How to choose the correct forum for your grievance and the right lawyer to represent you
Finding a solution for your grievances requires you to make smart choices and act strategically. Most people are unaware of the alternative dispute resolution forums like Lok Adalaat and Lokshahi Din to resolve their issues. Also if one decides to go for legal recourse, one must chose the right lawyer or one may end up in trouble. These were the words of advice provided by three experts, advocate Bapoo Malcolm, Indrani Malkani and Shirish Shanbhag, at a panel discussion organised by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai.
There are several other forums like tax, insurance and banking ombudsman, alternative dispute resolution forums like Lok Adalat, Lokshahi Din held in government offices, counselling offered by Council for Fair Business Practices and Disha Financial Counselling and consumer courts that help people to resolve grievances quickly.
Lokshahi Din: According to Shirish Shanbhag, a retired professor, who provides guidance to people on several issues in Mumbai, grievance of citizens is best resolved in Lokshahi Din. There are four levels of Lokshahi Din and one can escalate one’s grievance from taluka level to the chief minister level as well.
If one follows the simple procedure, like submitting the application in prescribed format, well before the prescribed time limit, one can get quick and effective redressal. Raising public grievances through Lokshahi Din is less time consuming, and is an inexpensive solution. In addition, there is no need to hire a lawyer and one can represent oneself, Mr Shanbhag said.
Lok Adalats: Social activist Indrani Malkani who is also a trustee of vCitizens Action Network (V-CAN), said Lok Adalat works on a system of reaching a compromise between the disputed parties. Lok Adalat is a non-adversarial system, whereby mock courts (called Lok Adalats) are held by the state authority, district authority, supreme court legal services committee, high court legal services committee, or taluka legal services committee.
The Lok Adalats can deal with all civil cases, matrimonial disputes, land disputes, partition/ property disputes, labour disputes, and compoundable criminal cases, Ms Malkani said. She said, in Lok Adalat, disputing parties plead their case themselves. No advocate or pleader is allowed, even witnesses are not examined. No court fee is levied. Speedy justice is given to the people of all classes of society and the award has the same effect as of a Civil Court decree.
How to choose the right lawyer?
Advocate Bapoo Malcolm, who practises civil and criminal law as well as documentation and arbitration, said before looking for a lawyer, one must think about the outcome one wants and what branch of law applies to one’s specific problem. Since legal cases may drag on for years, one must also consider if the battle is worth the time and cost, he said. According to advocate Malcolm, it is better to hire a lawyer who is highly recommended from people in one’s inner circle who have dealt with legal issues. While credentials are important, knowledge of the lawyer about penal provisions is equally important, he said.
One must have a frank and open discussion with the lawyer and should not hide facts. One must also ask for a realistic estimate of costs and duration to resolve the particular issue. “If you do not understand what your lawyer is saying, seek an explanation. Don’t get intimidated,” he said.
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No one can take advantage of his own mistakes
When Moneylife readers, and the wife, complain that my articles are too ‘Americanised’, it is time to take notice. And any advocate worth his salt will offer a defence.
American cases are better reported and the law has evolved very quickly. Also, having been on a steady diet of American cases since the age of 10, the habit is hard to break. So, this time, we bring you two cases; one American and the other Indian. The common subject under the lens is the touchy issue of booze. A lady driver was apprehended by the police on suspicion of having had one too many to drink. The mandatory test proved that the legal limit had been breached. She was duly charged.
The unhappy female was not finished. She sued the cops. Why? She claimed that the test was carried out without her permission. According to her, this was a violation of her rights, human, fundamental and whatever else her lawyer could think of.
We now move to the US. Not only is drinking legal, so is gambling. The former, within limits and the latter in licensed joints. Both are big business. Our subject first visits a booze parlour, and maybe other places, and drinks like a fish. Totally inebriated, he decides to try his luck with the ‘roll of the dice’ probably to recover his drinking expenses, or to enable him to buy some more.
Luck may favour the brave, but not the drunk. Result: a full belly, a fuzzy brain and empty pockets. Halleluiah. The belly empties, the mind clears but the pockets remain barren. Enter a smart lawyer and some hard talk and what do you have? A lawsuit. It is against the gambling den. ‘Why?’, you may ask. Because, the plaint says, the management of the place should have prevented him from betting the shirt off his back, knowing he was completely drunk! They knew it. They did not stop him. They are at fault. Quad Erat Demonstradum. As we go to press, the matter is still unresolved, judicially. The man had lost the equivalent of Rs30 lakh.
You be the judge.
The lady-in-distress, however, has had her day in court. Thankfully, her case was thrown out. She was asked, in no uncertain terms, to get lost. A drunk driver may have all sorts of rights, including the one to die. But that is not the crux of the problem. A drunk behind the wheel is a menace—a homicidal weapon. He may kill others. The police have every right to keep such unguided missiles tethered.
In the second case, our bet is that a similar judgement will ensue. All modern laws enunciate a doctrine that says that no man can take advantage of his own wrongs. It cannot be a defence. If one is fit enough to gamble, he is fit enough to pay for it.
The one question that now begs an answer is this. Would our sozzled friend have returned the cash if he had won?
Heads I win, Tails you lose!
So, what should one do if arrested for ‘drunk driving’?
A) If innocent, ask for an independent test immediately. Police equipment can be, and often is, faulty.
B) If you have friends with you, make sure they attest to your sobriety.
C) Never, never make a scene, or bandy names. The cops hate people who say they are related to some big shot or the other.
D) TRY TO CALL YOUR LAWYER AS SOON AS YOU CAN.
BUT, if you have had your peg, shut up and pay up. AND THEN STAY DRY.
Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected]