Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. It is where disputes/cases pending in the courtroom or at the pre-litigation stage are settled/compromised in an amicable manner. Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
Under the said Act, the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is regarded to be a decree of a civil court and is last and official on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any courtroom. In the event that the parties are not happy with the award of the Lok Adalat, however, there is no arrangement for an appeal against such an award, yet they are allowed to initiate suit by approaching the court of appropriate purview by filing a case by following the required system, in the exercise of their entitlement to litigate.
Nature of Cases to be referred to Lok Adalat:
- Any case pending under any court.
- Any matter which has not been brought under any court and is probably going to be filed under the court.
- Given that any issue identifying with an offense not compoundable under the law will not be settled in Lok Adalat.
Which Lok Adalat to be Approached:
According to Section18(1) of the Act, a Lok Adalat will have jurisdiction to decide and to land at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a matter in regard of –
(1) Any case pending previously
(2) Any issue which is falling inside the jurisdiction of, and isn’t brought under any court for which the Lok Adalat is organized.
Given that the Lok Adalat will have no purview in regard to issues identifying with divorce or matters identifying with an offense not compoundable under any law.
How to Get the Case Referred to the Lok Adalat for Settlement:
(A) Case pending under the court.
(B) Any matter at the pre-litigation stage.
The State Legal Services Authority or District Legal Services Authority as the case might be on receipt of an application from any of the parties at a pre-litigation stage may allude such issue to the Lok Adalat for amicable settlement of the dispute for which notice would then be issued to the other party.
Organization of Lok Adalat:
Due to its increasing popularity over time, it was granted legal status under the Legal Authorities Act, 1987, which contains provisions governing the organisation and operation of Lok Adalat.
- The State/District/Supreme Court/High Court/Taluk Legal Service Authority may organise Lok Adalat at such places and intervals as it thinks fit.
- Each Lok Adalat organised for an area consists of such a number of serving or retired Judicial Officers and other people from the area, which can be determined by the organising agency.
- Generally, a Lok Adalat consists of a Judicial Officer as chairman, a lawyer and a social worker as a member.
Functioning of Lok Adalat:
- A Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction in respect of:
- Any dispute pending before any court.
- Any matter in the pre-litigation stage i.e. which is not yet brought before the court.
- A case that is pending before any court can be made over to Lok Adalat if:
- Parties agree to settle the matters at Lok Adalat.
- Either party makes an application regarding it to the court.
- The court is satisfied that the matter can be resolved through Lok Adalat.
Powers of Lok Adalat:
- Lok Adalat will have the same power as that is conferred on a civil court under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, regarding summons, production of a document, reception of evidence, and such other matters.
- In addition, a Lok Adalat has the necessary powers to establish its own dispute resolution process.
- Each Lok Adalat is considered a civil court under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- The award of a Lok Adalat is considered an order of a civil court or an order from another court.
- Any award given by a Lok Adalat is final and binding on all parties and cannot be appealed against.
Benefits of Lok Adalat:
- No court fees.
- Speedy trial of disputes.
- No strict application of procedural laws.
- The award given by a Lok Adalat is binding and has the status of a decree of a civil court.
- The order is capable of execution through the legal process.
The large population of India and the illiterate masses have to find the regular dispensation of justice through regular Courts very cumbersome and ineffective.
The Lok Adalat method is no more an experiment in India. It is now a success and needs to be replicated in matters which have not yet been under the domain of Lok Adalat.
There is a need to use the techniques used in Lok Adalat in a context related to public issues where the number of players is quite large and in most of matters the government is also involved in one way or the other. The new branches of law will require newer tools to have decisions acceptable to the litigants.