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Scope of Cases Taken Up by Lok Adalat

Concept of Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat literally meaning 'people's court', is an Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism in India. The introduction of Lok Adalats added a new chapter to the country's justice system, and it was successful in providing a supplementary forum for victims to settle their disputes in a satisfactory manner. The Gandhian ideas underpin this system.

It's one of the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) systems' components. Disputes were referred to "Panchayats" in ancient times, which were constituted at the village level. Panchayats used arbitration to settle their disagreements. It has shown to be a very effective alternative to courtroom proceedings.

The ideology of Lok Adalat conceptualizes and institutionalize the concept of resolving disputes through mediation, negotiation, or arbitration. People who are directly or indirectly influenced by conflict resolution are included.

Need of Lok Adalat

The basic needs of Lok Adalat is to cut out the process of Litigation which is very costly and time consuming in nature and also reducing the burden on the Judiciary.

As this is a method of ADR, the matters here are taken and pronounced in a fast-track manner, with no procedural laws, like CPC, Evidence act etc. not applicable in it. This saves a lot of time and also Lok Adalat has no fee which makes justice cost free. Indian Judiciary is already burdened wit over 4.7 Cr pending cases, it helps to reduce the judiciary's burden.

Acts and Bodies Regulating Lok Adalat

The method of Lok Adalat was bought in the country first by the state of Gujrat. Then it was implemented in the whole country by the enactment of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 under Section 22B as 'Permanent Lok Adalat'.

The governing bodies of Lok Adalat are as follows

NALSA: it is the national level legal service authority and it along with other legal services institutes conducts Lok Adalat. They are organized on a single day throughout the country where cases are disposed off in huge numbers.

SALSA- at state level, it organizes Lok Adalat with its member secretary comprising of the bench with retired or serving high court judges, legal experts or any social worker working for upliftment of society.

DLSA- at district level, the secretary of the DLSA will organize the Lok Adalat with judicial officers either retired or serving in it comprising as bench.

Scope Of Lok Adalat

Nature of Matters Taken up in Lok Adalat
The Lok Adalat deals with the matters which are both civil and criminal in nature and specifically do not require procedural laws of the country to play in the resolution of the matter. The list of case matters that the Lok Adalat has competence to deal with are as follows:
  • Compoundable civil, criminal and revenue cases
  • Cases which are not sub-judice
  • Family court cases
  • Arrears of retirement benefit cases
  • Bank's unpaid loan cases
  • Land acquisition cases
  • Bonded labour cases
  • Land Pattas cases
  • Mutation of land cases
  • Matrimonial and family disputes
  • Damages cases
  • Partition cases
  • Motor accidents compensation claim cases

As we can observe from the list of cases, all these types cases are highly individual or personal in nature. The issue as well as the judgement of these cases will not affect the society at large and hence there is no need to follow the lengthy procedural laws and spent a lot of time as well as resources (money) required in the process of litigation in the regular court.

These cases in their nature are not very technical and are mostly based on facts, hence it is less time consuming for Lok Adalat to pass the judgement as soon as the Adalat figures out the truth.

Procedure followed in Lok Adalat
As discussed above about the statute governing the Lok Adalat as a method of ADR, we discussed about the Legal Services Authorities Act,1987. Section 20 of the same legislation discusses about procedure to be followed in the Lok Adalat. Very firstly, Lok Adalat have the power to look into the matters and cases involving following issues:
  • The case which is pending before any court of law; or
  • Any matter which is not bought to court in the jurisdictions and the matter falls under the ambit of issues that Lok Adalat is formed for.

The Lok Adalat shall not have jurisdiction over any matters or issues which is not compoundable as an offence under any laws.

The date of organization of Lok Adalat is declared at least a month before the date finalized and is held mostly on weekends or other general holidays. The information related to same is widely publicized in the media through TV Channels, newspapers etc.

The cases pending in the courts are then identified, if they are fit for Lok Adalat they are suggested to settle by their Judges by the method of Conciliation. The members of Lok Adalat are called conciliator. These conciliators are mostly senior judicial officer, retired judges of the courts, senior advocates and active social workers as well.

After the whole process of conciliation taking place and parties arriving to a settlement, a compromise deed is drawn for the parties and in presence of their lawyers and by willful consent they are made to sign it. After this, this agreement is passed to the presiding officer of the Lok Adalat and if he/she feels it to be justified in its nature and is satisfied by the terms of the compromise, then he/she passes the Decree.

Decree of Lok Adalat

The Decree awarded by the Lok Adalat holds the authority same as of a Decree of a civil court. Decree awarded by Lok Adalat is final in nature is binding in nature. There is no appeal in other courts of this judgement passes and one cannot lie to courts about the judgement of the Lok Adalat.

This judgement of the Lok Adalat cannot be directly appealed but can be challenged in the High Court under the Writ Petition. This means that there is a need to prove that the judgement violates the fundamental rights of either of the parties or some other person associated with the issue. By this method, there is chance to overturn the judgement of Lok Adalat.

Challenges Faced by Lok Adalat

Problems faced by Lok Adalat
Advocates are many a time seen to be reluctant to take up matters in Lok Adalat and prefer classical litigation in courts over it. Even there is a question upon fairness of the judgement in lieu of speedy judgement.

The concept of Lok Adalat is based on concept of compromise or settlement, but if both the parties don't come to same consensus, then the matters go back or are transferred to the court of law. There is also a concern with some of conciliators are not of legal background.

Sometimes there is question on legitimacy of judgement due to absence of procedural laws in the matter hearing which is summarized in manner.

Drawbacks of Lok Adalat

Firstly, the final nature of the Decree awarded by the Lok Adalat is a matter of debate that if it being a drawback. On this matter, my opinion is that it isn't a barrier because it is in line with the purpose of the formation of Lok Adalat, that is end to matters with petty issues, and also there is a provision to overturn its decision as explained above.

There is also an issue which is sometimes taken as drawback of Lok Adalat i.e. procedural laws like CPC and evidence act not being followed. I personally believe it not being a drawback as it is an essential factor for speedy justice which is one of the basic reasons of formation of Lok Adalat.

I believe that appointment of people from non-legal background as conciliator is a serious drawback as their sense of justice is point of question. This question creates a doubt about whether actually justice is being done by Lok Adalats or not? Non-legal background lack the knowledge of Jurisprudence, hence the idea for justice for them is matter of concern.

Empirical data
In total till date, the Lok Adalat in India has disposed over 8.48 Lakh cases since its inception and the total settlement value stands at 1,317 crore rupees.
While writing this blog in 2022, the Lok Adalat till 12/03/2022 has disposed 53,59,481 cases only in the year 2022 and the settlement value for the same stands up total Rs. 77,95,359.

Discussing about Lok Adalat in detail, I come to the conclusion that Lok Adalat as a method of Alternate Dispute Resolution is a very successful mechanism to provide justice in the country. This mechanism stands up successful in most of the expectations and needs that led to its inception. As no system is perfect, this also needs some amendments and changes to be implemented in itself to deliver justice to the citizens in an efficient, cost-free and truthful manner.

Further this method is very suitable for Indian society as it resolves the matter through the method of conciliation and hence brings both the parties in a position to compromise. Indian society values relations and bondings more than rights and obtaining justice out of courts. Hence this also promotes the conservative Indian people to resolve disputes in legal manner without going to 'court kacheri'.

The most interesting part of this method of ADR is that you have both the freedom to overturn the decision through Writ and that its decree is otherwise unchallengeable in any court and is final in nature.

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