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Making villages litigation free!
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
Litigation-free villages! This is precisely what the Haryana State Legal Services Authority (HSLSA) is aspiring to do as part of its People’s Initiative for Justice project launched in November last year.

Under this highly ambitious project, the HSLSA, through rural lok adalats, is trying to make all the 6700-odd villages litigation-free or at least reduce the pendency of cases.

‘‘During our visits to the villages, we found that in most cases, the disputes were dragging on for years for petty matters. Villagers would give up their peace of mind, spend their hand-earned money and waste their time on settling minor scores. What we are doing through this move is to make them aware of the need to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner by involving village elders and respected persons of their areas. And, the results are there for all to see,’’ says Mr Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court who is also Executive Chairman of HSLSA.

He says that the HSLSA efforts would be said to have succeeded if even half the pending cases are resolved amicably.

Disputes ranging from elections to the villages panchayats to use of village common land etc are all being shifted from regular courts to rural lok adalats for adjudication.

As per data, in the 13 or so rural lok adalats organised this year by the HSLSA, the success rate has been over 55 per cent, with over 1725 of the total 3190 pending cases being resolved in a matter of hours.

‘‘Most villagers don’t bother for legal niceties. However, they still respect and listen to their elders. We give a chance to the village elders to help make the litigating parties understand the futility of long-drawn legal battles,’’ notes Mr Justice Goel.

These rural lok adalats have been taking up cases pending between family members, neighbours with regard to property disputes, common land of the village, bank loan cases, petty criminal cases etc.

Cases that had been dragging on for years, and in some case decades, are being resolved at these rural lok adalats. At one such lok adalat held at village Shamgarh (Karnal), a dispute between over 30 persons relating to a small piece of land that had been hanging fire since 1976 was settled after the HSLSA involved the village elders to mediate.

‘‘We just sat there and let them decide. It was just like the panchayat. Within no time, the dispute had been settled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. And, to think that this dispute had remained unresolved even after the involvement of the High Court and various lower courts,’’ says Mr Shekhar Dhawan, member-Secretary, HSLSA.

These rural lok adalats have also been turned into a platform for spreading legal literacy among the masses.

‘‘We have nukkar nataks, audio-visual programmes, skits etc. The basic purpose is to make the common man aware of his legal rights and duties. We also distribute printed material,’’ informs Mr Dhawan.

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