JUDICIAL RECOGNITION OF LOK ADALAT

Introduction

Conflicts and disputes lead to consumption of capital, valuable time, effort etc.  It is very important and significant that conflict must not arise in society. But that is near to impossible as people live together in a society and there is the possibility of conflicts and disputes arising between them. So, the solution to this problem is that when any conflict arises its head, it must be nipped from the bud. In the majority of the countries, the judicial system is overburdened with many cases. Any recent case which arises takes a prolonged time to be determined. And in the meantime, till the judgement regarding the case has been taken, a state of unpredictability and desolation arises which makes any activity near to impossible. Since a long duration of time is taken to resolve disputes through litigation, a number of things get affected like the commerce, development work, administration, and business.

In order to solve conflicts and disputes without getting involved in lawyers, courts and litigation majority of the countries rely on supplementary or alternative forms of dispute resolution. In India, the practice of these methods has been there at root levels for a long time as tradition and history. These practices are called panchayat and in legal nomenclature, these are called arbitration. In India, these are used extensively to resolve both commercial and non-commercial conflicts.  Another alternative method for dispute resolution practised in India is Lok Adalat technicalities. Also, the use of methods like mediation, conciliation, and negotiation to resolve the dispute are increasing instead of going for litigation.

Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat is based on the principles by Mahatma Gandhi generally known as Gandhian Principles. Lok Adalat has been there in India since its ancient times. Popularly it was called panchayat and in legal nomenclature, it is called arbitration. Lok Adalat is one of the forms of Alternate Dispute Resolution. Since in the modern era Lok Adalat gained much popularity as it is cost-effective, speedy and result giving, it got statutory recognition through the Legal Services Authorities Act[1]. Legal Services Authorities Act construct the statutory provisions in connection to the functioning and organisation of Lok Adalat.

The Taluk Legal Service Committee or High Court or the Supreme Court of the State or District Legal Services Authority can arrange Lok Adalat at specific timings and places, and it also decides on the jurisdiction for such areas which it thinks fit upon its own discretion. The NALSA[2] besides legal institutions other than NALSA conducts Lok Adalat. It was formed under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The Act came into force from 9th November 1995 to set up a countrywide consistent network to give competent and chargeless legal services to the poorer and feeble sections of the community.

Jurisdiction

Lok Adalat has the authority to decide over cases that are pending in any court or the matter on which the case is must be falling under the jurisdiction of Lok Adalat and the case must not have been brought to the court earlier.

Any case which has been brought before a court but the decision regarding the matter has not been given, can be resolved by Lok Adalat only if both the party to the case agrees upon resolving the dispute in Lok Adalat or if any one of the parties apply for appeal in the Lok Adalat to solve the dispute or if the court deems fit that the matter in the dispute can be solved in Lok Adalat.

Cases related to issues involving marriage, Labour disputes, Acquisition of land, Divorce, criminal cases, family disputes, bankruptcy cases and other similar cases can be brought to Lok Adalat. Nonetheless, Lok Adalat will not have the authority to give judgement over any case or matter relating to a case that is not covered under any law. In other words, cases that cannot be covered under any law fall outside Lok Adalat.

Powers

Lok Adalat will have the similar power as a Civil Court have under the Code of Civil Procedure[3]. Lok Adalat has the alike authority to give judgement as a civil court has as per the Code of Civil Procedure.

Whatsoever award is given by the Lok Adalat in a case and whatever decision has been given by Lok Adalat will have the similar effect as if the award and the decision is given by any other court or a civil court. The decision given by Lok Adalat will be final and the award given by it will be binding on both the parties to the case that has been brought before the Lok Adalat. An appeal cannot be filed in any court against the release of Lok Adalat.

Benefits of Lok Adalat over Litigation

In Lok Adalat, the dispute settlement takes place outside the court. People mostly prefer that their matter could be resolved in this kind of settlement. Most people fear to prefer court litigation not because only of the delay in procedure but also for the financial burden one has to go through the process. One of the main reasons for the formation of Lok Adalat was to give fair, equitable and accessible justice to the financially backward people of our country. Although the government have taken steps to provide legal aid to the poor, there is a probability of monetary loss for which many people prefer Lok Adalat. In Lok Adalat there is no Court fee and if a pending case is solved in Lok Adalat and Lok Adalat give its decision then the fees given to the court earlier will be refunded.

In Lok Adalat, there is a speedy trial, and the procedures are flexible. There is no stern solicitation of the rules of procedure during the examination of Lok Adalat’s claim. In Lok Adalat, Parties to the case can give suggestions and advice to the judge of Lok Adalat. But this is not possible in general regular courts. The award and decision given by the Lok Adalat are non-transferable due to which the dispute brought to Lok Adalat is resolved without delay of time and effectively.

Judicial recognition of Lok Adalat

The objective of Lok Adalat is to solve cases in a short time, effectively and efficiently through means of Negotiation, conciliation, and a convincing and humane approach to solve the problems of opponents.

In a case, High Court ruled that the provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act shall prevail in the matter of an appeal and the appeal shall not be subject to the provisions of Section 96 CPC. Lok Adalat is made under private law and if this award is made by Lok Adalat, the right to appeal shall be governed by the provisions of the Act. Under Section 21(2) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, no appeal may be lodged with this award under Section 96 CPC. The Court further stated that “It may also be seen that the Code of Civil Procedure does not provide for an appeal under a decision under Section 96 against a permit. Such a Court may not be given permission to be knocked down, chiefly under the Legal Services Authorities Act, as it would be tantamount to defeat the very purpose of the Act, and that is why we, therefore, the Appeal stands invalid.”[4]

The High Court of Andhra Pradesh in a case held that the award of Lok Adalat is enforced as a decision and is final. The objective is clearly to bring down the number of disputes, and a final agreement is reached so that the disputing parties can no longer continue to pursue cases or any dispute. Although the release of Lok Adalat is not the outcome of a competency contest as regular litigation by the Court in a common case by a Court in a recurring case, it is, however, equitable and consistent with a moderate decision and will have the same binding and complete effect.

The fact is the decision on the consent is intended to suspend the trial between the parties as is the case with the decision from the Court’s decision after the matter was extended to the end.[5]

Conclusion

Lok Adalat has been there in India for ages in form of panchayat and it is there for a cause. In today’s world where no one has time to even rest, everyone wants disputes to be solved within a short span of time and effectively. The key to this is Lok Adalat. Also, in India as a significant part of the population is a poor and weaker section of the community, they could not afford to get justice through litigation. Here also Lok Adalat will be a boon and this section of the community will be able to get justice as it is their right and will be able to uplift this section of people. In the present world, alternate dispute resolution is very successful and Lok Adalat is one of the forms. Though Lok Adalat has certain disadvantages Lok Adalat is a need in India to provide justice throughout the country.

Author(s) Name: Ankita Sahoo (KIIT School of Law, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar)

References:

[1] Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

[2] National Legal Services Authority.

[3] Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

[4] Punjab National Bank v. Lakshmichand Rai, AIR 2000 MP 301, 2000 (2) MPHT 25.

[5] Board of Trustees of the Port of Visakhapatnam v. Presiding Officer, 2000 (5) ALD 682, 2000 (5) ALT 577.

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