Due to the huge number of pending cases in the courts, there was a requirement for an alternative dispute redressal mechanism. Lok Adalat is one of the better solutions to this problem. In Lok Adalat, the decisions are made fast and in a harmonious manner which is accepted by both parties.
The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 has accorded statutory status to the Lok Adalats.
In fact, the provision of Lok Adalat is a big step to fulfill the directions given in the directive principles of state policy (Article 39 A) of our constitution.
Lok Adalat is a platform where the pending cases in the courts or at pre-litigation stages can be settled.
The judgments given by the Lok Adalats are equivalent to the orders of a civil court and are final and binding on all parties.
However, if the concerned parties are not satisfied they can initiate litigation by filing a case in the court of appropriate jurisdiction.
Lok Adalat doesn’t charge any fees. If any pending matter in any court is transferred to the Lok Adalat and if the dispute is settled in the Lok Adalat itself then the originally paid fees will also be refunded to the involved parties.
The Members of the Lok Adalats who decide the case, have the role of statutory conciliators only and they do not have any judicial role. These members talk to the involved parties and try to settle their disputes so that the load and the pressure on the courts could be reduced. However, they can not put any pressure on the parties to settle the case against their will. They assist the involved parties to resolve their disputes in a free and unbiased manner.
The Lok Adalat is also known as the people’s court.
It is a traditional method to resolve disputes and reduce the burden on courts.
The Decisions made in the Lok Adalat have statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987.
The first Lok Adalat was held in Gujarat in 1982.
The prime condition of a Lok Adalat is that both parties should agree to be judged through this forum and that is why there is no system of appeal.
Lok Adalat does not strictly follow procedural laws and the Indian Evidence Act so that the procedure takes less time and decisions are fast. They can conduct the proceedings in a manner as it considers appropriate, According to the circumstances. They also ask the wishes of the parties like requests to hear oral statements, speedy settlement of the dispute, etc.
As in judiciary All proceedings in a Lok Adalat are also recorded and maintained for future reference. Thus, it is also known as a court of record.
The cases which are mostly settled in the Lok Adalats belong to financial matters, partition suits, damages, matrimonial law, family disputes, and compoundable criminal cases.
The nature of Cases that can be referred to Lok Adalat are;
Any case pending before any court.
Any dispute which has not been brought before in any court and is likely to be filed before the court can be brought to solve here.
Any matter relating to an offense that is not compoundable under the law can not be settled in the Lok Adalat.
Levels and Composition of Lok Adalats
At the State Authority Level:
The benches of the Lok Adalat is constituted by the Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat
In each bench, there are a sitting or retired judge of the High Court or a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of,
A member from the legal profession involved in social work and working for the upliftment of the weaker sections.
At High Court Level:
The Secretary of the High Court Legal Services Committee will constitute benches of the Lok Adalat
Each bench comprising of either a sitting or retired judge of the High Court or both.
A member of the legal profession.
A social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections.
At District Level:
The benches of the Lok Adalat is constituted by the Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority who organizes the Lok Adalat
Each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of either a member from the legal profession
A social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.
At Taluk Level:
The Secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee organizing the Lok Adalat will constitute benches of the Lok Adalat.
Each bench comprises of either a sitting or retired judicial officer or both of either a member from the legal profession and a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programs or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.
National Lok Adalat:
National Level Lok Adalats are constituted at regular intervals. On a single day, Lok Adalats are held throughout the country.
Other types of Lok Adalats are Permanent Lok Adalat and mobile Lok Adalat:
Permanent Lok Adalts are Organized under Section 22-B of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
It is permanent in nature and consists of a chairman and two members. Cases related to Public Utility Services like transport, postal, telephone, etc. can be resolved here.
The Permanent Lok Adalat has the jurisdiction to decide the dispute even if the parties fail to reach a settlement, However, the dispute should not relate to any offense.
Permanent Lok Adalat jurisdiction can be up to Ten Lakhs.
The Permanent Lok Adalat has the jurisdiction to decide the case, even if the parties fail to reach a settlement in permanent Lok Adalat, which will be final and binding on the parties.
The idea of the mobile Lok Adalat is new. It is organized in various parts of the country. They travel from one location to another to resolve disputes. Providing doorstep solutions and fulfilling the objective of good governance.
Lok Adalats have become important in India as huge cases are pending in courts and the people’s legal literacy is very low.
Lok Adalat which is informal as well as cheap provides expeditious justice which full fill the constitutional morality and provides timely justice as it is said that” justice delayed is justice denied”.
To learn more about Lok Adalat, Please visit: https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat
For Lok Adalats in Delhi, Please click here.
To know the schedule of National Lok Adalats for the Year 2021, Please click here.
This article is written by;
Mr. Pankaj Kumar Gupta
(Email ID: [email protected])