Nov 26, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has spurred a huge disruption in the functioning of things. Still, none is more noticeable than the way it has clogged the wheels of the judiciary, causing further delay to the people who have sought out justice. This Sheer helplessness on the part of courts to help the aggrieved has resulted in the inception of an idea to shift the base resolution of disputes from traditional ways to an online platform.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has decided to improve the traditional alternative dispute resolution (ADR) into online dispute resolution (ODR) which will now be spread to improve access to justice across India, including the backward regions of this country.   "Here, Technology has played a critical role in this transformation, and the Legal Services Authority of India is trying to keep up with changing times by using technology as its strongest tool. Online Lok Adalat is one such solution. A well-organized digital solution in the form of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), a combination of Technology and ADR, will give new momentum to Lok Adalats in India," Judge N V Ramana had said while commanding the achievement of Delhi State Legal Services Authority's huge success in e-Lok Adalat on Saturday. 

The e-Lok Adalat organized by DLSA headed by Justice Hima Kohli with the help of Delhi High Court Chief Justice D N Patel set up 77 benches for quick settlement of cases through video-conferencing and achieved a resolution of record 8,112 cases involving Rs 47 crore in a single day.Thee Awards passed by Lok Adalats are binding and bring a permanent closure to the litigation based on settlement arrived between contesting parties.

Justice Ramana commended Justice Patel's untiring efforts in innovating methods for expeditious resolution of cases and made special mention of Justice Kohli for her judicious mix of compassion with justice delivery. The SC judge said, "Justice Kohli as DLSA Chairperson has launched a Mobile Application to assist persons in need, particularly domestic violence victims. She not only presided over the High-Powered Committee set up to decongest Delhi prisons but also came up with novel ideas to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons."

The answer to the question as to whether this method of solving disputes will take over and usher the judiciary into a new age where technology would be a prime dependency or would the courts go back to the age-old methods lie in popularizing this in the grassroots level or other words among the people from technologically handicapped regions of the country.

Under the guidance of NALSA, Legal Services Authorities have provided effective legal support to arrested persons during this period. From April to June, under the guidance of NALSA, Legal Services Authorities have provided effective legal representation to the arrested persons during this period. "As many as 16,646 arrested persons were provided legal assistance at the remand stage. Bail applications were filed in 6,812 cases, out of which 4,601 were granted bail. Also, 495 convicts were provided legal assistance in filing appeals," Justice Ramana had said. 

During the same period, in domestic violence cases, legal assistance and advice were provided to 3,443 women, and 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 that have cropped up during the pandemic.

This policy encompasses several aspects which also include ensuring every person who seeks justice must be provided with the minimum cost factor to approach a court of justice and time for disposal of the case. Here, technology plays a vital role in the idea of a virtual court being a successful step or just one of the ideas left gathering dust after it didn’t plan out as it was supposed to. 

From the progress that can be viewed on this front, as judging by the record number of cases that have been solved over such a brief period, it can be estimated that this idea may work out successfully. Still, the courts should also bring about a change by adding the facility of calling as a major portion of India still relies on the old phones and is handicapped when it comes to the field of technology such as the operation of smartphones or video calling or kiosks should be built in which an operator should be available to help out those who are unable to interact with inventions of this modern age.