New Delhi: Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Friday asserted that steps are being taken to create legal awareness, provide legal aid and ensure that people in rural areas need not have to really struggle to get basic minimum justice.

A large number of cases are pending in different courts, and the minister said that more than 90 per cent of the pending cases are at the lower judiciary.

Replying to questions in the Lok Sabha, Rijiju said effective steps are being taken for creating legal awareness and providing legal aid and a digital campaign has been conducted by the Department of Justice. “We need to strengthen the mechanisms and facilities across the country to make this campaign very effective.”

In rural areas, the online campaign is still not that effective as it is in urban areas, Rijiju said, and emphasised that efforts being made to ensure that paralegal volunteers and panel lawyers also get involved in ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) and ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) by assisting people who require assistance.

With respect to many cases pending at the lower judiciary, the minister said that all the facilities will be provided to address the issue, and steps are being taken on the concept of justice at the doorstep, especially mobile courts or Lok Adalat, and hearing cases on the spot.

“I assure that the hearing in rural areas is conducted in a way that the people do not have to really struggle to get the basic minimum justice,” he said during the Question Hour.

To a query on whether the government plans to mandate pre-litigation online dispute resolution in certain cases in light of burgeoning pending cases, the minister replied in the affirmative.

“The proposal for a standalone law on mediation provides for pre-litigation mediation before filing any suit or proceedings of civil or commercial nature by any party in any court. Such pre-litigation mediation can be undertaken online also,” Rijiju said.

According to the minister, the concept of ODR in India is at a nascent stage.

A committee set up by Niti Aayog released a report titled ‘Designing the future of dispute resolution: the ODR Policy Plan for India’ was released on November 29.

The report has recommended mainstreaming of ODR in the country as a cost-effective, convenient and efficient process, which can be customised to the specific needs of the parties, considering the nature of the dispute.

To another query, Rijiju said that since there is no legal framework so far, measures to increase awareness regarding ODR do not arise at the level of the government at present.

The minister also noted that public utility services do not fall exclusively in the realm of the central government, as these services are provided by state governments also.

“Introduction of any policy in this matter requires widespread consultations. Since, at present, the ODR ecosystem is yet to take off formally in the country, no proposal to introduce ODR in public services is presently under consideration of the government,” he added.

During the Question Hour, senior member and BJD leader B Mahtab appreciated the law minister for bringing changes. Speaker Om Birla told the minister that his efforts have been appreciated by a senior member.

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