Supreme Court has once again expressed displeasure over the huge pendency of cases in different courts across the country on Friday.
As per the data available with the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), huge numbers of cases are pending in the level of high court and lower courts in all the states including Odisha.
More than 16 lakh cases are pending in the district and other lower courts of Odisha. Similarly, as many as over 1 lakh cases are pending in the High Court of Orissa.
The NJDG data also throw light on the major causes responsible for the delay in the disposal of cases in the lower courts. The causes include the absconding or non appearance of one or more accused, non availability of counsel, difficulty in securing presence of important witnesses, waiting for documents, etc.
Maximum numbers of cases are pending in the lower courts in Odisha due to the non availability of counsels. As per available data, more than 4.61 lakh cases are pending at the courts for non availability of counsel while over 3 lakh cases are pending as Odisha Police have failed to nab the fugitive accused.
Experts opine that one of the major causes responsible for the non availability of counsel is the inefficiency in providing free legal services to poor and downtrodden sections of the society who can’t afford a lawyer to fight their cases.
The constitution of India under article 39-A directs that the state should provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes to ensure access to justice for all citizens, especially the weaker section of the society.
However, information with the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) points out inefficiency in providing free legal services to the poor and weaker sections of society in Odisha.
According to the NLSA, legal services include extension of free legal aid to those weaker sections of the society such as persons from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, human trafficking victims, woman, child and person with disability, etc.
The data underscore that 44,478 persons benefited through legal services provided under Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 between March 2018 and March 2023.
Meanwhile, major states such as Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Tamil Nadu have fared comparatively well as the single year data of each of the above states suggest.
As many as 2,09, 809 persons were provided with free legal services by the functionaries, volunteers of State Legal Service Authority (SLSA) in Bihar during April, 2022 to March, 2023. Madhya Pradesh SLSA provided legal services to 1, 91,921 persons under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
On the other hand, many alleged that the lack of adequate awareness among citizens regarding the availability of free legal services or aid in Odisha is the prime reason behind the poor response to the services.
“The litigants from poor sections of the society are failing to avail the free legal services due to the lack of awareness. There are around 30 to 40 lawyers in the panel but the number of cases referred to us is very low in number. The officials of Dhenkanal District Legal Services Authority have been conducting awareness campaigns at regular intervals. However, the district legal services authority should conduct more such campaigns to bring awareness among people,” said Deepak Kumar Pattnaik, an empanelled lawyer.