalat was to ensure speedy justice to litigants and make sure that there were no further appeals. He described the resolution of disputes through the Lok Adalat as cost-effective, providing also easy access to justice.

The cases that will be settled Saturday include motor-accident claims, matrimonial disputes, labour disputes, cheque bounce cases, bank recovery cases, civil suits and traffic challans.

The chief justice urged the presiding judges to ensure that parties to the settlement of the cases are not intimidated or compromised while arriving at a settlement. He cautioned that Lok Adalats should not be allowed to be used by unscrupulous elements, who defraud people.

Of the 39 lakh cases that are being take up by different Lok Adalats all over the country Saturday, 7,94,484 are in Madhya Pradesh, 5,66,102 in Maharashtra, and about four lakh cases each in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Three lakh cases are being decided in Delhi, of which 273,000 relate to dud cheques.

Justice G.S. Singhvi, who had initiated the move for the convening of the National Lok Adalat, said: “Lok Adalats or mediation is one of the most powerful instruments in speedy justice, which conforms to the goals of the preamble of the constitution.”

Justice Singhvi, who took over as executive chairman of NALSA in September, has also expressed the need for nurturing awareness of the benefits of amicable resolution of disputes through forums like Lok Adalats or mediation.

Justice Singhvi is hopeful that about 20 lakh cases would be settled Saturday.

Pointing to the need for efficient justice delivery, Justice Singhvi said the award of enhanced insurance compensation or settlement of a matrimonial dispute after a litigation spanning a decade or more is meaningless. He wondered what the value of the money was, if enhanced compensation was decided after 15 years.

Justice Singhvi favoured early resolution of matrimonial disputes either way, so that people could start their lives afresh.

Justice A.K.Patnaik, chairman of the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority, said the poor litigants who cannot afford lengthy and expensive litigation could get relief in Lok Adalats.

However, he said that Lok Adalats were not popular with litigants before the Supreme Court. He said that was because issues before the apex court are contentious, and perhaps those who have come right up to the top court can afford the cost of litigation.

R.S.Gujral, secretary in the department of expenditure, said that the ratio of judges per million population in India, compared to developed countries, was very poor, and needed improvment.

He said it was clear that the number of courts and judges needed to be increased. Gujral said mutual settlement of cases was the only way to reduce the pendency of cases. Gujral is a member of NALSA.

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