The way the number of new cases has been adding to the backlog of pending ones, aggrieved people might resort to street justice, said Law Minister Anisul Huq on Tuesday.
The minister urged district judges to engage more in legal aid services for the poor and adopt an alternative mechanism to resolve cases.
A majority of people do not have the financial capability to pursue a legal battle. When they seek legal aid, they should be convinced that their disputes with the opponents can be resolved through arbitration – this will save both time and money, he pointed out.
The courts will not be able to dispose of all the pending cases if such a mechanism is not brought into practice, said the law minister while addressing a conference on how to ensure justice for all.
The programme was organised by the National Legal Aid Services Organisation under the law ministry and the UNDP.
The scenario has to be changed, otherwise, Anisul said, "The popular notion of 'justice delayed is justice denied' will turn into 'justice not given gives rise to street justice'."
The district courts and judges, who are also chairmen of district legal aid committees, should convey the message that the dispute resolution process is acceptable to courts, said Anisul Huq.
People will then become more interested to accept their grievances being addressed through mediation. The legal aid offices should facilitate the process.
To ensure that people, irrespective of social and financial status, have equal access to justice as a constitutional right, 64 district legal aid offices, the Supreme Court Legal Aid Office and two labour court legal aid cells have been set up.
The National Legal Aid Services Organisation monitors their activities.
While district and session judges are the chairmen of legal aid committees, assistant judges and senior assistant judges play the role of legal aid officers.
The government has also made necessary provisions supporting legal aid services for pre-case and post-case mediation against the backdrop of a huge backlog of cases.
For example, the High Court had more than 4.25 lakh pending cases in 2017 after the disposal of about 40,000 cases in the previous year, according to a government audit.
As many as 19,000 cases have been disposed of through the alternate dispute resolution mechanism in the district legal aid offices.
The legal aid services will be expanded for speedy disposal of cases, especially those tied to women, children and the disabled, said Umme Kulsum, joint secretary of the law ministry.
If it is made mandatory that familial disputes are solved through mediation, the number of cases will fall drastically, she added.
The UNDP has been providing support to the National Legal Aid Services Organisation since 2014.
Last year, it introduced district-level interventions in Naogaon, Panchagarh and Cox's Bazar for initiating a referral system from union parishad legal aid committees.