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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

India's courts suffer from enormous backlogs. To remedy this, Indian politicians and judges have been promoting various reforms, including alternative forms that would dispose of cases more quickly. One forum in particular, the Lok Adalat or people's court, has been promoted with special fervor for nearly two decades. The Lok Adalat has been widely trumpeted as a success by its proponents, but very little information is available on the workings of this institution. This study is a preliminary empirical assessment of several sorts of Lok Adalats. These Lok Adalats exhibit great variation in how they function. We find that their performance is highly problematic, both in terms of effectiveness in resolving cases and in the quality of justice received by the parties. These findings have serious implications for the millions of Indians currently being encouraged or required to submit their grievances to Lok Adalats and for the prospects for efficacious reforms of the Indian legal system.

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