Legal services authorities settled 2.2 crore cases last year

Hyderabad, April 9 (IANS) Legal services authorities across the country disposed of 2.2 crore cases including 1.61 crore cases in pre-litigation stage in the last one year, Chief Justice of India Justice T.S. Thakur said on Saturday.

Inaugurating the 14th All India meet of state legal services authorities here on Saturday, he said 62 lakh pending cases were also settled through Lok Adalats, mediation and other means.

Stating that the legal services authorities were making access to justice a reality, he said that by preventing cases from coming to courts, they were reliving the burden on the judiciary.

Justice Thakur, who is the chief patron of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), said that since February last year, they settled claims of Rs.5,855 crore in pre-litigation and Rs.8,462 crore in pending cases.

Stating that there are 40 crore people below poverty line, he said challenges before the NALSA and state legal services authorities have multiplied.

He said the role of legal services authorities was no longer confined to giving legal aid to those who can’t afford a counsel as it last year launched seven schemes to help various sections of needy people like victims of human trafficking, workers in unorganized sector, children and tribals. The authorities are also creating awareness among people about their rights.

Pointing out that potential beneficiaries of various government schemes were not aware of those schemes, Justice Thakur said the legal services authorities were helping them avail the benefits.

“We have made clear that our job in implementation of government schemes is that of a facilitator. We will do this job by persuasion and not do it by threatening officers or by other coercive means,” the chief justice said.

He also clarified that the poor were not their only constituency, saying the rich can also approach the authorities for speedy disposal of their cases like payment of traffic challans and settlement of their loans.

Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said it was an unhappy situation that two-third of jail inmates were undertrials.

“It is almost a failure of our legal aid system that most of those who could have released but for the lack of legal aid or money for surety or bail, are poor and marginalised,” he said.

He noted that the Supreme Court has given certain additional responsibilities to legal services authorities in the case of inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons.

NALSA is working towards establishing fully functional legal aid clinics in all jails so that case of undertrials are under constant monitoring, he said.

The minister pointed out that the parliamentary standing committee overseeing his ministry has been critical of the lack of full utilisation of budget by NALSA and has been recommending increased initiatives on access to justice.

Gowda said the government has provided a budget of Rs.140 crore for NALSA for 2016-17 and hoped that it will be fully utilised.

Supreme Court judge Justice Anil R. Dave said the system of Lok Adalats was started to do justice who approach them but the concept now has changed as legal services authorities are trying to do justice to even those who have not approached courts.

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao said his government will not encourage litigation on trivial issues.

He said the government was also ready to settle disputes with individuals by choosing alternate dispute resolution route, as far as possible.

Supreme Court judge Justice N.V. Ramana, Acting Chief Justice of High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad Justice Dilip B. Bhosale and others also spoke at the event.

Judges, chairpersons of state legal services authorities, lawyers and legal experts from states are attending the two-day meet.

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