About Lok Adalat
- Lok Adalat (people’s courts) is a body established by the government to settle disputes through conciliation and compromise.
- Lok Adalat is an alternative method of dispute resolution. It is a forum where disputes or cases pending in the court of law or at the pre-litigation stage are settled amicably.
- Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- Under the Act, the award made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal lies against such an award before any court of law.
- If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat, though there is no provision for an appeal against such an award, they are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case by following the required procedure, in exercise of their right to litigate.
No judicial role
- The persons deciding the cases in the Lok Adalats are called the Members of the Lok Adalats, they have the role of statutory conciliators only and do not have any judicial role; therefore they can only persuade the parties to come to a conclusion for settling the dispute outside the court in the Lok Adalat and shall not pressurize or coerce any of the parties to compromise or settle cases or matters either directly or indirectly.
- The Lok Adalat shall not decide the matter so referred at its own instance, instead the same would be decided on the basis of the compromise or settlement between the parties. The members shall assist the parties in an independent and impartial manner in their attempt to reach amicable settlement of their dispute.
Nature of Cases to be Referred to Lok Adalat
- Any case pending before any court.
- 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.
- Compoundable offences are those that can be compromised, i.e. the complainant can agree to take back the charges levied against the accused, whereas, non – compoundable offences are the more serious offences in which the parties cannot compromise.
How to Get the Case Referred to the Lok Adalat for Settlement?
- 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 at a pre-litigation stage may refer such matter to the Lok Adalat for amicable settlement of the dispute for which notice would then be issued to the other party.
Composition of Lok Adalats
- The Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, with two other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker.
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) along with other Legal Services Institutions (such as State Legal Services Authority, District Legal Services Authority, Taluk Legal Services Committee) conducts Lok Adalats at different levels.
National Lok Adalat
- National Level Lok Adalats are held for at regular intervals where on a single day Lok Adalats are held throughout the country, in all the courts right from the Supreme Court till the Taluk Levels wherein cases are disposed off in huge numbers.
Permanent & Mobile Lok Adalat
- Permanent Lok Adalats have been set up as permanent bodies with a Chairman and two members for providing compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of cases relating to Public Utility Services like transport, postal, telegraph etc.
- Mobile Lok Adalats are also organized in various parts of the country which travel from one location to another to resolve disputes in order to facilitate the resolution of disputes through this mechanism.
Need of Lok Adalat
- India now has almost 4 crore pending cases spanning the Supreme Court, various high courts and the numerous district and subordinate courts, according to written replies submitted by the Ministry of Law and Justice in Parliament.
- Thus, traditional Courts in India have become infamous for delays and its rigid procedural rules and expensiveness of litigation processes.
- The Lok Adalat was conceptualized due to the drawbacks of the Indian legal system to provide efficient, effective, and low cost justice.
- The evolution of this concept was a part of the plan to relieve the heavy burden on the Courts.
- The Lok Adalat is not bound by rigid procedural aspects of Criminal Procedure Code.
- There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat. If a matter pending in the court of law is referred to the Lok Adalat and is settled subsequently, the court fee originally paid in the court on the complaints/petition is also refunded back to the parties.
- Lok-Adalat provides fast and inexpensive remedy with legal status.
Why in News?
- A National Lok Adalat is set to be held across India on September 11.
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is a statutory body constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- It came into force in 1995.
- It was enacted by the Parliament to give effect to Article 39 A of the Constitution of India which guarantees free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that they are not denied access to justice by reason of economic or other disability.
- The NALSA is headed by the Chief Justice of India as its Patron-in-Chief, the second senior most judge of the Supreme Court is the Executive Chairman.
- In every State, the State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
- The State Legal Services Authority is headed by the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
- In every District, the District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.