Are the Lok Adalats performing the job they were entrusted with?
On September 7, 2014 the Lok Adalat at Salem released 416 prisoners charged with petty offenses. There appears nothing wrong in the statement except the fact that as on September 6, 2014 there were merely 740 inmates, including 393 under trials, in the Salem Prison till 6 PM; and 392 prisoners out of the 416 released on September 7 were arrested and lodged in prison after 6 PM of September 6.
The information obtained by under the Right to Information Act by R. Karunanidhi, a Madurai based advocate, has revealed that 416 inmates involved in petty cases were released on payment of fine during a Lok Adalat conducted in the Salem prison on September 7. As per the information received the from the Superintendent-Public Information Officer of the Central Prison in Salem, out of those 416 released, 283 were arrested and lodged in the prison a day before the Lok Adalat (i.e. on September 6) while 109 were arrested, lodged and released on the same day when the Lok Adalat took place which implies that only 24 prisoners were lodged in prison prior to September 6. Most of those released were arrested in groups by various police stations in Salem on charges relating to possession of liquor, rash driving or for uttering obscene words in public places.
This raises the suspicion that all those who were arrested and lodged in the prison was only for the just for the intention of showing excellent disposal figures of Lok Adalat to show a shining performance and also to show collection of huge amount of fine. While the figures are in respect of one Lok Adalat, it remains to be seen how the others are performing across the nation and whether they are really an effective alternative mechanism to redress grievances.