Lok Adalat is a forum where the disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably. The Lok Adalat has been given statutory status5 under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Under the said Act, the award made by the Lok Adalat is deemed to be the decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal lies before any court against its award.
The problem of unmanaged backlog of cases, mounting arrears and inordinate delay in disposal of cases in Courts at all levels lowest to the highest coupled with exorbitant expenses have undoubtedly attracted the attention of not only the lawyers, litigants, social activists, legal academics, legislature, judiciary but also everyone concerned with judicial reforms. The sole governing consideration, therefore, how to reduce the delay in disposal of cases, make the system resilient by removing its stratification, making the system less formal and truly inexpensive so as to bring justice within the reach of the poor.
1. Any case pending before any court
2. Any dispute which has not been brought before any court and is likely to be filed before the court
Provided that any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under the law shall not be settled in Lok Adalat.
How to get the case referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement?
A) Case pending before the court:
1. If the parties agree to settle the dispute in Lok Adalat or
2. One of the parties makes an application to the court or
3. The court is satisfied that that the matter is an appropriate one for settlement in Lok Adalat
B) Any dispute at pre-litigative stage
The State Legal Services Authority or District Legal Services Authority as the case may be on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to any pre-litigation stage matter refer such matter to the Lok Adalat for amicable settlement.
1. There is no court fee and if the court fee is already paid at the time of institution of the case such amount will be refunded to the concerned party if the dispute is resolved by the Lok Adalat. The dispute are settled without bearing any expenses by the parties.
2. Lok Adalats are empowered to settles the both kind of matters which are already pending before courts and which are at pre-litigation stage. The parties have an opportunity to bring the dispute before this institution at any time irrespective of whether the case is instituted in the court of law or not.
3. The procedure followed by Lok Adalat is simple, flexible, non-technical and informal. There is no strict application of procedural laws like Civil Procedure Code and Evidence Act while determining the claims of the parties by Lok Adalat.
4. The lawyers are not essential to be appeared during the conciliation process of Lok Adalat. However, they can assist the Lok Adalat in its proceeding by helping the parties to understand contentious issues and available alternatives and can persuade them to arrive at a settlement of the dispute.
5. It dispenses justice to the disputants through collaborative and participatory efforts of lawyers, law teachers, judges, administrative authorities and social workers who actively participate in the resolution of the dispute by discussion, counselling, persuasion, conciliation and humane approach.
6. Lok Adalat provides justice speedily to the parties, generally, when it resolve the cases in a single day. In this sense it helps to reduce the huge arrears in courts of law.
7. The award of Lok Adalat is final and binding. There are no further appeals, revisions or review applications. Therefore, the dispute ordinarily comes to an end.
8. The Lok Adalat system helps to create awareness among the people about their rights and duties mentioned in numerous social and welfare legislations. Lok Adalats are organized at various places such as villages, slum areas, industrial areas, labour colonies, towns and in jails, etc. In this way, it takes justice at the door-steps of the people.
9. The Lok Adalat settle the dispute on the basis of compromise and in the spirit of 'give and take'. Thus, there is neither a victor nor a vanquished and both the contestants are gainers and winners. They leave the premises smiling with no rancor or ill feeling for the other which ultimately leads to happiness and well-being of the society. So, the drive behind the Lok Adalat is the roused consciousness of the community to prevent disruption of local unity and to secure substantial equity and social justice, in a mood of human solidarity.
Permanent Lok Adalat has to be established by the National legal Services Authority or the State Legal Services Authorities. It shall have three members; the Chairman, who is or has been a District Judge or an Additional District Judge or has held a judicial office higher in rank than that of a District Judge and two other members having adequate experience in public utility service. Such persons shall be appointed by the State or the Central Authority, as the case may be, upon nomination by the respective Governments. But at the same time, such nomination shall be on the recommendation of the Central or the State authority. Section 22-C (3) provides that when an application is filed written statements with appropriate proof, including documents and other evidence. Copies of documents produced and statements made by the parties shall be given to each other. Therefore, PLA shall conduct conciliation proceedings between the parties to bring about an amicable settlement to the dispute. It is the primary duty of PLA as per Section 22-C (4). While conducting such conciliation proceedings, it is incumbent on the members of PLA to assist the parties to reach an amicable settlement.
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