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Lok Adalat

National Legal Services Authority Act was enacted by the parliament in the year of 1987. It came into force on 9th November 1995. Its main motive is to establish a nationwide uniform network providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society on the basis of equal opportunity. National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the legal services authority Act, 1987 to monitor and evaluate implementation of legal aid programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available under the Act.

Article 39A of the constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all. Article 14 and 22(1) of the Indian constitution is fundamental right mentioned in part Ⅲ. It also make it obligatory for the state to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to everyone.
  • Here, the free legal services include:
    1. Payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings.
    2. Providing services of lawyers in legal proceedings.
    3. Obtaining and supply of certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings.
    4. Preparation of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.

  • Main functions inscribed under this act are as follows:
    1. To provide free and competent legal services to the eligible persons.
    2. To organise Lok Adalat for amicable settlements of disputes.
    3. To organise legal awareness camps in the rural areas.

  • It has been constituted at different level:
    1. Centre Level - National Legal Service Authority. It is mentioned in Section -3 of the Act.
    2. State Level - State Legal Service Authority. It mentioned in Section - 6.
    3. District Level - District legal Services Authority. It is under Section - 9.
    4. Taluk Level - Taluk Legal Services committee under Section -11A.
    5. Supreme court legal services committee under Section - 3A.
    6. High Court Legal Services Committee under Section - 8A.

  • The persons eligible for getting free legal services include:
    1. Women and Children
    2. Members of SC/ST
    3. Industrial workers
    4. Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster
    5. Disabled persons
    6. Victims of trafficking in human beings or beggar
    7. Persons whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 1 lakh (in the Supreme Court Legal
      Services Committee the limit is Rs. 1,25,00).

Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat is a forum where the cases which are pending in a court or which are pre litigation (not yet brought) before a court are compromised or settled in an amicable manner.
  • Meaning:
    The Supreme Court has explained the meaning of the institution of the Lok Adalat in the following way1 "The Lok Adalat is an old form of adjudicating system prevailed in ancient India and its validity has not been taken away even in the modern days too ". Here, the word ' Lok Adalat ' means 'People's Court' it shows it is available at ground root level also.

    It is one of the components of ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution) system. Lok Adalat provides alternate resolution of disputes with inexpensive mode and speedy justice. It is based on Gandhian principles as it supports peaceful resolution of disputes among parties by means of compromise. In Lok Adalat proceedings, there are no victors, vanquished and rancour.

    As Indian courts are overburdened with the backlog of cases and the regular courts are to decide the cases involving a lengthy, expensive and tedious procedure, Lok Adalat is introduced for speedy justice.

  • Need For The Lok Adalat:

    • Justice Ramaswamy says: 2
      "Resolving disputes through Lok Adalat not only minimizes litigation expendititure, it saves valuable time of the parties and their witnesses and also facilitates inexpensive and prompt remedy appropriately t the satisfaction of both the parties."

      Law courts in India are facing mainly four problems:
      1. The number of courts and judges at level are inadequate for speedy justice.
      2. Increase in flow of cases in recent years due to multifarious acts enacted by the central and state governments.
      3. The high cost involved in prosecuting or defending a case in a court of law, due to heavy court fee, lawyer's fee and incidental charges.
      4. Delay in disposal of cases resulting in huge pendency in all the courts.
    Lok Adalat has positive contributory role in the administration of justice. It supplements the efforts and work of the courts. Area of contribution chosen for the purpose specially concerns and helps the common man, the poor, backward and the needy most sections of the society.
  • Statutory Status

    In 1982, for the first time Lok Adalat camp was organised in Gujarat 3. This initiative was proved very successful in the settlement of disputes. Thus, the country started implementation of Lok Adalat at distinct places.

  • Constitution Of Lok Adalat:

    The State Legal Services authority or the District Legal Services Authority or the Supreme court Legal Services Committee or the High Court Legal Services Committee or the Taluk Legal Services Committee may organise Lok Adalats at such intervals and places and for such areas as it thinks fit.

  • Composition Of Lok Adalat:

    Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall consist of such number of serving or retired judicial officers and other persons of the area as may be specified by the agency such as State Authority, District Authority or Supreme court legal services committee, High court legal services committee or may be by Taluk legal services committee. Generally, a Lok Adalat consists of a judicial officer as the chairman and a lawyer as ( ADVOCATE ) and a social worker as members. The experience and qualification of other persons referred to in clause (b) of sub section (2) for Lok Adalat other than referred to in sub section (3) shall be such as may be prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.

  • Jurisdiction Of Lok Adalat:

    A Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of:
    1. Any case pending before any court; or
    2. Any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of any court and is not brought before such court.
    Thus, the Lok Adalat can deal with not only the cases pending before a court but also with the disputes at pre-litigation stage.

  • Matters such as can be taken up in Lok Adalat: 4
    1. Matrimonial / family Disputes
    2. Criminal cases (Compoundable Offences)
    3. Land Acquisition cases
    4. Labour Disputes
    5. Worker's compensation cases
    6. Bank recovery cases
    7. Pension cases
    8. Housing Board and slum clearance cases
    9. Housing Finance cases
    10. Consumer Grievances cases
    11. Electricity matters
    12. Disputes relating to Telephone Bills
    13. Municipal Matters including House Tax cases
    14. Disputes with Cellular Companies, etc.
    But, the Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law. In other words we can say that, the offences which are non � compoundable under any law fall outside the purview of the Lok Adalat.

  • Cognizance Of Cases By Lok Adalats:

    1. The parties thereof agree to settle the dispute in the Lok Adalat; or
    2. One of the parties thereof makes an application to the court, for referring the case to the Lok Adalat; or
    3. The court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
    4. In case of pre-litigation dispute, the matter can be referred to the Lok Adalat for the settlement by the agency organising the Lok Adalat, on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to the dispute.

    Provided that no cases shall be referred to the Lok Adalat by such court except after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the parties.

  • Powers Of The Lok Adalat: 5

    1. Lok Adalat shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure (1908), while trying a suit in respect of the following matters:
      1. The summoning and enforcing the attendance of any witness examining him on oath
      2. The discovery and production of any document
      3. The reception of evidence on affidavit
      4. The requisitioning of any public record or document from any court or office
      5. Such other matters as may be prescribed.
    2. Without prejudice to the generality of the powers contained in sub � section (1), Every Lok Adalat shall have the requisite powers to specify its own procedure for the determination of any dispute coming before it.
    3. All the proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of sections - 193, 219 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) and every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a civil court for the purpose of section 195 and chapter ⅩⅩⅥ of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

  • Award Of The Lok Adalat:

    An award of a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court or an order of any other court and where a compromise or settlement has been arrived at, by a Lok Adalat in a case reffered to it under sub-section (1) of section 20, the court fee paid in such case shall be refunded in the manner provided under the Court Fees Act , 1870. Every award by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute. No appeal shall lie to any court against the award of the Lok Adalat.

  • Benefits

    According to the Supreme Court, the benefits under Lok Adalat are as follows:
    1. There is no court fee and if court fee is already paid the amount will be refunded if the dispute is settled at Lok Adalat. Abraham Lincon 6 has observed:
      Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise wherever you can. point out to them How the nominal winner is often a real loser - in fees, expense, and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. there will still be business enough .."
      Lok Adalat is the only institutionalized mechanism of dispute resolution in which the parties do not have any expenses.

      Denial of free legal services to the poor accused persons or under trial prisoners would vitiate the principle of reasonable, jst and fair procedure which is implied in the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

      In Suk Das v. Union territory of Anurachal Pradesh 7, the Apex Court held that:
      Failure to provide free legal aid to an accused on the ground that he was not provided with legal aid at the time of his trial and thus there was violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.

    2. The basic features of Lok Adalat are the procedural flexibility and speedy trial of the disputes. There is no strict application of procedural laws like the Civil Procedure Code and the Evidence Act while assessing the claim by Lok Adalat. Lok Adalat ensures speedier justice because it can be conducted at suitable places, arranged very fast, in local languages too, even for the illiterates.

    3. The parties to the dispute can directly interact with the judge through their counsel which is not possible in regular courts of law.

    4. The award by the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties and it has the status of a decree of a civil court and it is non-applicable, which does not cause the delay in the settlement of disputes finally. In Punjab National Bank v. Lakshmichand Rai 8 , an appeal was filled under S.96 of the Code of Civil Procedure against the award made by the Lok Adalat.

      The question before the court was whether such can appeal is maintainable. so in the case it was iterated that:
      "An appeal would not lie under the provisions of Section 96 C.P.C. Lok Adalat is conducted under an independent enactment and once the award is made by Lok Adalat the right of appeal shall be governed by the Legal Services Authority Act."
      It has been specifically mentioned in Section - 2 (2) that no appeal shall die against an order of a Lok Adalat.

    5. The main thrust of the Lok Adalat is on compromise. When no compromise is reached, the matter goes back to the court. While conducting the proceedings, a lok Adalat acts as a conciliator and not as an arbitrator.

      Its role is to persuade the parties to hit upon a solution and help in reconciling the contesting differences. Lok Adalat cannot decide in a particular way. It encourages consensual arrangements. it is not possible for Lok adalat to decide upon any issue not acceptable to any of the parties. Lok Adalat are also required to follow the principles of natural justice and other other legal principles.

      In Kishan Rao v. Bidar District Legal Services Authority 9, the question raised was whether the lok Adalat could pass a decree when all the parties had not appeared before the Lok Adalat nor had notice been issued to them. The Karnataka High Court interepreted Section 20(3) of the Legal Services Authorities Act to hold that all the parties to suit must be present if the compromise was to be a valid one. thus the impuned decree was struck down as being a nullity by reason of violation of natural justice.

      In view of above facilities provided by the Act, Lok Adalat are boon to the litigation public as they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost amicably. Hence, it is a very healthy way of dispute resolution.

  • Permanent Lok Adalat

    The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 was amended in 2002 to provide for establishment of the Permanent Lok Adalat to deal with cases pertaining to the public utility services like transport, postal, telegraph, etc 10

Reasons For Permanent Lok Adalat:

  1. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was enacted to constitute legal services authorities for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice were not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities and to organise Lok Adalats to ensure that opportunities for securing justice were not denied to any citizen by reason to ensure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity
  2. The system of Lok Adalat, which is an innovative mechanism for alternate dispute resolution, has proved effective disputes in a spirit of conciliation outside the courts.
  3. However, the major drawback in the existing scheme of organisation of the Lok adalat under the said Act is that the system of Lok Adalat is mainly based on compromise or settlement, the case is either returned to the court of law or the parties are advises to seek remedy in a court of law. This causes unnecessary delay in the dispensation of justice. If Lok Adalats are given power to decide the cases on merits in case parties fails to arrive at any compromise or settlement, this problem can be tackled to a great extent.
  4. Further, the cases which arise in relation to public utility services such as Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, Delhi Vidyut Board11, etc, need to be settled urgently so that people get justice without delay even at pre-litigation stage and thus most of the petty cases which ought not to go in the regular courts would be settled at the pre-litigation stage itself which would result in reducing the workload of the regular courts to a great extent.
  5. It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to set up Permanent lok Adalats for providing compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of cases relating to public utility services.

Features Of Permanent Lok Adalat:

The salient features of the new institution of Permanent Lok Adalat are as follows:
  1. The Permanent Lok Adalat shall consist of a Chairman who is or has been a district judge or additional district judge or has held judicial office higher in rank than that of the district judge and two other persons having adequate experience in public utility services.
  2. The Permanent Lok Adalat shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of one or more public utility services such as transport services of passengers or goods by air, road and water ;postal, telegraph or telephone services ; supplyof power, light or water to the public by any establishment; public conservancy or sanitation ; services in hospitals or dispensaries ; and insurance services.
  3. The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalat shall be up to rupees ten lakhs. However, the Central Government may increase the said pecuniary jurisdiction from time to time.
  4. The Permanent Lok Adalat shall have not jurisdiction in respect of any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
  5. Before the dispute is brought before any court, any party to the dispute may make an application to the Permanent Lok Adalat for settlement of the dispute. After an application is made to the Permanent Lok Adalat, no party to that application shall invoke jurisdiction of any court in the same dispute.
  6. Where it appears to the Permanent Lok Adalat that exist elements of a settlement, which may be acceptable to the parties, it shall formulate the terms of a possible settlement and submit them to the parties for their observations and in case the parties reach an agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall pass an award in terms thereof. In case parties to the dispute fail to reach an agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall decide the dispute on merits.
  7. Every award made by the Permanent Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties thereto shall be by a majority of the persons constituting the Permanent Lok Adalat.

We can trace Lok Adalat presence from the past life itself. As earlier there was an ancient concept of settlement of dispute through mediation, negotiation or through arbitral process which were headed by the most trusted or highly intellectual or senior persons of the society. The judgement of Heads were considered as full and final award by everyone.

It is conceptualized and institutionalized behind the philosophy of Lok Adalat. It involves people who are directly or indirectly affected by disputes. It is easy mode of conducting justice to everyone at grassroot level. It also promotes Gandhian principle of peacefullness. It is based on transparency, efficiency and less expensive form of justice. It is formed with the motive to decrease the backlog of the cases. It promotes speedy justice to everyone.

Its process is voluntary and works on the principle that both parties to the disputes are willing to sort out their disputes by amicable solutions. Everyone has conscience to choose for it as their dispute resolving body. Effect of the scheme of the Lok Adalat is that the parties to the disputes sit across the table and sort out their disputes by the way of conciliation in presence of the Lok Adalat judges who would be guiding them on technical legal aspects of the controversies. Hence, it is the most effective, easiest, non � expensive mode of delivering justice to the wider sections of the society.

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