As part of the National Lok Adalat conducted on Saturday, the Delhi High Court Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal included a transgender and an acid attack survivor on her bench as associate members to preside over issues of civil nature and cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.
According to the National Legal Service Authority website, a Lok Adalat “is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at the pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably.” In Delhi, these Lok Adalats are held under the aegis of the Delhi Legal Service Authority.
A National Lok Adalat is held at regular intervals, and cases are heard and disposed of in all Indian courts ranging from the Supreme Court to those at the Taluk-level.
Neelmani Tiwari, a transgender, and Kamar Jahan, an acid attack survivor, participated as associate members in Lok Adalat benches in the New Delhi district, alongside two other judicial officers.
The Delhi State Legal Authority believes that the inclusion of both Tiwari and Jahan in the justice delivery system sends a message of inclusion. Both come from marginalised sections of society.
“The idea to include them in Lok Adalat benches is to ensure the empowerment of these sections of society to send the message that they can contribute equally in every sphere of national life,” said the Delhi State Legal Services Authority to Live Law, an online portal dealing with legal issues.
Meanwhile, in the National Lok Adalat conducted by the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) of Malda in West Bengal, three members of the LGBT community were included to preside over cases involving the Motor Vehicles Act, as well as bank loan and matrimonial disputes.
Speaking to the Times of India, one of the LGBT members presiding over these cases, Jiya, earlier known as Jishu, said that it was a profound experience.
“We are used to being teased on the road. Sharing a bench with learned judges and being addressed as ‘sir’ by the appellants was unforgettable,” Jiya said.
An official of the Malda (DLSA) expressed this gesture was symbolic of how members of this community are entitled to the same rights as any other person, and that society should make a real effort towards including them in the mainstream.
The website of the National Legal Service Authority has stated, “Under the said Act (Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987), the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties, and no appeal against such an award lies before any court of law.”