In the face of the unprecedented situation created by the pandemic, the Legal Services Authorities are constantly adapting to the new normal, and coming up with creative solutions. One such innovation is the introduction of e-lok adalat, which may even continue in the post-pandemic period.
On the 8th of August 2020, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority under the aegis of National Legal Services Authority organised the first ever online Lok Adalat in Delhi. The accomplishment ceremony was attended by legal aid functionaries from all over the country. It was presided over by Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V Ramana, Judge Supreme Court of India and the Executive Chairman, NALSA.
In his presidential address, Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana said that these testing times have resulted in new innovations. “We have to learn and embrace new ways for the betterment of the society. The pandemic has brought about new and immediate challenges for the justice delivery system. Judges in various courts across the country are working through video conferencing to make justice accessible to all. This well-organized digital solution in the form of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), a combination of technology and ADR, will give a new momentum to Lok Adalats in India”. He also added that a crucial challenge lies ahead in making this technology available to those who live in the remotest corners of the country, and may not be able to use video conferencing.
His Lordship also said that Legal Services Authorities are leveraging the technology on various other fronts also. Training programs are being organized through webinars. Social Media tools are being utilized. From April to June, 2020, around 15555 programs were held through webinars for panel lawyers for their capacity building . 827 legal awareness programs through webinars were held for the targeted population. 170 legal awareness programmes were held through Radio and Television. Through National as well as State Legal aid helpline numbers 6,26,275 people were provided legal information and advice.
Legal Services Authorities have provided effective legal representation to arrested persons during this period. From April 2020 to June 2020, 16,646 arrested persons were provided legal assistance at the remand stage. At remand stage, bail applications were filed in 6812 cases, out of which 4601 arrested persons were granted bail. 495 convicts were provided legal assistance in filing appeals.
From April to June 2020, in domestic violence cases, legal assistance and advice was provided to 3443 women. About 662 cases were settled through Mediation. In 441 cases, petitions were filed in the courts. The Legal Services Institutions across the nation, in coordination with the District Administration and different NGOs, are reaching out to millions of people to meet legal needs which have cropped up during the pandemic.
Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Karnataka have also successfully held e-Lok Adalats. Many other State Legal Services Authorities are also working on the same, and would be organizing such Lok Adalats in the coming months.
In his keynote address Justice D.N Patel, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and the Patron-in-Chief of DLSA, appreciated the role of NALSA, and especially Justice Ramana, who had conceptualised the e-Lok Adalat. Hon’ble Ms. Justice Hima Kohli, Judge Delhi High Court and Executive Chairman of Delhi Legal Services Authority informed that all 11 Districts of Delhi participated in the Lok Adalat, and to ensure the smooth functioning of e-Lok Adalats collaboration was made with SAMA.