Role of Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods in Development of Society: `Lok Adalat ’ in India
Peace is the sine qua non for development. Disputes and conflicts dissipate valuable time, effort and money of the society. It is of utmost importance that there should not be any conflict in the society. But, in a realistic sense, this is not possible. So, the next best solution is that any conflict which raises its head is nipped in the bud. With the judicial system in most of the countries being burdened with cases, any new case takes a long time to be decided. And, till the time the final decision comes, there is a state of uncertainty, which makes any activity almost impossible. Commerce, business, development work, administration, etc., all suffer because of long time taken in resolving disputes through litigation. To get out of this maze of litigation, courts and lawyers’ chambers; most of the countries encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution. India has a long tradition and history of such methods being practiced in the society at grass roots level. These are called panchayat and in the legal terminology, these are called arbitration. These are widely used in India for resolution of disputes – both commercial and non-commercial. Other alternative methods being used are Lok Adalat (People’s Court), where justice is dispensed summarily without too much emphasis on legal technicalities. Methods like negotiation, mediation and conciliation are being increasingly used to resolve disputes instead of going for litigation. There have been recent amendments in the procedural law of India to incorporate these methods so that people get justice in a speedy manner and there is lesser conflict in the society. This paper examines the role of methods of alternative dispute resolution, particularly Lok Adalat in making inexpensive, efficacious and speedy justice accessible to the public. The Constitution of India guarantees ‘Right to Constitutional Remedies’ as a fundamental right. The government provides free legal aid to the needy. However, in a country of continental dimensions and with population more than a billion, it becomes very difficult to provide free legal aid to everyone. The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is trying to spread ‘legal literacy’ which is a step more than ‘literacy’. People care about their rights much more when they are aware and are ‘legal literate’. Efforts are also being done at provincial level. The paper particularly examines the role of NALSA and other State Legal Services Authority which are the key institutions in bridging the gap between public and judicial system. The author has personal experiences regarding the same. All these efforts seem to be a small drop in the ocean, but small drops make mighty oceans. How can these be replicated in other parts of India and similar models developed and adopted in Asia-Pacific countries is a good research area. Such models shall curb conflicts and bring more peace in society – not only in domestic sense but also internationally.
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