SC judge stresses on pre-litigation mediation

Nagpur: Justice Sharad Bobde of the Supreme Court emphasised the need for pre-litigation mediation and the role of the legal aid system to ensure people get speedy justice. He was speaking on Saturday at the inaugural function of the 17th All India Meet of State Legal Services Authorities in Nagpur.

Justice Bodbe said 1,07,587 matters were settled through mediation between April 2017 to March 2018, adding in Gujarat, recently, 24,000 cases were settled in a day.

“An emphasis is developing on mediation. Therefore, we are thin­k­ing of compulsory ‘pre litigation mediation’, which need not be restricted to only commercial disputes,” the SC judge said.

There should be degree, diploma courses in mediation in law universities in the country, he said, adding, legal aid provided to disadvantaged sections of society has helped them have their voices heard.

“Many from the disadvantaged sections of society do not even know they have legal rights under law and welfare schemes,” Justice Bodbe said.

He said 80% of people in the nation are entitled to legal aid but it is provided to not more than 0.05% of the population. He commended the state legal service authorities on their work and said the system was gaining momentum with active support from the high courts.

“There has been substantial rise in the number of people benefiting through legal services. It was around 5.5 lakh in 2016-17, which increased to 14.75 lakh in 2018-19. This is a threefold increase in a period of two years,” said Justice Bobde.

“We haven’t formulated the conditions, but apparently the thinking is you must get legal aid provided you first resort to ‘pre litigation mediation’. This is something we could start paying attention to,” he added.

The SC judge said there should be a concept of “public defenders” as people from marginalised sections of society often find they have no one to defend them.

He said this system would also give junior members of the Bar an opportunity to get meaningfully engaged in actual litigation. He said video-conferencing facility was helping prisoners get legal redress.

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