Sunday, September 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Justice under peepul tree
From K. G. Dutt
Tribune News Service

SONEPAT, Sept 2 — Judges and lawyers left their chambers today for the first time in the judicial history of Haryana to hold a Lok Adalat and a legal literacy camp under a peepul tree in an open ground. The district officers, representatives of four insurance companies and the clients were there to amicably decide cases as per the directions of the judges.

The idea to hold a Lok Adalat under a peepul tree and that too without any fanfare and ceremony was mooted by the District and Sessions Judge, Mr S.K. Sardana. Mr Sardana told Tribune News Service the inspiration behind the novel idea of holding the Lok Adalat under the tree was the message of Lord Buddha who had got enlightenment in 483 BC under a peepul tree. As Lord Buddha had decided to spread his message of enlightenment to all similarly the judges at Sonepat, lawyers, officers of the district administration and litigants took a pledge that the provisions as enshrined in the Legal Services Authorities Act would be circulated among all citizens in rural as well as urban areas to make them aware of their rights under the Act.

Mr Sardana along with the gathering took the pledge under the tree, thus providing a new meaning to such camps and Lok Adalats.

With this novel practice, the city of Sonepat was again able to create history. It was way back in 1993 that the first Lok Adalat was held in Sonepat by the then Chief Justice of India, Mr Justice R.S. Pathak who is now one of the worthy trustees of The Tribune group of newspapers.

Mr Sardana also told TNS the Lok Adalat was being organised by the District Legal Services Authority which functioned under the aegis of the State Legal Service Authority headed by Mr Justice V.K. Bali of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The novel practice was a treat for all as cases were decided while standing under the canopy of the peepul tree. There was no shamiana, no loudspeakers or buntings. Only some chairs were kept in an adjoining verandah which were brought from the offices of the judicial complex.

After the pledge ceremony, the District and Sessions Judge decided three cases of compensation on the spot while standing. In one case, Mr Tek Ram of Israna who had lost his leg and was on crutches was given a compensation of about Rs 3 lakh. His case was pending for the past three years. He told this reporter that before the accident he ran a sweet shop but now he was helpless. His wife now worked as daily labourer to fend for the family. He was distraught that he was not able to solemnise the marriage of his daughter as he was unable to earn even a paisa.

The District and Sessions Judge awarded a compensation of Rs 2.50 lakh to Sukhbir Singh of Pipli Khera village who had lost his one eye.

Mr Sardana while explaining the importance of the Act disclosed that under Section 12 of the Act all women, children, workmen, including employees of the PWD, Public Health, Roadways and Irrigation departments, were entitled to free legal services and the entire cost of litigation was borne by the state. He said that to acquaint people with their rights under the Act and spread the message of Lok Adalats, Sonepat district had been divided into three subdivisions i.e. Gannaur, Gohana and Sonepat. All judicial officers on Sunday would visit villages and towns at their own expense to hold meetings with school principals, head masters, sarpanches and women panches to acquaint them with the purpose and spirit of holding Lok Adalats for speedy and cheap justice. The district administration has allocated funds for promoting and preaching the aims and objectives of the Act.

Mr Sardana further disclosed that a courtroom for a permanent Lok Adalat had been set up in the district courts complex. This was going to be permanent feature where complainants could register their complaints. There is a proposal to appoint a retired judicial official on permanent basis for this purpose but till that could be done the Sessions Judge would look after the work.

Mr Sardana said the deterrent factor under the Act was expenditure and harassment both within and outside the court. Lack of it was bound to breed contempt and disillusionment among the masses impelling them to fight for their rights. It was with the view to restore the confidence of the masses and settle disputes amicably out of regular courts that holding of Lok Adalats had become imperative.

Mr B.K. Kaushik and Mr Saini, president and secretary, respectively of the District Bar Association, and members of the District Bar Association had also taken a pledge to spread the message of the Legal Services Act. Mr Kaushik said with the proper understanding of the spirit of the Act justice would be cheaper for the common man and it would lessen litigation and social tension.

Today’s, Lok Adalat was the 62nd in the series and in total 970 cases were settled. Prior to it, 23,027 civil and criminal cases were settled in the Lok Adalats held at Sonepat and a total compensation of Rs 29.16 crore had been awarded to the litigants. Likewise, a total fine of Rs 30.55 lakh was imposed in summary cases during the earlier 61 Lok Adalats.

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