Experts Credit Lok Adalats For Fall In Pendency
Despite a mammoth 4.21 lakh cases pending in magistrate courts across the city, litigants have some reason to cheer. Last year, a record 10.28 lakh cases was disposed of by the courts, compared to 4.53 lakh in 2015. The 126% jump, revealed in response to an Right To Information query filed by activist Chetan Kothari, is the highest in five years. Legal experts say disposal of cases at lok adalats is the main factor for reducing the pendency .Pink posters encouraging people to make use of Lok Adalats can be seen all over the Esplanade court. One such poster says that over 30 lakh cases have been disposed of so far across the state through National Lok Adalats and Maha Lok Adalats.

The matters that can be settled through this can pertain to civil or criminal issues that are compoundable. These include matters relating to the Negotiable Instrument Act, matrimonial disputes, land acquisition, and banks cases. A public pro secutor said efforts have been made by the courts to ensure Lok Adalats are held every three to four months. He also said drives are conducted to encourage litigants to settle the matter before the court at the earliest so that they don’t have to wait endlessly for justice.“Mediation is another means through which matters are disposed of without a trial,“ he said.

Former IPS officer and now advocate YP Singh explained that generally , disposal by trial courts are of two type: technical and substantive. “Technical disposals are ones where cases have been either been settled in Lok Adalat etc, compounded or possibly admitted by the accused. Substantive disposals are the ones where the case is actually put to trial and where witnesses are examined and then a judgement is rendered,“ he said.

He further said it seems that the hike in disposal is because of compounding or settling of cases rather than substantive disposals by following the elaborate procedure of trials. Exercising a word of caution with respect to the backlog of cases, Singh opined, “While the figures may look enormously impressive, they actually do not indicate the intrinsic strength of performance parameters.“

Advocate Persis Sidhva too spoke about backlog of cases, especially those relating to Domestic Violence (DV) cases. “A matter under the DV Act is supposed to be completed within 60 days. In reality these cases take nearly two years. Even 498A (husband or relative of husband subjecting wife to cruelty) cases and 354 (outraging modesty of woman) just continue endlessly ,“ Sidhva said. She lamented that magistrate courts do not give priority to cases of violence against women.

Explaining how this can be combated, she said, “Short dates need to be given in such matters. The accused should not be allowed to take unnecessary adjournments. In 498A and 354 cases the victim’s evidence should be recorded at the earliest so that she does not have to wait endlessly for recording of her evidence. Also, in DV matters maintenance and residence applications should be taken on priority,“ she said.

A public prosecutor also opined that the recurring issue of lack of infrastructure still persists. “The existing courts are not adequate. We need more judges and public prosecutors to ensure that more cases are taken up. Also those seeking repeated adjournments should be fined. This will ensure that effective dates are yielded and most is made of the working day ,“ the prosecutor said.