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LOK
ADALAT
SEMINAR COURSE IV

ZIAUL HAQ
X SEMESTER,SECTION B, B.A.LL.B.(Hons.)
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I owe my profound gratitude to our CLINICAL COURSE III teacher Prof. Dr.
Nuzhat Parveen Khan, who took keen interest in my research work guided me
all along, till the completion of my project by providing all necessary
information for the research report.

I am thankful and fortunate enough to get constant encouragement, support and


guidance from all teaching staff of Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia which
helped me in successfully completing my research work. Also, I would like to
extend my sincere regards to all the non-teaching staff of Faculty of Law, Jamia
Millia Islamia and Indian Law Institute.

ZIAUL HAQ

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CONTENTS

 Introduction
 Meaning of Lok Adalat
 Need for ADR
 Method of ADR
 History of Lok Adalat in India
 Salient features of Lok Adalat
 Benefits of Lok Adalat
 Procedure
 Legislation relating to Lok Adalat
 Finality of award
 Future and challenges
 Organisation of Lok Adalat
 Jurisdiction of Lok Adalats
 Powers of Lok Adalat
 Permanent Lok Adalat – meaning
 Organisational structure of permanent Lok Adalat
 Criticism of permanent Lok Adalat
 Important precedents
 Significance of Lok Adalat
 Criticism of Lok Adalat
 Conclusion

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INTRODUCTION

The roots of the present day human institutions lie deeply buried in the past.
The same is true about the countries law and legal institutions. The legal system
of a country at a given time is not the creation of one man or of one day, rather
it represents the cumulative fruit of the endeavour, experience and consistent
thoughtful planning. Therefore to understand and appreciate the present legal
system adequately, it is necessary to acquire a background and knowledge of
the course of its growth and development.1 It is wrong not to lay the lessons of
the past before the future. History illuminates present and the present will
illuminate the future.2

1
M.P Jain, Outlines of Indian Legal History, 5th Ed. (1990)
2
Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm, p. VII.
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Peace is the sine qua non for development. Disputes and conflicts dissipate
valuable time, effort and money of the society. It is of utmost importance that
there should not be any conflict in the society. But, in a realistic sense, this is
not possible. So, the next best solution is that any conflict which raises its head
is nipped in the bud. With the judicial system in most of the countries being
burdened with cases, any new case takes a long time to be decided. And, till the
time the final decision comes, there is a state of uncertainty, which makes any
activity almost impossible. Commerce, business, development work,
administration, etc., all suffer because of long time taken in resolving disputes
through litigation.

To get out of this maze of litigation, Courts and lawyers’ chambers; most of the
countries encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution. India has a long
tradition and history of such methods being practised in the society at grass
roots level. These are called panchayat and in the legal terminology, these are
called arbitration. These are widely used in India for resolution of disputes both
commercial and non-commercial. Other alternative methods being used are Lok
Adalat (People’s Court), where justice is dispensed summarily without too
much emphasis on legal technicalities. Methods like negotiation, mediation and
conciliation are being increasingly used to resolve disputes instead of going for
litigation. There have been recent amendments in the procedural law of India to
incorporate these methods so that people get justice in a speedy manner and
there is lesser conflict in the society.

The Constitution of India guarantees ‘Right to Constitutional Remedies’ as a


fundamental right. The Government provides free legal aid to the needy.
However, in a country of continental dimensions and with population more than
a billion, it becomes very difficult to provide free legal aid to everyone. The
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is trying to spread ‘legal literacy’
which is a step more than ‘literacy’. People care about their rights much more
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when they are aware and are ‘legal literate’. Efforts are also being done at
provincial level. All these efforts seem to be a small drop in the ocean, but small
drops make mighty oceans.

Mahatma Gandhi,3 the Father of the Nation, wrote in his autobiography about
the role of law and lawyer, “I had learnt the practice of law. I had learnt to
find out the better side of human nature, and to enter men’s hearts. I realised
that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven as under. The lesson
was so indelibly burnt into me that the large part of my time during the twenty
years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private
compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby not even money,
certainly not my soul.” Any conflict is like cancer. The sooner it is resolved the
better for all the parties concerned in particular and the society in general. If it is
not resolved at the earliest possible opportunity, it grows at a very fast pace and
with time the effort required to resolve it increases exponentially as new issues
emerge and conflicting situations galore. One dispute leads to another. Hence, it
is essential to resolve the dispute the moment it raises its head. The method to
achieve this goal must be agreeable to both the parties and it should achieve the
goal of resolving the dispute speedily. This state of uncertainty and
indecisiveness should be as brief as possible to avoid all psychological, physical
and mental losses.

The Constitution of India has defined and declared the common goal for its
citizens as “to secure to all the citizens of India, justice, social, economic and
political; liberty; equality and fraternity”. The eternal value of constitutionalism
is the rule of law which has three facets i.e. rule by law, rule under law and rule
accordingly to law. How to secure to all the citizens the justice which the
Constitution talks about is a big question being faced by the judiciary. The
Courts dockets are overloaded and new cases are being filed every day. It is
3
Gandhi, M. K., The Law and the Lawyers, Navjivan Trust, Ahmedabad, India, 1962, Reprint 2001, page 258
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becoming humanly impossible to decide all these cases by the regular Courts in
a speedy manner. And, this is not the situation in India alone. This,
unfortunately, is the situation in a large number of jurisdictions.

MEANING OF LOK ADALAT:

The expression Lok Adalat comprises two words, namely, ‘Lok’ and ‘Adalat’
the former expressing the concept of public opinion while the latter denoting the
accurate and through deliberation aspect of decision making. It is a non-formal
forum organised by public spirited social workers like retired judges, public
spirited lawyers, and law teachers for bringing about settlement of disputes
between the parties through conciliatory and mediatory efforts. One important
condition is that both parties in dispute must agree for settlement through Lok
Adalat and abide by its decision.

Except matters relating to offences, which are non-compoundable, a Lok Adalat


has jurisdiction to deal with all matters. Matters pending or at pre-trial stage,
provided a reference is made to it by a court or by the concerned authority or
committee may be referred to Lok Adalat. Parliament enacted the Legal
Services

Authorities Act, 1987, and one of the aims for the enactment of this enactment
was to organise Lok Adalat to secure that the operation of legal system
promotes justice on the basis of an equal opportunity.

Lok Adalat is a system of alternative dispute resolution developed in India. It


roughly means "People's court". The system of Lok Adalats is an improvement
and is based on the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. Lok Adalat is a non-
adversarial system, whereby mock courts (called Lok Adalats) are held by the
State Authority, District Authority, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee,

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High Court Legal Services Committee, or Taluk Legal Services Committee.
They are held periodically for exercising such jurisdiction as they determine.
These are usually presided over by retired judges, social activists, or other
members of the legal profession.

The Lok Adalats can deal with all Civil Cases, Matrimonial Disputes, Land
Disputes, Partition/Property Disputes, Labour Disputes etc., and compoundable
criminal Cases. Cases that are pending in regular courts can be transferred to a
Lok Adalat if both the parties agree. A case can also be transferred to a Lok
Adalat if one party applies to the court and the court sees some chance of
settlement after the other party has been given an opportunity of being heard.
Lok Adalat is a boon to the litigant public, where they can get their disputes
settled fast and free of cost. Criminal cases are out of the purview of Lok Adalat
with an exception.

Lok adalats or Lok Nyayalay means a place of justice for common man in
common parlance, Lok Adalat means a people’s court. However, strictly
speaking a Lok Adalat is not a court in its accepted connotations; as understood
by jurists. But the common people may find attributes of courts in Lok Adalats.
It is a new system of dispensation of justice which has come into existence to
grapple with the problem of giving cheap and speedy justice to the people.
Generally speaking Lok Adalat is a para-judicial institution being developed by
the people themselves, still its infancy, trying to find an appropriate structure
and procedure in the struggle of the common people for justice. It is a forum
where the parties to the dispute by, by voluntary efforts, aim at bringing about
settlement through convivial and persuasive efforts.4

Lok Adalat is not a substitute for a present judicial system but is constituted as a
substitute to it with a view to curtail the mounting arrears and to reduce the

4
Alternative Dispute Resolution, Legal Aid News Letter, May-August (1990).
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speed of new institutions.5 The Lok Adalats cannot be dubbed as a substitute to
the present judicial system because as a matter of fact they do not decide cases,
they merely resolve them by persuading parties by explaining to them
advantage of compromising a case. It is a forum where the entire dilatory
procedure of adverbial litigation is bypassed.6

The drive behind the Lok Adalat is to rouse the consciousness of the community
to prevent disruption of mutual and local unity and to secure equitable and
substantial justice. The amicable settlements by the Lok Adalats are not
necessarily according to the legal principles. They have their eyes on social
goals like ending feuds rather pending disputes, restoring peace in the family,
community and the locality and ultimately providing for destitute law or no
law7, and also inculcating a nature of amicable settlement of disputes among the
people. It is really an institution to serve the poor by means of dispensing justice
for the reason that the poor need to go out of his village, spend hard earned
money and waste weeks and months in town in litigation and be exploited by
lawyers.8

The forum of Lok Adalat is contrived to enable the common people to ventilate
their grievances against the state agencies or against other citizens and to seek a
just settlement if possible. In order to ensure that the settlement is expedient,
fair, just and according to good conscience and at the same time not violative of
law, the Lok Adalat implies resolution of people dispute by discussion,
counselling, persuasion and conciliation. It precisely implies speedy and cheap
justice and to common man at his door step.9 Mutually agreed settlements

5
Paras Diwan, Justice at the door step of the people, The Lok Adalat System, AIR 1991, Journal section, 85 at
86
6
Ibid.
7
Legal Aid newsletter, May-August, 1990.
8
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Social Justice-Sunset or Dawn? (1987).
9
Paras Diwan, Justice at the door step of the people, The Lok Adalat System, AIR 1991, Journal section, 85 at 86

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arrived at by the disputants in the Lok Adalat contribute to the greater social
solidarity and better cohesion among litigants.10

The Lok Adalat system may be visualized not as a substitute for the present law
courts but can become the additional and complimentary arm for existing
judicial system.11

Judiciary through the activist approach has tried to revive the old strategy of
conciliation for amicable settlement of dispute. Lok Adalats can thus be termed
as conciliation courts and are basically judicial-aided and judge-guided
strategies evolved to save time in obtaining justice and clear the backlog of
arrears of cases.

The techniques of conciliation may be divided in terms of number of parties


involved in the process of conflict resolution into Bipartite and Tripatite
techniques. Whenever a conflict arises between the parties, they try to resolve
the conflict and differences bilaterally through negotiations without the aid of
third party. When this bipartite technique fails then the disputants resort to
tripartite techniques. The tripartite techniques take different forum based upon
the voluntary and statutory compulsion-persuasion to invite the third party to
help negotiations but with no compulsions to accept the solution offered by the
third party. In other words, the third party’s view will not be binding as an
award. The bipartite and tripartite techniques of dispute settlement include the
collective bargaining conciliation, fact finding, arbitration and adjudication.

The basic objective of the Lok Adalat is to friendly overcome the differences
and hostility. They try to bring about a solution, which is acceptable to both the
parties by the intervention of the third party.

10
Professor N.R. Madhava Menon, “Lok Adalat: People’s Programme for Speedy Justice”, Indian Bar Review
Vol. 13(2): 1986, p.129 at p.132, also see Upendra Baxi, Towards a Sociology of Indian Law, (1985), p. 90
11
ibid
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The main characteristics of the Lok Adalats by conciliation process are:

 It is amicable and peaceful method of settlement of disputes;


 It is bipartite, as well as tripartite technique for the resolution of the
dispute;
 The third party to the dispute i.e. mediator or conciliator is either invited
by one party or both the parties voluntarily or compulsorily to assist them
to mutually arrive at an agreement or compromises;
 The third party conciliator is not arbitrator, whose award decision may be
binding;
 The conciliator must establish himself as a neutral, experienced,
intelligent, objective and benevolent participant in the efforts of the
parties to negotiate settlement, knowing fully well, that he does not have
a feeling of irritation and frustration in the event of no settlement;
 The method adopted by the third party is of persuasion, legal and factual
guidance, advice, mutual give and take;
 The decision of the conciliator is of recommendatory nature; in some
cases, when both the parties on the issue in the same sense, then the
consent decree may be passed;
 Voluntary acceptance of the solution to the dispute is the essence of the
conciliation. Nothing can be imposed on the parties to the dispute. Power
and authority are the very anti-thesis of the spirit in which really effective
conciliation is carried on;

It is primarily the responsibility of the conciliator that he must keep


negotiation/talks moving towards settlements. For this, he must encourage the
parties to explore fresh avenues and choices, offer suggestions and alternative
proposals, guide the discussions by feeding valuable information etc.

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The true basis of settlement of dispute by the Lok Adalat is the principle of
mutual consent and voluntary acceptance of the solutions with the help of a
conciliator. The basic purpose of the Lok Adalat is not merely to give justice
based on evidence, law and legal know how but the approach is to the very
human problem itself. The concept of Lok Adalat basically revolves around the
principle of creating awareness amongst the poor, innocent, illiterate and
ignorant people to the effect that their welfare and interest really lies in arriving
at immediate and peaceful settlement of their dispute. It is to make them
conscience of the fact that the only suitable remedy with them is in getting rid
of their case by a single decision through compromise which will save not on
their hard earned money but multiplicity of litigation, by being involved in
appeal, review, revision, remand etc. the never ending chain. It is the basic
philosophy of the Lok Adalat to see that the tension, enmity, disquietitude of the
party are shunned by resolution of their case. Lok Adalat is to generate an
environment of friendship by making the people to understand that their relief
lies not in enmity by winning the case but by resolution in mutual friendship
and brotherhood. It will create an atmosphere of goodwill amongst the parties
which in ultimate analysis will bring peace in the society at large.

The main aim of Lok Adalat is humanitarian aspect and the basic purpose of
Lok Adalat is not to impose the justice but the people are awakened to their own
rights and duties vis-à-vis the rights and duties of others. There is a rational
thinking on the part of both the parties to the dispute without going towards
adversary system of proving or disapproving guilt. It is seeing that both the
parties accept a solution as agreed to by them or suggested by the third party i.e.
mediator or conciliator, appointed by the Lok Adalats or by the parties
themselves. Actually none of the disputant is held totally guilty or totally
innocent. When a dispute or conflict is resolved between two parties through
conciliation then a via-media is arrived at on the give and take basis the court

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acts as middle agencies in finding out a solution which is beneficial and
agreeable top both the parties. The procedure and results are really determined
in a significant manner by the attitude of the disputants.

Lok Adalat works on the equitable principle rather than legal and technical
considerations. It is not purely judicial in character. Lok Adalat tries to inculcate
the sense of reasoning in the minds of disputants by having deep insight into
their minds after the study of their psychology, their leanings and prejudices.

Since, Lok Adalats are not having any statutory basis, so there is no hierarchy
and jurisdictional limitations on the working of the Lok Adalats. In contrast to
traditional courts, the judges of Lok Adalats are not appointed by the
government directly but are nominated by the Legal Aid and Advices
Committee constituted in respective States. The city Lok Adalats function under
the overall supervision of the Chairman, Legal Aid and Advice Committee. The
Chairman appoints one or more service minded lawyers as convenors. The
convenors make all arrangement for the place, where the sitting of Lok Adalat
takes place and is in charge of its conduct till its conclusion.12

The Lok Adalat comprises of a team of counsellors, retired judicial, revenue


administrative officers, advocates, academicians, social workers, etc. The team
of conciliator for Lok Adalats comprises not less than three and not more than
five members.13 The Adalats are arranged periodically at different places. There
are no permanent court premises for resolution of disputes through Lok Adalats.
These are organized temporarily for a single day either in traditional court
premises or in universities class rooms or in other public or private suitable
places.

12
M.R. Saxena “Legal Aid Advice Scheme and Lok Adalat”, AIR 1986 Journal Section, p. 105.
13
Ibid.
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The procedure adopted for the conduct of the working of the Lok Adalats is
altogether different from the procedure followed in the traditional courts. There
are no pecuniary or territorial limitations as noticed earlier. Further, there are no
well defined and demarcated areas where these courts are to exercise their
capabilities to settle the disputes. There is only a single and uniform procedure
to all civil and criminal cases. The procedure is very simple, quick, flexible,
informal and devoid of all technicalities and baffling formalities but moulded in
consonance with the exigencies of the situation.

Lok Adalats are voluntary efforts of judiciary and the litigants. There is no
compulsion to settle the disputes. If the parties agree to decide their disputes,
only then Lok Adalats come into picture, to render help to them. However, the
constitution and the composition of Lok Adalats varies from place to place,
depending on the quantum and nature of cases. Sometimes, these Adalats are
presided over by retired High Court Judges and District Judges. Public can also
participate in it but they must be persons of status and experience. They are
required to possess the patience, tact, intelligence and gentle persuasiveness
needed for dealing with the disputants and bringing them round the settlement
in the spirit of give and take. Presence of lawyer is not required and is not a
must. They are, however, welcomed and not debarred from attending the Lok
Adalats.

The process of negotiation usually starts when both the parties come before the
Lok Adalat. The negotiation is assisted by the volunteers, advocates of both the
parties and judges of the Adalat. They interview the parties and assess the scope
of settlement acceptable to them. Once the settlement is arrived at, it is reduced
to black and white on the spot and parties voluntary agree to be bound by the
decision of the Lok Adalat and the signature of the parties are obtained. Finally,
this agreement is ratified by the respective judges of the local courts where the
case was pending and accordingly a consent decree is passed.
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Thus, the Lok Adalats are very helpful in resolving amicably because there is
neither a cumbersome procedure like that of conventional courts nor evidence is
needed or recorded nor the presence of a lawyer is necessary.

Lok Adalats resolve cases at pre –trial and in-trial level. Most of the cases
decided by them are related to accidents claims, matrimonial reliefs, small
claims for compensation for land acquisitions claims, wages claim, railways
claim, claims relating to goods, municipal claims, compoundable offences,
traffic offences, etc14. Besides these cases other cases decided by them are
revenue cases under the Municipal Act, Shop Act, Forest Act and Weights and
Measures Act.15

One of the distinct advantages of the Lok Adalats strategy is that it can invent
new prospects for resolution of disputes which is not possible under the
conventional justice delivery system. The Lok Adalats can invent a new device
under which both the parties to the dispute can be accommodated. This method
of consensus-decision making can be equally and successfully made applicable
to amicable settlement of individual dispute in the society also. India has open
society, an elected government, a vibrant opposition, a free press and a
independent judiciary, notwithstanding widespread illiteracy and grinding
poverty can successfully achieve the method of ending disputes with consensus
at the basis of arriving the decisions. The concept of Lok Adalat deserves to be
strengthened, developed for preventing litigation, ending pending litigation,
ending the pending litigation and ultimately making Lok Adalat a peace-making
and peace-keeping institution.

To sum up, Lok Adalat contemplates a plate of justice at the door of the
common ma, to settle his dispute at the earliest opportunity and without delay

14
Current Topics 1986, p 413;
15
K.M.H Rayyappa, “Lok Adalats” : Objectives, pre-requisites, strategies and organization, Indian Bar Review,
Vol. 14(4) 1987 p.711 at 713.

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and costs. The Lok Adalats are based on the principles of honesty; fairplay and
moral character as embodied in Indian culture and civilization, with a view to
restore the confidence of a common man in the judicial system. The Lok Adalat
contemplates the justice where strict provisions of the Evidence Act and
Limitation Act are not strictly followed and are relaxed whenever necessary in
the ends of justice. Lok Nyayalaya contemplates to hear and settle the dispute in
the language of the people, in public presence.16 The people’s dispute by the
medium of Lok Adalats are decided by mutually agreed amicable settlements.

Our dream, long cherished dream of justice cannot be achieved by our just wish
but can be achieved if we have burning desire and firm determination and work
for the goal and realize that “Law and Justice for the people, of the people and
by the people” and there alone lies salvation of our shivering, shaking,
shambling, dwindling and fading “Judicial System” which is all in “fumes and
Fire”. We are no doubt at the cross-roads of judicial history.17

It is true that Parliament and State legislature are passing day in and day out
social legislation for the benefit of the poor and weaker sections of the society,
but the real question is whether the poor or the weaker is really benefited to the
desired extent and have meaningful access to the judicial system. The access is
foremost the human right but the problem to access to justice has many
dimensions.

In the broader concept, justice has to cover more than bare court entry and is to
include the access to law makers, lawyers, police, enforcement agencies,
capabilities to pay court fees, the capacity to bare the cost and expenses of the
witnesses ad other incidental expenses and charges, time and energy consuming
factor, as also access to legal information. But the reality is that the poor can
never reach the court because he does not have adequate economic means to

16
Mahabaleshwar N. Morje, “Lok Nyayalay”, AIR 1964 Journal Section 68.
17
Justice Guman Mal Lodha, “Home Delivery System of Justice” AIR 1963 Journal Section 73 at 79.
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meet the travelling expenses, engaging lawyers, paying court fees, spending for
marshalling evidence and so on.

Hence the poor and the downtrodden have in reality no access to justice, and at
the very outset they are, therefore, denied access to legal system by the reason
of their poverty.18 The net result is that the masses have no faith in the justice
delivery system itself, which developed in the last several hundred years, in
British traditions and footprints. By the passage of time, it has really grown
more and more complex both in terms of substance and procedure and the
administration is inadequate to meet the needs of the time with the result that
the grievances like, access, delay, arrears, expenses are only the tips of the
iceberg.19 More so hierarchy of the courts, with appeals, revisions, review
petitions etc. put legal justice beyond the reach of the poor and weaker sections
of the poor and weaker sections of the society. Professional services a
monopoly as lawyers are too dear to be paid and satisfied by the poor.20

The effective access to justice is the basic requirement the most basic human
right- of the system which purports to guarantee legal rights. But rocketing costs
of litigation hanging over the heads of the teeming millions, sustaining
themselves below the poverty line, has for them remained the justice far beyond
the reach of their tiny hands, and has thrown them into merciless hands of
tyranny, inequality, silent sufferance and unheard condemnation. Thus process
to justice is luxuriously laminated and cushioned for those whose purchasing
power and influence knows no bounds.21 In theory access to justice and court is
available to all. It has to be made possible for economically weak to fight the
economically strong in court

18
D.K Sampa, Mediation (1991), p. 3
19
Dhairya Sheel Patil, “Justice Delivery System and Socio-Economic Realities”, Indian Bar Review, Vol. 14(3):
1987, p.373.
20
Manohar Raj Saxena, “Legal Aid Advice Scheme and Lok-Adalat”, AIR 1986 Journal Section 103.
21
S.N. Johri, “Programmes and Movement for Legal Aid to Poor”, AIR 1981 Journal Section 7.
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There are long delays in disposal of cases and disposal of justice, since litigation
is expensive and tiring. The quality of justice dispensed becomes adversely
affected. The elephantine backlog of cases and the enormous congestion in
courts, result in inordinate delays in the administration of justice. As the society
has become more complex and impersonal, the citizens have increasingly turned
to the legal system for the dissolution and solution of their disputes. The result
has been unmanageable burden on the courts. Increased urbanization,
broadening of the government involvement in everyday life of the people and
waning away of non judicial institutions traditionally engaged in dispute
resolution have combined to provide an unprecedented explosion of formal
litigation, resulting in congestion and delay reducing the effectiveness of the
judicial system and the justice has become a distant reality and remote dream. 22

The common reason for the delay in disposal of cases are defective legislation,
hasty an injudicious action by the executive, apathy to solve the problem by
negotiations, inadequacy of judges, lack of administrative training for judicial
officers and meaningful co-operation from the legal profession and litigants.
The main challenge, with which our judiciary is confronted, is huge arrears of
cases pending at different levels at different stages in the courts. The adversary
system, procedural wrangles and multiplicity of appeals, revisions, review and
remands are some of the factors which leave a litigant as bitter frustrated person
while waiting for justice for years.23the adversary system of adjudication breeds
a sort of animosity and bitter hatred in the minds of the disputants, in this kind
of approach, the litigation is considered as a battle and that too a battle of wits
and not for truth between the parties to somehow, won by the litigants. A judge
merely sits as an umpire to enforce the rules of the battle. Consequently, one is
necessarily the victor and other a loser. Victor leaves the court with the sense of

22
Neela Kantho Das, “Restructuring of Judicial Administration in Orissa”, AIR 1991 Journal Section, 132
23
Report of the First Regional Workshop on Legal Literacy through Universities/Colleges held at Shimla.
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pride and vanquished with a sense of humiliation and bitterness. 24 This kind of
approach to the litigation is certainly not fit for the changing needs and values
of society during fast approaching 21st century.

Justice is substantive nourishment for the stomach but for human and soul
emphasis throughout has been that justice must not only be done but it must
appear to have been done.25 Study reveals that our philosophy of justice no
doubt is very rich but our borrowed judicial system is not capable of
implementing it and delivering- resulting in true concept of justice. The great
judge and jurist; Justice Krishna Iyer after his retirement emphasized: “the myth
is that the court of law administers justice, the truth is that they are agents of
injustice”.26 The justice system which developed in the last several hundred
years, in British tradition has not been forsaken even after independence, has
become ever and ever more complex not only in terms of substance but in
procedure and its administration as well.27 Indian Parliament and all the state
legislatures are passing Lawson all conceivable aspects of human life. There are
unending chains of heaps of legislations, rules, notifications, regulation etc,
which make the people baffling about their rights. Bunker Roy is justified when
he says: India has 19th century conditions and 21st century legislation.28 Our
legal system has made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for the law-
abiding citizens. A touch here and a push there, and India may become
ungovernable under the present constitutional set-up.29

The purpose of law and a judicial system is that in the event of the dispute, to
arrive at a conclusion as to on which side the truth is and then to decide
accordingly. One of the important aspect and utility of the system is search for
24
I.P. Massey, “Conciliation through the sub-ordinate courts: A Unique Himachal Experience”
25
Dinesh Chander Mukherjee, “Legal Education for Services to the Poor” AIR 1982, Journal Section pp. 65,66
26
F.S Nariman, “The Judiciary and the Role of Path Finders”, 1987 p. 373
27
Dhairya Sheel Patil, “Justice Delivery System and Socio-Economic Realities”, Indian Bar Review, Vol. 14(3):
1987, p.373.
28
Times of India, November 17, 1991, p.6
29
N.A. Palkivala, “We the People” (1988),p. 3
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truth. The spirit of enquiry aiming at search for truth must always be the guiding
principle for all justice system and the laws. The growth of law and
development of jurisprudence through centuries clearly brings out that efforts
are made to find truth in courts of law, though the process of finding truth is not
only very difficult but in courts truth is very poor competitor. It would be a
wonder if in our adversary judicial system; the courts ever succeed in
establishing truth by untutored evidence. In the existing judicial system findings
of facts end with the trial court and first appellate court and the higher court
would not interfere unless perversity of the findings is established to their
satisfaction.

The administration of adversary system of justice necessitates giving twist to


facts and suppressing truth. The Rajasthan study reveals that when a villager has
only outsider as Nyaya Panchas the atmosphere is very similar to that of court
if law where a man could indulge in all sorts of falsehood; sometimes even
under oath with the sense of impunity and without any fear of social conscience
operating against him.30

Our is a country famed for its saints who propagated truth as they perceived.
The spirit of trust Dharma as the basis of our way of life gave to the civilization
and culture a longevity which others lacked and perished, while we still live on
though the skies have been unfavourable to us for centuries.

There is thus a great need to look forward for new methods, means and modes
to settle the disputes. There appears to be deep-felt need to avoid all sorts of
confrontations and adopt peaceful and amicable methods of conciliation with
the hope to maintain peace and amity in the society. 31 Desirability thus is for
introducing changes in the mode , method and even in the forum for settling

30
Upendra Baxi, Towards a Socoilogy of Indian Law, (1985), p. 90
31
I.P. Massey, “Conciliation through the sub-ordinate courts: A Unique Himachal Experience”
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disputes, before the existing judicial system itself is engulfed by its own weight
and debris.32

To quote Justice Bhagwati, “India possessed the large corpus of law; social
justice was yet to percolate to the poor. The poor had lost faith in the capacity of
the courts to deliver justice. Every new law seems to take away something
without giving the poor anything. The poor had begun to feel that law is
repressive.33

The basic principles and underlined idea of Lok Adalats is to provide cheaper
and quicker justice at the door steps to the people. It will not only retrieve the
work load on the regular courts, but also go a long way in settling disputes
outside the forum of courts.

Our present judicial system has badly failed to keep pace with the aspirations of
the people.34 The system is cracking and on the verge of collapse.35 Now blind
folded Dike, the Greek Goddess of justice, and twenty first century goddess of
justice holding a scale of justice even her hand, cannot and need not be blind
folded. Her eyes must be wide open so as to see that justice is being done
between the parties and no one turns its back to justice with bitterness.36

Therefore it is the result of social philosophy of judges, jurists and eminent


scholars that judiciary has entered a new alternative for a in the form of Lok
Adalats.

32
See Justice D.A. Desai, Times of India, January 26, 1986.
33
The Times of India, January 26, 1986.
34
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, “Judicial Justice” (1986)
35
P.n. Bhagwati, Chief Justice remarks at Law Day Function in Delhi,1986
36
Parkash Narain, “Role of Supreme Courts and its Effectiveness of Judicial Remedies”
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NEED FOR ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION:

With the evolution of modern States and over by trained adjudicators entrusted
with the responsibilities of resolution of disputes on the part of the State. The
seekers of justice approach the Courts of justice with pain and anguish in their
hearts on having faced legal problems and having suffered physically or
psychologically. They do not take the law into their own hands as they believe
that they would get justice from the Courts at the end and on some day. It is the
obligation of judiciary to deliver quick and inexpensive justice shorn of the
complexities of procedure.

However, the reality is that it takes a very long time to get justice through the
established Court system. Obviously, this leads to a search for alternative
complementary and supplementary mechanism to the process of the traditional
Civil Court for inexpensive, expeditious and less cumbersome and, also, less
stressful resolution of disputes. But, the elements of judiciousness, fairness,
equality and compassion cannot be allowed to be sacrificed at the altar
of expeditious disposal. The hackneyed saying is that ‘justice delayed is justice
denied’. But justice has to be imparted: ‘justice cannot be hurried to be buried’.
The cases have to be “decided” and not just “disposed of”. This creates the
dilemma of providing speedy and true justice. This is easier said than done. The
Indian judiciary is held in very high esteem in all the developing as well as the
developed countries of the world. However, there is criticism that the Indian
judiciary is unable to clear the backlog of cases.

Available and relevant statistics would show that though the pendency of cases
is always highlighted, what is never spoken of are the figures of annual filing
and disposal. During the years 2001-2004, on an average, the subordinate
Courts have disposed of 13 million cases every year while the High Courts have
disposed of 1.5 million cases per year.

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The Fast Track Courts have disposed of 370,000 cases during the same period.
The Supreme Court of India is disposing of about 50,000 cases per year. The
law Courts are confronted with four main problems: a) the number of Courts
and Judges in all grades are alarmingly inadequate) increase in flow of cases in
recent years due to multifarious Acts enacted by the Central and State
Governments) 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) delay
in disposal of cases resulting in huge pendency in all the Courts. These
problems do not have an instant solution. For each problem, there are a number
of reasons which need to be tackled, however, it requires a lot of time and will
power on the part of the leaders of the nation. Till the time it is done, the
country has to move on. Disputes will keep emerging and if not resolved, they
shall keep on piling making life difficult for everyone in the society.

In every civilisation, and India is no exception, pursuit of justice is instinctive. It


is an individual and societal instinct and every society strives to attain it through
its legal system. The degree of perfection attained by legal system may
be measured by the extent to which it exists in good instinct for justice system
to express itself and to find its fulfilment. Not every legal system succeeds in
this goal. Sometimes a legal system fails to achieve its purpose because of
defects and deficiencies in its substantive laws and sometimes mainly because
of its procedural rules’ infirmities. Fortunately, the judicial system in India is
well organised with high level of integrity, and has been able to develop a
system of ADR.

ADR has become a global necessity. In recent times, methods of alternative


dispute resolution have emerged as one of the most significant movements as a
part of conflict management and judicial reform. The entire legal fraternity
lawyers, students, Judges and legislators all over the world have started
viewing disputers solution in a new perspective. Many more alternatives to the
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litigation have emerged. ADR is now an integral part of modern legal practice
and jurisprudence.

METHOD OF ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RETIOSOLUN:

Litigation does not always lead to a satisfactory result. It is expensive in terms


of time and money. A case won or lost in a Court of law does not change the
mindset of the litigants who continue to be adversaries and go on fighting in
appeal after appeal.

Alternate dispute resolution systems enable the change in mental approach of


the parties. When a person goes to Court, he knows that he shall win all or lose
all. Whereas, when he opts for any method of ADR or for informal settlement,
he knows fully well that he may not get all that he wants, but he will not lose
everything. The main methods of ADR are negotiation, mediation, conciliation
and arbitration. Lok Adalat is a fine blend of all.

Conciliation is often held to be a constructive approach to disputes which are


justifiable in nature. Though the term ‘conciliator’ is interchangeable with the
term ‘mediator’, yet there are differences between these two positions. A
mediator is usually taken to be a person accepted by the disputants themselves
and his role is to help them reach a negotiated settlement of their disputes. He
may see each party privately and listen to its viewpoint and impress upon each
party to understand the view point of each party. His principal task is to bring
the parties together so that they can arrive at an agreed solution to the dispute.
On the other hand, a conciliator himself draws up the terms of an agreement for
settlement after having detailed discussion with the parties to the dispute.

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Generally conciliation is made through a conciliator or conciliation committee.
Like a mediator the primary duty of a conciliator is also to help the parties to a
dispute reach an amicable settlement. Each party is invited to a conciliation
conference to place their view points before the conciliator who takes notes and
gets clarified on any complicated issue. The conciliator after the conclusion of
the conference may talk to each party separately and ascertain their “bottom
line”, that is the figure at which each would be prepared to settle.

The conciliator will thereafter propose a solution to the parties. Conciliation and
mediation differ from arbitration as the former two methods do not result in a
binding or enforceable settlement without any statutory sanction.

HISTORY OF ADR AND LOK ADALAT IN INDIA:

ADR has been an integral part of our historical past. Like the zero, the concept
of Lok Adalat (Peoples’ Court) is an innovative Indian contribution to the world
jurisprudence. The institution of Lok Adalat in India, as the very name suggests,
means, People’s Court. “Lok” stands for “people” and the vernacular meaning
of the term “Adalat” is the Court.

India has a long tradition and history of such methods being practised in the
society at grass roots level. These are called panchayat and in the legal
terminology, these are called arbitration. These are widely used in India for
resolution of disputes both commercial and non-commercial. Other alternative
methods being used are Lok Adalat (People’s Court), where justice is dispensed
summarily without too much emphasis on legal technicalities. It has been
proved to be a very effective alternative to litigation. Lok Adalat is one of
the fine and familiar forums which has been playing an important role in
settlement of disputes.

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The ancient concept of settlement of dispute through mediation, negotiation or
through arbitral process known as “Peoples’ Court verdict” or decision of
“Nyaya-Panch” is conceptualized and institutionalized in the philosophy of Lok
Adalat. Some people equate Lok Adalat to conciliation or mediation, some treat
it with negotiations and arbitration. Those who find it different from all these,
call it “Peoples’ Court”. It involves people who are directly or indirectly
affected by dispute resolution.

The salient features of this form of dispute resolution are participation,


accommodation, fairness, expectation, voluntariness, neighbourliness,
transparency, efficiency and lack of animosity. The concept of Lok Adalat
was pushed back into oblivion in last few centuries before independence and
particularly during the British regime. Now, this concept has, once again, been
rejuvenated. It has, once again, become very popular and familiar amongst
litigants. This is the system which has deep roots in Indian legal history and its
close allegiance to the culture and perception of justice in Indian ethos.

This concept is, now, again very popular and is gaining historical momentum.
Experience has shown that it is one of the very efficient and important ADRs
and most suited to the Indian environment, culture and societal interests. Lok
Adalats have worked very well and satisfactorily in our country.

Camps of Lok Adalat were started initially in Gujarat in March, 1982 and now
it has been extended throughout the Country. The evolution of this movement
was a part of the strategy to relieve heavy burden on the Courts with pending
cases. The reason to create such camps were only the pending cases and to give
relief to the litigants who were in aqueue to get justice.

The first Lok Adalat was held on March 14, 1982 at Junagarh in Gujarat the
land of Mahatma Gandhi. Lok Adalats have been very successful in settlement
of motor accident claim cases, matrimonial/family disputes, labour disputes,
26 | P a g e
disputes, relating to public services such as telephone, electricity, bank recovery
cases and so on .Some statistics may give us a feeling of tremendous
satisfaction and encouragement. Up to the middle of last year (2004), more than
200,000 Lok Adalats have been held and therein more than 16 million cases
have been settled, half of which were motor accident claim cases. More than
one billion US dollars were distributed by way of compensation to those who
had suffered accidents. 6.7 million persons have benefited through legal aid and
advice.

Lok Adalat can be said to be the extension of our traditional Nyaya


Panchayats with some modification in its functioning and characteristics.

The Nyaya Panchayats were once popular tribunals in the rural countryside
settling civil and criminal disputes through the intervention of village
elders. But its origin can be traced back from the period of Vedas. In very
ancient India, during the Vedic civilization, there are mentions of two
Parliament-like gatherings of the Indo-Aryan kingdoms called the Sabha and
the Samiti. During the time of the Buddha, many states were even tribal
republics, called the Sanghas.

The Sabha has been interpreted by the historians as a representative assembly of


the elect—the important men of the clan, which ran day-to-day business with
the king. The Samiti seems to be a gathering of all the male members of the
kingdom, and probably convened only for the ratification/election of a new
king. The two largely democratic institutions, which kept a check on the
absolutism of the king, were given a sacred position, and have been called the
daughters of the deity Prajapati in the Vedas, the holiest of all Hindu scriptures
and the earliest Indo-European literature. The sabha is mentioned in many
passages of the Rig-Veda as body of the elders. It was attended by persons of
noble truth - Brahmanas and rich patrons.

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It was as important as the samiti. The sabha acted as the national judicature.
Various passages of Rig Veda refer to Samiti but they do not define its exact
character and function. The Samiti was an ordinary assembly of the tribe and its
members were called Visha. The king attended the Samiti.

The most important work of the Samiti was to elect the king. Justice was based
on Dharma. The king was the fountain head of justice. Main crimes of the age
were theft, burglary, robbery, cheating etc. Cattle lifting was the commonest of
all. Monetary compensation was given to the relatives of the man killed. To
prove their innocence the criminals were subjected to fire and water ordeals.
Aryans were skilled warriors. Main weapons of war were bow and arrow. Other
weapons included swords, spears, axes and lances. Most of the wars were
fought from bullock driven chariot. Horse riding was known. Cavalary as a
military unit had not been formed. Local government played a more important
part in the Rig Vedic days. The lowest unit of administration was the family or
kul and its chief was known as Grihapati or Kulapati. A group pf families or
kuls constituted a village which in the Rig Vedic days were called Grama. The
village officer was called Gramini. The village head Gramini led the villagers in
time of war and attended the meetings of the Sabha and Samiti.

Several villages together formed a vis or clan and its chief was called Vispati.
He was also a military leader and used to lead his clan in times of war under the
guidance and instructions of the Rajan of the tribe. The tribe was known as the
Jana and the head of the Jana was the Rajan who was constantly assisted by the
Senani and the Purohita However, these democratic institutions became weaker
as republics became larger and elected chieftainship moved towards hereditary
and absolute monarchy. The Sabha and the Samiti bear almost no mention in
later literature. After this, India would not have any democratic legislature till
the British times, culminating in its modern democratic Parliament (whose two
Houses still bear the name of Sabha).
28 | P a g e
With the advent of Independence, the Constitution movers made a
provision in Article 40, under which one of the directive principles of state
policy specifically laid down that the state would take steps to organize
village panchayats and endow them with such power and authority as may
enable them to function as units of self-Government. With this in view the
institution of panchayats were brought into recognition.

The modern version of Lok Adalat, however, arose out of the concern
expressed by the Committees set up to report on organizing legal aid to the
poor and the alarm generated by judicial circle on the mounting arrears of
cases pending for long at different levels in the Court system.

The setting up of the Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Scheme


(CILAS) by the Union Government in 1980 under the Chairmanship of Mr.
Justice P.N. Bhagwati and later on under the chairmanship of Mr. R.N.
Misra gave a future impetus to the legal aid movement in general and the
concept of legal aid camps and Lok Adalat in particular.

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SALIENT FEATURES OF LOK ADALAT:

“Lok Adalat” is an old form of adjudicating system which prevailed in


ancient India. From there we moved to reach the present day judicial system.
But today, it is a fact that, most litigations remain in courts for numerous years.
The judicial system has become identical to an intricate cobweb where litigants
are trapped for their entire lifetimes. In this scenario, the Parliament passed
legislation viz. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (Central Act 39 of
1987) (Hereinafter to be mentioned as ‘the Act’) In order to curb the enormous
increase in the backlog of pending cases, the old system of Lok Adalat is
reintroduced for the resolution of disputes. “Lok Adalat” means “People’s
Court”. Lok Adalat is an Alternate Dispute Resolution System (ADR System)
having the Lok Adalat backing of the law.

Salient features of in brief:

1) It is based on settlement or compromise reached through systematic


negotiations

2) It is a win – win system where all the parties to the dispute have something to
gain.

3) It is one among the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) systems. It is an


alternative to “Judicial Justice”

4) It is economical – No court fee is payable. If any court fee is paid, it will be


refunded.

5) The parties to a dispute can interact directly with the presiding officer, which
is not possible in the case of a court proceeding.

6) Lok Adalat is deemed to be civil court for certain purposes.

7) Lok Adalat is having certain powers of a civil court.


30 | P a g e
8) The award passed by the Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court.

9) An award passed by the Lok Adalat is final and no appeal is maintainable


from it.

10) An award passed by the Lok Adalat can be executed in a court.

11) The award can be passed by Lok Adalat, only after obtaining the assent of
all the parties to dispute.

12) Code of Civil Procedure and Indian Evidence Act are not applicable to the
proceedings of Lok Adalat.

13) A Permanent Lok Adalat can pass an award on merits, even without the
consent of parties. Such an award is final and binding. From that no appeal is
possible.

14) The appearance of lawyers on behalf of the parties, at the Lok Adalat is not
barred. (Regulation 39 of the Kerala State Legal Services Authority
Regulations, 1998.

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BENEFITS OF LOK ADALAT

The benefits that litigants derive through the Lok Adalat are many. First, there
is no Court-fee and even if the case is already filed in the regular Court, the fee
paid will be refunded if the dispute is settled at the Lok Adalat. Secondly, there
is no strict application of the procedural laws and the Evidence Act while
assessing the merits of the claim by the Lok Adalat. The parties to the disputes
though represented by their advocate can interact with the Lok Adalat Judge
directly and explain their stand in the dispute and the reasons therefore, which
is not possible in a regular Court of law. Thirdly, disputes can be brought before
the Lok Adalat directly instead of going to a regular Court first and then to the
Lok Adalat.

Fourthly, the decision of the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties to the dispute
and its order is capable of execution through legal process. No appeal lies
against the order of the Lok Adalat whereas in the regular law Courts there is
always a scope to appeal to the higher forum on the decision of the trial Court,
which causes delay in the settlement of the dispute finally. The reason being
that in a regular Court, decision is that of the Court but in Lok Adalat it is
mutual settlement and hence no case for appeal will arise. In every respect the
scheme of Lok Adalat is a boon to the litigant public, where they can get their
disputes settled fast and free of cost. The system has received laurels from the
parties involved in particular and the public and the legal functionaries, in
general. It also helps in emergence of jurisprudence of peace in the larger
interest of justice and wider sections of society. 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. Through this mechanism, disputes can be

32 | P a g e
settled in a simpler, quicker and cost-effective way at all the three stages i.e.
pre-litigation, pending-litigation and post-litigation.

PROCEDURE AT LOK ADALAT:

The procedure followed at a Lok Adalat is very simple and shorn of almost all
legal formalism and rituals. 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. It is revealed by experience that in Lok Adalat it is
easier to settle money claims since in most such cases the quantum alone may
be in dispute. Thus the motor accident compensation claim assets are brought
before the Lok Adalat and a number of cases were disposed of in each Lok
Adalat. One important condition is that both parties in dispute should agree for
settlement through Lok Adalat and abide by its decision. A Lok Adalat has the
jurisdiction to settle, by way of effecting compromise between the parties, any
matter which may be pending before any Court, as well as matters at pre-
litigative stage i.e. disputes which have not yet been formally instituted in any
Court of Law. Such matters may be civil or criminal in nature, butany matter
relating to an offence not compoundable under any law cannot be decided by
the Lok Adalat even if the parties involved therein agree to settle thes ame. Lok
Adalats can take cognizance of matters involving not only those persons who
are entitled to avail free legal services but of all other persons also, be they
women, men, or children and even institutions .Anyone, or more of the parties
to a dispute can move an application to the Court where their matter may be
pending, or even at pre-litigative stage, for such matter being taken up in the
Lok Adalat whereupon the Lok Adalat Bench constituted for the purpose shall
attempt to resolve the dispute by helping the parties to arrive at anamicable
solution and once it is successful in doing so, the award passed by it shall be

33 | P a g e
final which has as much force as a decree of a Civil Court obtained after due
contest.

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LEGISLATION PERTAINING TO LOK ADALAT:

Ever since 1987, Lok Adalats have been given statutory recognition. The Legal
Services Autorities Act, 1987, pursuant to the constitutional mandate in Article
39-Aof the Constitution of India, contains various provisions for settlement of
disputes through Lok Adalat. Thus, the ancient concept of Lok Adalat has, now,
statutory basis. It is an Act to constitute legal services authorities to provide free
and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that
opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason
of economic or other disabilities, and to organise Lok Adalats to secure that the
operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity.
In 2002, Parliament of India amended the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
requiring establishment of permanent Lok Adalats for public utility services.

The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (as amended vide Act No. 37 of
2002)provides for setting up of a “Permanent Lok Adalat” which can
be approached by any party to a dispute involving “public utility services”
which have been defined in the Act (as amended) to include transport services
for the carriage of passengers or goods by air, road or water; postal, telegraph or
telephone services; insurance service, as also services in hospital or dispensary,
supply of power, light or water to the public, besides systems of public
conservancy or sanitation.

Any civil dispute with a public utility service and where the value of the
property in dispute does not exceed Rupees one million (about US $ 2200); or
any criminal dispute which does not involve an offence not compoundable
under any law, can be taken up in the “Permanent Lok Adalat”.

An important feature of this amendment is that after an application is made to


the Permanent Lok Adalat, no party to that application can invoke jurisdiction
of any Court in the same dispute. Such disputes involving public utility services
35 | P a g e
shall be attempted to be settled by the Permanent Lok Adalat by way of
conciliation and failing that, on merit, and in doing so the Permanent Lok
Adalat shall be guided by the principles of natural justice, objectivity, fair play,
equity and other principles of justice without being bound by the Code of Civil
Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act.

Besides the Legal Services Authorities Act, there have been several other
changes in the law in recent times and one of the most important being the
amendment in Code of Civil Procedure. Section 89 of the Code of Civil
Procedure as amended in2002 has opened the scope for introduction
of conciliation, mediation and pre-trial settlement methodologies.

Once the model rules framed by the Committee headed by Justice Jagannadha
Rao, Chairman, Law Commission of India under the directions of the Supreme
Court of India have been adopted by all the High Courts, funds will need to be
sanctioned to meet the need for providing the requisite infrastructure and for
employment of mediators and conciliators as part of the justice-delivery system.
This would drastically bring down the pendency of cases by accelerating
disposal of such cases. In California, U.S., where the systems of mediation,
conciliation and pretrial settlement have been introduced only two decades ago,
it has been found that 94% of cases are referred for settlement through one
or the other of the ADR systems and 46% of such cases are settled without
contest.

The result is that California has been able to achieve the goal of final decision
of civil cases within a period of less than 2 years from the date of institution.
The mediators and conciliators shall have to be trained so as to acquire
professional expertise in the art of mediation and conciliation in India. The
constitutional validity of amendments made to Section 89 of the Code of Civil
Procedure incorporating Alternative Disputes Resolution methods have been

36 | P a g e
upheld by the Supreme Court of India in a recently decided case. (2. Supreme
Court of India, Salem Advocate Bar Association, Tamil Nadu v. Union of India,
decided on August 2, 2005.

Some of the relevant sections from the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 are
quoted as under :

 Section 19

1. Central, State, District and Taluk Legal Services Authority has been created
who are responsible for organizing Lok Adalats.2. Conciliators for Lok Adalat
comprise the following :

A. A sitting or retired judicial officer.

B. other persons of repute as may be prescribed by the State Government in


consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court.

 Section 20 : Reference of Cases

Cases can be referred for consideration of Lok Adalat as under :

1. By consent of both the parties to the disputes.

2. One of the parties makes an application for reference.

3. Where the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken
congnizance of by the Lok Adalat.

4. Compromise settlement shall be guided by the principles of justice, equity,


fair play and other legal principles.

5. Where no compromise has been arrived at through conciliation, the matter


shall be returned to the concerned Court for disposal in accordance with Law.

37 | P a g e
 Section 21

After the agreement is arrived by the consent of the parties, award is passed by
the conciliators. The matter need not be referred to the concerned Court for
consent decree. The Act provisions envisage as under :

1. Every award of Lok Adalat shall be deemed as decree of Civil Court.

2. Every award made by the Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the
parties to the dispute.

3. No appeal shall lie from the award of the Lok Adalat.

 Section 22

Every proceedings of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings


forthe purpose of :

1. Summoning of Witnesses.

2. Discovery of documents.

3. Reception of evidences.

4. Requisitioning of Public record.

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Finality of Lok Adalat award:

One issue which raises its head often is the finality of the award of the Lok
Adalat. During the Lok Adalat, the parties agree to abide by the decision of the
Judge at the Lok Adalat. However, it is often seen that later, the same order is
challenged on several grounds. In one of the recent decisions, the Supreme
Court of India has once again laid to rest all such doubts. In unequivocal terms,
the Court has held that award of the Lok Adalat is as good as the decree of a
Court. The award of the Lok Adalat is fictionally deemed to be decree of Court
and therefore the Courts have all the powers in relation thereto as it has in
relation to a decree passed by itself. This, includes the powers to extend time in
appropriate cases. The award passed by the Lok Adalat is the decision of the
Court itself though arrived at by the simpler method of conciliation instead of
the process of arguments in Court.( Supreme Court of India, P.T. Thomas v.
Thomas Job, Decided on August 4, 2005, Appeal (Civil) 4677 of 2005, (Arising
Out of S.L.P. (C) No. 20179/2003); AIR 2005 SC 3575.)

Consent of Parties

The most important factor to be considered while deciding the cases at the Lok
Adalat is the consent of both the parties. It cannot be forced on any party that
the matter has to be decided by the Lok Adalat. However, once the parties agree
that the matter has to be decided by the Lok Adalat, then any party cannot walk
away from the decision of the Lok Adalat. In several instances, the Supreme
Court has held that if there was no consent the award of the Lok Adalat is not
executable and also if the parties fail to agree to get the dispute resolved through
Lok Adalat, the regular litigation process remains open for the contesting
parties.( Supreme Court of India, Jagtar Singh and another v. State of Punjab
and others, Decided on September 17, 2004; Criminal Appeal Nos. 1030-1031
of 2004; 2004 (6) Supreme642.)The Supreme Court has also held that

39 | P a g e
“compromise” implies some element of accommodation on each side. It is not
apt to describe it as “total surrender.”( Supreme Court of India, State of Punjab
and Others v. Mohinderjit Kaur, Decided on January 18, 2005, Civil Appeal No.
563 of 2005; 2005 Lab IC 852 : 2005AIR SCW 552.)A compromise is always
bilateral and means mutual adjustment.

“Settlement” is termination of legal proceedings by mutual consent. If no


compromise or settlement.

Similarly, the State Legal Services Authorities have been constituted in every
State Capital. Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal
Services Committees, District Legal Services Authorities and Taluk Legal
Services Committees have also been constituted in every State. A nationwide
network has been envisaged under the Act for providing legal aid and
assistance.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is the apex body constituted to lay
down policies and principles for making legal services available under the
provisions of the Act and to frame most effective and economical schemes
for legal services. It also disburses funds and grants to State Legal Services
Authorities and NGOs for implementing legal aid schemes and programmes. In
every State a State Legal Services Authority is constituted to give effect to the
policies and directions of the Central Authority (NALSA) and to give legal
services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.

State Legal Services Authority is headed by the Chief Justice of the State High
Court who is its Patron-in-Chief. A serving or retired Judge of the High Court
is nominated as its Executive Chairman. District Legal Services Authority is
constituted in every District to implement Legal Aid Programmes and Schemes
in the District. The District Judge of the District is its ex-officio Chairman.
Taluk Legal Services Committees are also constituted for each of the Taluk or
40 | P a g e
Mandal or for group of Taluk or Mandals to coordinate the activities of legal
services in the Taluk and to organise Lok Adalats. Every Taluk Legal Services
Committee is headed by a senior Civil Judge operating within the jurisdiction of
the Committee who is its ex-officio Chairman.9th of November is celebrated
every year by all Legal Services Authorities as “Legal Services Day”.

After the establishment of NALSA towards the beginning of 1998, following


schemes and measures inter alia have been envisaged and implemented :

a. Establishing Permanent and Continuous Lok Adalats in all the Districts in the
country for disposal of pending matters as well as disputes at pre-litigative
stage.

b. Establishing separate Permanent & Continuous Lok Adalats for Government


Departments, Statutory Authorities and Public Sector Undertakings for disposal
of pending cases as well as disputes at pre-litigative stage.

c. Accreditation of NOGs for Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness campaign

d. Appointment of “Legal Aid Counsel” in all the Courts of Magistrates in the


country.

e. Disposal of cases through Lok Adalats on old pattern.

f. Publicity to Legal Aid Schemes and programmes to make people aware about
legal aid facilities

g. Emphasis on competent and quality legal services to the aided persons

h. Legal aid facilities in jailsi. Setting up of Counselling and Conciliation


Centers in all the Districts in thecountryj. Sensitisation of Judicial Officers in

41 | P a g e
regard to Legal Services Schemes andprogrammesk. Publication of “Nyaya
Deep”, the official newsletter of NALSA.

FUTURE AND CHALLENGES:

The success of Lok Adalat in India is tremendous. Lok Adalat has provided an
important juristic technology and vital tool for easy and early settlement of
disputes. It has been proved to be a successful and viable national imperative
and incumbency, best suited for the larger and higher sections of the present
society and Indian system. The concept of legal services which includes Lok
Adalat is a “revolutionary evolution of resolution of disputes”.37

There is a need for improving the quality of legal aid that is being given by legal
aid advocates. Teeming millions of this country who live below poverty line in
tribal, back ward and far flung areas look to Legal Services Authorities for help
and support in resolving their legal problems. When involved in litigation they,
very often, feel that they are fighting an unequal battle in which the party that
has better financial resources can secure more able legal assistance. There is a
need to revise the payment schedule for legal aid panel advocates and also
compress the panels so that panel advocates get more work and better
remuneration from legal services authorities and thus get encouraged to render
effective legal assistance to aided persons.

Legal aid and legal literacy programmes have to expand to take care of the poor
and ignorant. Intertwining of ADR methodology with justice-dispensation
process would succeed in delivering quicker and inexpensive quality justice and

37
Bhatt, Jitendra N., Judge, HighCourt of Gujarat, and, Executive Chairman, Gujarat State Legal Services
Authority,Ahmedabad, “A Round Table Justice Through Lok-Adalat (People’s Court) AVibrant-ADR-In India”,
(2002) 1 SCC (Jour) 11.)
42 | P a g e
stand taller over all its counter parts elsewhere in the world. Besides Lok
Adalat, India has to be avenue for international arbitrations.

New trends in litigation, such as those related to intellectual property rights,


cybercrimes, environment, money-laundering, competition, telecom, taxation,
international arbitration and so on need expertise. The judges need to be trained
and updated for achieving and maintaining professional excellence

. A dialogue has already been initiated to remodel the imparting of instructions


in law tailored in such a way that, after initial education, different levels of legal
education are available to those who aspire to enter the legal profession, to those
who aim at joining judicial services and to those who wish to just acquire a
degree in law for academic purposes only or wish to remain confined to
academics and research. There is a need to make the masses legal literate and
for this the NLSA is doing a yeoman service along with the State Legal Services
Authority.( Lahoti, R.C. (Chief Justice of India)38

38
Bharucha, S. P. (Justice), Executive Chairman, NALSA while writing in‘Nyaya Deep’ and in the course of his
keynote address in the meeting of the MemberSecretaries held in NALSA office on February 19, 2000.

43 | P a g e
ORGANISATION OF LOK ADALAT:

Section 19 of the Act states that The State Authority and District Authority,
Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal Services
Committee and Taluk Legal Services Committee (mentioned in Section 19 of
the Act) can organize Lok Adalats at such intervals and places as may be
deemed fit.

Every Lok Adalat so organized shall consist of:

(a) Serving or retired judicial officers,

(b) other persons, as may be specified.

The experience and qualification of “other persons” in a Lok Adalat conducted


by Supreme Court Legal Services Committee shall be prescribed by the Central
Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

At present, Rule 13 of the National Legal Services Authorities Rules, 1995


prescribes such experience and qualifications as:

(a) A member of the legal profession; or

(b) A person of repute who is specially interested in the implementation of the


Legal Services Schemes and Programmes; or

(c) An eminent social worker who is engaged in the upliftment of weaker


sections of people, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women,
children, rural and urban labour.

The experience and qualification of “other persons” mentioned in clause (b)


shall be prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief
Justice of High Court.

44 | P a g e
At present, Rule 13 of the Kerala State Legal Services Authorities Rules, 1998
prescribes the experience and qualifications as:

(i) Eminent social workers who are engaged in the upliftment of Scheduled
Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women, children, rural and urban labour and other
weaker sections of the society;

(ii) Advocates of standing; or

(iii) Persons of repute who are specially interested in the implementation of the
Legal Services Schemes and programmes.

Definition of Court

According to Section 2 (1) (aaa) of the Act “Court means a civil, criminal or
revenue court and includes any tribunal or any other authority constituted under
any law for the time being in force, to exercise judicial or quasi-judicial
functions.”

45 | P a g e
JURISDICTION OF LOK ADALAT:

According to section 19(5) of the Act 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:

(i) any case pending before; or

(ii) any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of, and is not brought
before ,any court for which the Lok Adalat is organised.

The Lok Adalat can compromise and settle even criminal cases, which are
compoundable under the relevant laws.

Cases & Cognizance of Pending Determination:

Sec 20 of the Act says:

A. On Application:

(i) When all the parties to the case agree for referring the case to Lok Adalat, or

(ii) When one of the party to the case makes an application to court, praying to
refer the case to Lok Adalat and the court is prima facie satisfied that there are
chances for settlement

B. Suo Moto:

Where the court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken
cognizance of, by the Lok Adalat.

Then, the court shall refer the case to the Lok Adalat, after giving a reasonable
opportunity for hearing to all the parties.

46 | P a g e
Further, the Authority or Committee organising Lok Adalat may, on application
from any party to a dispute, refer the said dispute to Lok Adalat, after giving a
reasonable opportunity for hearing to all the parties.

 Lok Adalat shall proceed to dispose of a case refereed to it expeditiously.


 Shall be guided by principles of law, justice, equity and fair play.
 Shall yearn to reach a settlement or compromise between parties.
 When no compromise or settlement is accomplished, the case is to be
returned to the court which referred it. Then the case will proceed in the
court from the stage immediately before the reference.

Passing of the Award

According to Section 21 of the Act and Regulations 33 & 34 of The Kerala


State Legal Services Authority Regulations, 1998:

 Every award of Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil


court.
 Every award shall be signed by all the parties to the dispute and the panel
constituting the Lok Adalat.
 Every award shall form part of the judicial records.
 Every award shall be categorical and lucid.
 Every award shall be in the regional language or in English.
 A certified copy of the award will be given free of cost, to all the parties.
 Every award made by Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the
parties to the dispute, and no appeal shall lie to any court against the
award.
 If a pending case is settled at Lok Adalat, any court fee already paid will
be refunded as provided by the Court Fees Act, 1870.

47 | P a g e
POWERS OF LOK ADALAT:

A Lok Adalat has the following powers:

(1) The Lok Adalat shall have the powers of a civil court under the Code of
Civil Procedure, 1908, while trying a suit, in respect of the following matters.

(a) Power to summon and enforce the attendance of any witness and to examine
him/her on oath.

(b) Power to enforce the discovery and production of any document.

(c) Power to receive evidence on affidavits,

(d) Power for requisitioning of any public record or document or copy thereof
or from any court.

(e) Such other matters as may be prescribed.

(2) Every Lok Adalat shall have the power to specify its own procedure for the
determination of any dispute coming before it.

(3) All proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial


proceedings within the meaning of Sections 193, 219 and 228 of IPC

(4) Every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for the purpose of Sec
195 and Chapter XXVI of Cr.P.C.

48 | P a g e
PERMAMENT LOK ADALAT:

Chapter VI A was newly added by Amendment Act, 2002, introducing the


concept of Permanent Lok Adalat.

The Central or State Authorities may establish by notification, Permanent Lok


Adalats at any place, for determining issues in connection to Public Utility
Services.

Public Utility Services include:

(1) Transport service,

(2) Postal, telegraph or telephone services,

(3) Supply of power, light and water to public,

(4) System of public conservancy or sanitation,

(5) Insurance services and such other services as notified by the Central or State
Governments.

PLAs have the same powers that are vested on the Lok Adalats, mentioned
under Section 22(1) of the Act.

The first PLA in Kerala was setup at Thiruvananthapuram It has jurisdiction


over the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Pathanamthitta.
Permanent Lok Adalats are now proposed for Kochi and Kozhikode districts
too.

49 | P a g e
ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE OF PERMANENT LOK ADALAT:

Section 22B (2) of the Act :

Chairman

A person who is or has been a district Judge or Additional District Judge or has
held judicial office higher in rank that that of a District Judge, shall be the
Chairman.

Members

Two other persons having adequate experience in Public Utility Service to be


nominated by Central Government on the recommendation of Central Authority
and by the State Government on the recommendation of the State Authority.

Cognizance of Pending Cases by Permanent Lok Adalat

Sec 22C of the Act:

Any party to a dispute can apply to PLA for settlement of a dispute in respect of
a public utility service, which is not pending before any court.

PLA does not have jurisdiction to entertain disputes involving offences which
are not compoundable.

PLA does not have jurisdiction to entertain a matter where the value of the
property involved exceeds ten lakhs, which limit can be enhanced as provided
for.

Once, an application is preferred to PLA for determination of a dispute, no party


to such application can invoke the jurisdiction of any court in the same dispute.

50 | P a g e
Procedure by Permanent Lok Adalat for Determination:

Sec 22C & 22D of the Act:

Where the PLA receives an application for determination of a dispute,

The PLA should direct each party to file before it a written statement stating
therein, all the facts and the nature of the dispute, points or issues and the
grounds in support or opposition. PLA may require the parties to file additional
statements at any stage.

The party may also file any document or such other evidence, in proof of such
facts and grounds urged.

The copy of the written statement and the documents or such other evidence
filed has to be sent to the other parties to the application.

When the statement and additional statement and reply if any are filed, PLA
shall conduct conciliation process between parties to the application, as it thinks
fit, considering the circumstances of the dispute.

PLA should assist the parties in their attempt to reach an amicable settlement, in
an independent and impartial manner. Every party is duty bound to co-operate
in good faith, in the conciliation process.

If after the conciliation process, the PLA is of an opinion that there exists
elements of settlement in such proceedings, which may be acceptable to the
parties, PLA may formulate the terms of a possible settlement of the dispute and
give it for the consideration of the parties. If the parties are agreeable to the
same, they shall sign the same and PLA shall pass an award in terms of the
settlement agreement.

If the parties are not agreeable to the settlement formulated, if the dispute is not
an offence, then the PLA should decide the dispute on merits.
51 | P a g e
PLA shall, while conducting conciliation proceedings or deciding a dispute on
merit, shall be guided by the principle of natural justice, objectivity, fair play,
equity and other principles of justice.

The PLA, when deciding a dispute on merit, shall not be bound by the Code of
Civil Procedure, 1908 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Every award made by the PLA shall be by the majority of the persons
constituting the PLA.

The award rendered by PLA shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court and
shall be final. The PLA may transmit the award to the court having local
jurisdiction for execution.

52 | P a g e
CRITICISM: Permanent Lok Adalat:

Sub Sections (1), (2) & (8) of 22C R/w 22D and 22E of the Act:

The right to appeal is one of the most basic features of any sound legal system.
It sprouts from the principle ‘to err is human’, It recognizes the fact that it is
impossible to be infallible always. Lok Adalats cannot proceed to pass awards
unless the parties to a dispute under its consideration, agrees to the passing of an
award. In such a situation, by agreeing, the parties are estopping themselves
from challenging it afterwards. In that case, denial of an appeal provision can
well be justified. But a Permanent Lok Adalat can proceed to dispose of a
matter referred to it even without the consent of the parties to such dispute. And
the PLA does not have to go by the rules of evidence contained in The Indian
Evidence Act. Moreover, a party can be drawn to PLA, despite his wishes. In
such a situation, denying a chance to appeal may not be in consonance with our
most cherished legal principle: “Justice should not only be done, but should
manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done." Lord Hewart CJ in Rex
v. Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy [1923] All ER 233

53 | P a g e
IMPORTANT PRECEDENTS:

a) Thomas v. Thomas Job 39

The award of the Lok Adalat is fictionally deemed to be decrees of the Court
and therefore the courts have all the powers in relation thereto as it has in
relation to a decree passed by itself. This includes powers to extend time in
appropriate cases. The award passed by the Lok Adalat is the decision of the
Court itself though arrived at by a simpler method of conciliation instead of the
process of arguments in court. The effect is the same. The effort shall be to give
life and enforceability to a compromise award and to defeat it on technical
grounds. The award of Lok Adalat is final and permanent which is equivalent to
a decree executable and the same is ending to the litigation among parties. Held
2003 (3) KLT 936 not good law.

b) Thomas v. Florence40

Which court to execute the award of the Lok Adalat? It would be the court of
competent jurisdiction that would have entertained the matter for trial, had the
matter not been settled in the Lok Adalat.

c) Krishnakumari v. Venugopal 41

Settlement arrived at by the Lok Adalat shall be guided by the principles of


natural justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles. Lok Adalats are not
meant to bring down the pendency of cases somehow. When matters over which
Family Courts are having jurisdiction are dealt with by Lok Adalats, the

39
2005 (3) KLT 1042 SC
40
2006 (3) KLT 717
41
2005 (2) KLT 185
54 | P a g e
decisions arrived at must be in consonance with the provisions contained in
Section 9 of the Family Courts Act. Award can be interfered with by the High
Court, under Articles 226 and 227 of Constitution, if a patent illegality is
involved.

d) Chandran v. Prakasan 42

The finality of the award of the Lok Adalat will not bridle the power of the
Court to re-determine or cancel the maintenance as provided for u/Sec 127 of
Cr.P.C.

e) State of Karnataka v. Gurunath43 :

As per the charge sheet, the offence is u/Sec 326 which is not compoundable.
But the medical certificates make out only an offence u/Sec 324 which is
compoundable. The reference to Lok Adalat is valid.

f) State of Punjab v. Phulan Rani44

Difference between the terms ‘compromise’ and ‘settlement’. Compromise


means settlement of difference by mutual concessions. Settlement denotes
termination of legal proceedings by mutual settlements.

42
2005 (4) KLT 1038

43
2000 Crl.L.J. 1192 (Karnataka
44
AIR 2004 SC 4105 / 2004 (7) SCC 555

55 | P a g e
g) Moni Mathai Others v &. Federal Bank Ltd.45

Lok Adalat shall not take advantage of ignorance of a party and close their eyes
to the legal effect of the terms of settlement.

h) Sailendra Narayan Bhanja Deo v. The State of Orissa46

The judgment by consent or default is as effective an estoppel between the


parties as judgment whereby the court exercise its mind on a contested case.

Amendments to the Act

1. The Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act, 1994

2. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Protection of Rights and


Full Participation Act, 1995

3. The Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act, 2002

Relevant Portions in The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908

(Section 89, 96(3) & Order 23 Rule 3 of CPC)

Section 89 - Settlement of disputes outside the Court:

(1) Where it appears to the court that there exist elements of a settlement which
may be acceptable to the parties, the court shall formulate the terms of

45
2003 (1) KLJ 406
46
AIR 1956 SC 346 (Cn.Bch)

56 | P a g e
settlement and give them to the parties for their observations and after receiving
the observation of the parties, the court may reformulate the terms of a possible
settlement and refer the same for-

(a) arbitration;

(b) conciliation

(c) judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat; or

(d) mediation.

(2) Where a dispute had been referred-

(a) for arbitration or conciliation, the provisions of the Arbitration and


Conciliation Act, 1996 shall apply as if the proceedings for arbitration or
conciliation were referred for settlement under the provisions of that Act.

(b) to Lok Adalat, the court shall refer the same to the Lok Adalat in accordance
with the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 20 of the Legal Services
Authority Act, 1987 and all other provisions of that Act shall apply in respect of
the dispute so referred to the Lok Adalat;

(c) for judicial settlement, the court shall refer the same to a suitable institution
or person and such institution or person shall be deemed to be a Lok Adalat and
all the provisions of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 shall apply as if the
dispute were referred to a Lok Adalat under the provisions of that Act;

(d) for mediation, the court shall effect a compromise between the parties and
shall follow such procedure as may be prescribed.]

1. Sec. 89 was repealed by Act 10 of 1940, sec. 49 and Sch. II and again added
by Act No. 46 of 1999, section 7 (w.e.f. 1-7-2002).

57 | P a g e
Sub Section (3) Section 96:

“No appeal shall lie from a decree passed by the Court with the consent of
parties.”

Or 23 Rule 3 provides for compromise of suit:

“Where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that a suit has been adjusted
wholly in part by way of any lawful agreement or compromise, written and
signed by the parties, the Court after satisfying itself about the settlement, it can
convert the settlement into a judgment decree.”

Relevant Provision of Cr.P.C

Section 320: Compounding of offences

SIGNIFICANCE OF LOK ADALAT:

Camps of Lok Adalat were started initially in Gujarat in March 1982 and
now it has been extended throughout the Country. The evolution of this
movement was a part of the strategy to relieve heavy burden on the Courts
with pending cases. The reason to create such camps were only the
pending cases and to give relief to the litigants who were in a queue to get
justice.Seekers of justice are in millions and it is becoming rather difficult
for the Courts to cope up with the ever-increasing cases with the present
infrastructure and manpower. Courts are clogged with cases. There is
serious problem of overcrowding of dockets. Because of the ever-
increasing number of cases the Court system is under great pressure.
Therefore, if there was at the threshold a permanent mechanism or
machinery to settle the matters at a pre-trial stage, many matters would not
find their way to the Courts.

58 | P a g e
Similarly, if there are permanent forums to which Courts may refer cases,
the load of cases could be taken off the Courts.In order to reduce the heavy
demand on Court time, cases must be resolved by resorting to 'Alternative
Dispute Resolution' Methods before they enter the portals of Court. Here
comes the significance of Lok Adalat which has showed its significance by
settling huge number of Third Party claims referred by Motor Accident
Claim Tribunal (MACT). Except matters relating to offences, which are
not compoundable, a Lok Adalat has jurisdiction to deal with all matters.
Matters pending or at pre-trial stage, provided a reference is made to it by
a court or by the concerned authority or committee, when the dispute is at
a pre-trial stage and not before a Court of Law it can be referred to Lok
Adalat. Parliament enacted the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, and
one of the aims for the enactment of this Act was to organize Lok Adalat
to secure that the operation of legal system promotes justice on the basis of
an equal opportunity.

The Act gives statutory recognition to the resolution of disputes by


compromise and settlement by the Lok Adalats. The concept has been
gathered from system of Panchayats, which has roots in the history, and
culture of this Country. It has a native flavour known to the people. The
provisions of the Act based on indigenous concept are meant to
supplement the Court system. They will go a long way in resolving the
disputes at almost no cost to the litigants and with minimum delay. At the
same time, the Act is not meant to replace and supplants the Court system.
The Act is a legislative attempt to decongest the Courts from heavy burden
of cases. There is a need for decentralization of justice.

59 | P a g e
Since April 1985, Lok Adalats have been exclusively organized for
settlement of motor third party claims. Although the concept of Lok Adalat
was very much vogue claims through this medium as both claimants do
and the Insurance company get benefit out of it. That is the reason why
Insurance Companies are interested in settling Third Party claims by Lok
Adalats.

The increase in cases in Motor Accident Claim Tribunal (MACT) and


backlog of pending cases pressed the insurer and the judicial system to
think about the quick disposal oriented system like Lok
Adalat/Conciliatory forums should be utilized to optimum level.Lok
Adalat now is playing sole role in solving disputes and settling MACT
cases. It has become a Dispute Management Institution. It is an informal
system of dispute resolution. This is the expeditious method to settle large
number of MACT claims. It is the best provisions by the effort of
judiciary. Disposal through Lok Adalat is the only panacea for controlling
the arrears of cases. Insurance Company can save additional interest.

The greatest challenge that the justice delivery system faces today is the delay
in disposal of cases and prohibitive cost of litigation. ADR was thought of as a
weapon to meet this challenge. Justice Mali math Committee in 1990 stressed
the importance of ADR mechanism to supplement the legal forum with a view
to relieve law courts of the burden of overflowing dockets1.47

Lok Adalats, perhaps, because the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which
envisages constitution of legal services authorities to provide free and
competent legal service to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that
47
1. K.A. Abdul Gafoor, J., The Concept of Permanent Lok Adalat and the Legal Services Authorities
Amendment Act, 2002, (2003) 5 SCC (Jour) 33.

60 | P a g e
opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of
economic or other disabilities and to organize Lok Adalats to see that operation
of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. The
alternative modes of settlement of disputes have been given impetus by the
amendments to the Recent Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Under the Code of
Civil Procedure, 1908, s. 89, courts have been empowered to explore the
possibilities of settlement of disputes through Lok Adalats, arbitration and
conciliation.

Barring matters relating to an offence not compoundable under any law, the Lok
Adalat has jurisdiction to determine and arrive at a compromise in respect of
any case which falls within its jurisdiction. Taking cognisance of the cases by
Lok Adalats is governed by s. 2048, which states:

It may be inferred that after the establishment of lok adalats, it


has done a commendable job in speedy disposal of cases even though much
more is needed to be done in this arena, nevertheless its worth mentioning. The
legislature has also done a commendable job by removing every kind of
possible difficulties for the smooth functioning of this eminent feature of the
judiciary.

The most important aspect brought in by the legislature in this regard in that the
award of the Lok Adalat is not made subject to any appeal. However in certain
conditions it is made subject to an appeal.

48
2 Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, s. 20(1) wherein any case referred to in s. 19(5)(i)(a), cl. (i) the parties
thereof agree; or (b) one of the parties thereof makes and application to the court, for referring the case to the
lok adalat for settlement and if such court is prima facie satisfied that there are chances of such settlement; or
(ii) the court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognisance of by the lok adalat; the
court will refer the case to the lok adalat: Provided that no case will be referred to the Lok Adalat under sub-cl.
(b) of cls. (i) or (ii) by such court except after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the parties.
61 | P a g e
According to s. 21, award of Lok Adalat is fictionally deemed as decree of
court. As the award passed by the Lok Adalat is deemed to a decree of a civil
court, execution may be carried out, and any contrary view execution may be
carried out, and any contrary view might defeat the purpose of Lok Adalats and
the award such passed by it is taken to be final and so appeal will lie from such
award.

The provision of the Act has been very well illustrated in the case of P.T
Thomas vs. Thomas Job49 decided on 04 August 2005. The prime question
before the Apex Court was whether an award passed by a Lok Adalat may be
questioned in a court of appeal. The Apex Court observed that the award of the
Lok Adalat is fictionally deemed to be decree of a court and therefore the courts
will have all the powers in relation thereto as it has in relation to a decree passed
by it. Such award will be passed by the Lok Adalat after the consent of the
parties, therefore there is no need either to reconsider or review the matter again
and again, as the award passed by the Lok Adalat will be final. Even as under
the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, s. 96, no appeal will lie from a decree passed
by the court with the consent of the parties.

In this context, it is worth mentioning, Punjab National Bank v. Lakshmichand


Rai,50 where the high court held that ‘the provisions of the enactment will
prevail in the matter of filing an appeal and an appeal may not lie under the
provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, s. 96. Lok Adalat is conducted
under an independent enactment and once the award is made by Lok Adalat, the
right of appeal will be governed by the provisions of the Legal Services
Authorities Act, 1987 and appeal may be when it has been specifically barred

49
2005 (3) KLT 1042 SC
50
2000 INDLAW MP 201, AIR 2000 MP 301

62 | P a g e
under provisions of s. 21(2), no appeal may be filed against the award under the
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, s.96.

The court further stated that ‘it may incidentally be further seen that even the
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 does not provide for an appeal under s. 96
against a consent decree. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 also intends that
once a consent decree is passed by civil court finality is attached to it. Such
finality may not be permitted to be destroyed, particularly under the Legal
Services Authorities Act, 1987, as it may amount to defeat the very aim and
object of the enactment with which it has been enacted; hence, we hold that the
appeal filed is not maintainable’.

In a similar observation51 the High Court of Andhra Pradesh held that, ‘the
award is enforceable as a decree and it is final. In all four, the endeavour is only
to see that the disputes are narrowed down and make the final settlement so that
the parties are not again driven to further litigation or any dispute. Though the
award of a Lok Adalat is not a result of a contest on merits just as a regular suit
by a court on a regular suit by a court on a regular trial, however, it is as equal
and on par with a decree on compromise and will have the same binding effect
and conclusive just as the decree passed on the compromises may not be
challenged in a regular appeal, the award of the Lok Adalat being akin to the
same, may not be challenged by any regular remedies available under law
including invoking the Constitution of India, art.226 challenging the correctness
of the award on any ground. The award of Lok Adalat is final and permanent
which is equivalent to a decree executable, and the same is amending to the
litigation among parties’.
51
Board of Trustees of the Port of Visakhapatnam vs. Presiding Officer, Permanent, Lok Adalat cum- Secretary,
District Legal Services Authority, Visakhapatnam, 2000 (5) ALD 682; also refer to Raja Sri Sailendra Narayan
Bhanja Deo vs. State of Orissa, 1956 INDLAW SC

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However in certain circumstances, court may entertain an appeal for
questioning an award passed by the Lok Adalat. This aspect was very well
explained by the Karnataka High Court, on 03 August 2001 in The
Commissioner, Karnataka State Public Instruction (Education), Bangalore v.
Nirupadi Virbhadrappia Shiva Simp.52

The question was whether high court in exercise of its jurisdiction under arts.
226 and 227 may interfere in matter to put at rest impugned order in face of s.
21(2) which bars any appeal to any court against award – power of judicial
review in given case is implicit under Constitution unless expressly excluded by
provisions of Constitution.

In this case, the petitioners had challenged the award passed by the Lok Adalat.
The writ petition had brought in certain important questions of law which
certainly had a big bearing on the functioning of Lok Adalats. The petitioner
among other issues had raised that is the role of Lok Adalat limited to merely
striving to bring about a compromise or can it go beyond that and decide the
dispute even where one of the parties to the dispute is not agreeable for a
compromise but is keen to fight it out on merits. Along with the previous issue,
the petitioner had also sought for clarification as to what is the remedy available
to the state when it is facing the wrong end of the stick as a result of an order
passed by the Lok Adalat. Should the order be final or is it open to challenge
under arts.226 and 227 of the Constitution of India?

The hon’ble High Court observed that the order in the case does not bear out
that the parties were subsequently heard on the question of reference, except
noting their presence. The power to refer the case to Lok Adalat vested in the
civil court under s. 20 of the enactment being subject to the rider as contained in

52
. 2001 INDLAW KAR 359, 2001 AIR(KAR) 504.

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the proviso; any reference either under Sub-cl. (b) of cls. (i) or (ii) will be
invalid if the parties are not heard in the matter. When the reference made is not
valid in the eye of law, the Lok Adalat would not derive jurisdiction to
determine any dispute and the Lok Adalat may not take cognizance of the case
under s. 20 sub-s. 3. The civil court even if prima facie is satisfied under cl. I,
sub-cl. b that there are chances of settlement, still it is barred from acting there
under if s. 20 proviso is not complied with by giving a reasonable opportunity.
Compliance with the proviso to s. 20 is condition precedent for reference by the
civil court. The civil court even if prima facie is satisfied under cl. (i), sub-cl.
(b) that there are chances of settlement, still it is barred from acting there under
if the s. 20 proviso is not complied with by giving a reasonable opportunity.
Compliance with the s. 20 proviso is condition precedent for reference by the
civil court.

The next obvious question that comes forward and has also put in the forefront
is as to what must happen to such an order and whether the high court in
exercise of its jurisdiction under the Constitution of India, art. 226 and 227 may
interfere in the matter to put at rest the impugned order in the face of s. 21(2)
which bars any appeal to any court against the award of the Lok Adalat. The
court observed that ‘the power of judicial review in a given case is implicit
under the Constitution unless expressly excluded by a provision of the
Constitution. This power is available to correct any order passed by a statutory
authority which is violating of any of the provisions of the statute. The Lok
Adalat is a creation of statute and gets jurisdiction from it and hence this court
is competent to go into an order passed by it, to decide whether the order in
question is valid in law. The writ jurisdiction of the high court may not be
circumscribed by provisions of any enactment as is to be found in s. 21 and it
may always exercise its jurisdiction if an order, left alone, would amount to
abrogating the rule of law’.

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Therefore it may be inferred that an award passed by the Lok Adalat is final and
no appeal lies against such award but however if the court referring a matter to
the Lok Adalat fails to adhere with the provisions laid down in the Legal
Services Authorities Act, 1987 then such award will be null and void and will
not be a binding on the parties and the matter will revert back to the referring
court.

In Khatri Vs. State of Bihar It has been held that the Constitutional duty to
provide legal aid arise from the time the accused is produced before the
Magistrate for the first time Continues whenever he had produced for remand.

In Madav Hayavadanrao Hoskot Vs. State of Maharastra,It has been held that a
person entitled to appeal against his/her sentence has the right to ask for a
counsel, to prepare and argue the appeal.

Section 304 of Criminal Procedure Code also provides that if the accused does
not have sufficient means to engage a lawyer, the court must provide one for the
defence of the accused at the expense of the state.

Beside this The Magistrates and sessions judges must inform every accused
who appears before them and who is not represented by a lawyer on account of
his poverty or indigence that he is entitled to free legal services at the cost of the
State.

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'February 7th, 2010'

Mega Lok Adalat at Delhi on 7th Feb’2010 for ICICI Bank Customers

India’s first completely paperless digital Lok Adalat will e held in New Delhi
on Sunday (8th February). It will try civil and criminal cases related to ICICI
Bank, Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) Project Officer Sanjay Sharma
said.

Litigants involved in cheque-bounce cases would be able to avail of a digital


Lok Adalat at five district courts in New Delhi. In these digital courts 100
magistrates would resolve matters related to ICICI Bank.

Mr. Sharma said that, litigants can access data through ICICI Bank’s centralized
database by just mentioning the credit card number, housing and auto loan
number and unique ID number of the case.

After furnishing all details by the litigant, a computer printout would be


generated consisting of essential details like the unique ID number of case and
name of the court that would help ICICI representatives present their view to
resolve the matter.

Mr. Sharma further added that, in case the accused or defendant and ICICI
agree to settle the matter, the statement would be recorded in the perform an
order sheets. To deal with the mounting backlog of cases of coequal bounce, the
five district courts will take up over one lakh such cases in a mega Lok Adalat
on February 8. The Lok Adalat will be fully sponsored by the ICICI Bank,
which mooted the idea in the first place.

The Lok Adalat, according to bank officials, was planned keeping in mind the
huge backlog of cases pertaining to the Negotiable Instruments Act.
On January 7, the bank sent the proposal to the Delhi Legal Services Authority,

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which approved it. Soon, the bank sent a list of 1.1 lakh cases for immediate
settlement.

The DLSA has divided the cases into categories like home loan, credit card,
auto loan and personal loan, which will be taken up by 100 metropolitan
magistrates. These cases will be settled through the three-fold mechanism of
withdrawal, rescheduling and instalments.

To facilitate instant disposal of these cases, the DLSA has set up a ‘centralised
server’ containing details of the 1.1 lakh cases. This server will be connected to
computers in the five courts. Once a case is settled, its file will be sent to the
concerned judge for disposal.

Special counters will be set up for female litigants, disabled persons and senior
citizens. The concept is unique, as a litigant can walk into any district court
complex, irrespective of where the case is pending, and can reach a settlement.
Supreme Court judge Arijit Pasayat will preside over the inaugural ceremony of
the digital Lok Adalat.

Our purpose was to make the mechanism litigant-friendly and fetch maximum
results within the stipulated time period,” Sanjay Sharma, project officer,
DLSA, said.

The cases will be taken up between 11 am and 4 pm in the Karkardooma,


Rohini, Tees Hazari and Dwarka courts complexes. The ICICI Bank is
providing technical support for the Lok Adalats. It will install 10 computers
(two in each court) which will be connected to the common server.

The bank will even provide printers, photocopy machines in each Lok Adalat so
that a copy of the settlement order “is provided to the opposite party then and
there”. Also, file covers for “keeping the records of the settled cases.”

Meanwhile, the DLSA has issued summons to the litigants.


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CRITICISM:

The system of lok adalat is not without limitations. Conflicting views have
been expressed on the advisability of the new institution of lok adalats. They are
meant to supplement the judicial process and not to supplant it. Also it is being
said that when conciliation becomes the norm, people’s attitude to resort to
court will change. On the other hand, it is being suggested that with the giving
of statutory basis, the informality of lok adalat will disappear and every
technicality that bogs down regular courts will creep into the lok adalats and a
parallel court system under a different label may emerge. The permanent lok
adalats are conciliation-cum-arbitration tribunals to settle disputes between
selected public utility service and individuals. It appears that recourse to these
tribunals in preference to civil court is unlikely. Public utility services would
rather compel the private parties to have recourse to legal redress instead of,
they themselves seeking it and private parties likely to prefer civil courts, to
these new institutions. In consequences, these new institutions might be of very
little use in reducing the burden of courts. There are many other loopholes
which are discussed below:

(1) Adjudication before a Lok Adalat is by consent, if one party does not agree,
the case goes back to the court. If there is no consent, there is no decision;

(2) The procedure of Lok Adalat - organizing, conducting and awarding of Lok
Adalat is becoming rigid especially after the enforcement of the Legal Services
Authorities Act, 1987;

(3) The anxiety of the litigants to settle their disputes without the vexation of
court litigations exploited by the opposite parties and even by some lawyers.
The person who claims the compensation would have been exhausted by the
years of litigation. It might be easy to make him agree to the payment of
‘contingency fee’ to his lawyer and to accept an amount which is much lower
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then his due. After the settlement, the lawyers may take a major chunk of the
amount as ‘contingency fee’. Although taking contingency fee is prohibited in
our country, it is being practiced by some lawyers. They must realize that what
they do is for the cause of social justice and avoid exploiting the poor people;

(4) The goal of the Lok Adalat is to affect a compromise but in mass scale
disposal of cases in Lok Adalats, it is difficult to expect that compromise
settlements of mutual benefits would be searched for;

(5) The legislation has given the judiciary an almost exclusive role in

organizing Lok Adalat and directed the observance of norms the judiciary
adhere to in adjudication. There is little role for people especially trained in
negotiation, mediation and conciliation;

(6) in the name of the speedy resolution of the disputes the fair interests of the
parties are sacrificed. The case of Manju Gupta vs. National Insurance
Company, demonstrates the sad state of compromises and settlements in Lok
Adalats denying the fair minimum claims of the petitioners. The Motor Vehicle
Act, 1988 emphasis on speedy resolution of the claim but due to inordinate
delay the claimants settle at the lowest compensation with the insurance
companies; and

(7) a major drawback of Lok Adalats is that its emphasis is on a compromise or


settlement between the parties. If the parties do not arrive at any compromise,
either the case is returned to the court of law or the parties are advised to seek
remedy in a court of law.

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CONCLUSION:

The large population of India and the illiterate masses have found the regular
dispensation of justice through regular Courts very cumbersome and ineffective.
The special conditions prevailing in the Indian society and due to the economic
structure ,highly sensitised legal service is required which is efficacious for the
poor and ignorant masses. The Lok Adalat movement is no more an experiment
in India. It is now a success and needs to be replicated in matters which have
not yet been under the domain of Lok Adalat. May be some brainstorming on
the part of law makers, judges, lawyers and teachers would result in some
modifications so that the same model can be used effectively in business
disputes. At present there is an urgent need to have an alternative dispute
resolution for business disputes which is as good as the model of Lok
Adalats. Moreover, there is a need to use the techniques used in Lok Adalat in
conflicts related to public issues where the number of players is quite large and
in most of the matters the government is also involved in one way or the other.
Lok Adalats have to reinvent after almost six months to meet the challenges
faced by the judiciary. The new branches of law will require newer tools to have
decisions acceptable to the litigants. As new branches emerge aspirations are
very high. Only time will tell how far Lok Adalat movement shall go in
India and elsewhere in curbing conflicts and disputes and in spreading harmony.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:

BOOKS:

 Clinical legal education, N.R. Madhava Menon, Published by Eastern


Book Company, Lucknow.
 The Law and the Lawyers, Gandhi, M.K., Navjivan Trust, Ahmedabad,
India, 1962, Reprint 2001.
 Legal aid , Lok adalat & P.I.L ,Kailash Rai .

BARE ACTS :

The Constitution Of India, Universal Law Publications, 2010

WEB SITES:

 The full text of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 is


available for your exact reference at: http://kelsa.gov.in/act1.htm
 http://kelsa.gov.in
 http://kelsa.gov.in/act1.htm
 Article by Karthyaeni.V and Vidhi Bhatt
 http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/lok_a.htm
 http://dlsa.nic.in/lokadalat.html
 http://legalservices.maharashtra.gov.in/new_page_2.htm
 legalservices.maharashtra.gov.in
 Rao,Varahagiri prasada –Constitution of Lok Adalats Andhra Law
Times, 2001(5) 34-9 p
 Chief Justice Warren Burger, Dr K.S Chauhan ADR in India
 Jitendra Bhatt J.A round table justice through Lok Adalat
 An article by : sayan Chakraborty and Saumya Misra

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