In News: Over 75 lakh pending and pre-litigation cases, many of them part of the huge backlog created by the pandemic, were settled across the country in the third National Lok Adalat.
- In a move away from convention, the legal services authorities under Chief Justice of India-designate, Justice U.U. Lalit, who is the executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), used technological platforms to conduct ‘digital lok adalat’ in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
- Of the more than 74 lakh disposed cases, 16.45 lakh disputes were pending ones and another 58.33 lakh were in pre-litigation stages.
- Lok adalats have not only become an efficient substitute to seek redressal, but significantly help in reducing the burden of the courts pertaining to backlog and pendency of cases.
- Seeking justice is no longer a luxury, it is one‘s right.
- The Lok Adalat is a forum where the cases which are pending in a court or which are at pre-litigation stage are compromised or settled in an amicable manner.
The Supreme Court has explained the meaning of the institution of Lok Adalat in the following way
- The ‘Lok Adalat’ is an old form of adjudicating system prevailed in ancient India and it’s validity has not been taken away even in the modern days too.
- The word ‘Lok Adalat’ means ‘People’s Court’. This system is based on Gandhian principles.
- It is one of the components of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) system.
- As the Indian courts are overburdened with the backlog of cases and the regular courts are to decide the cases involving a lengthy, expensive and tedious procedure. The court takes years together to settle even petty cases.
- The Lok Adalat, therefore, provides alternative resolution or devise for expeditious and inexpensive justice.
- The first Lok Adalat camp in the post independence era was organised in Gujarat in 1982.
- This initiative proved very successful in the settlement of disputes. Consequently, the institution of Lok Adalat started spreading to other parts of the country.
- In view of its growing popularity, there arose a demand for providing a statutory backing to this institution and the awards given by Lok Adalats.
- Hence, the institution of Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
Organisation and functioning of the Lok Adalats:
- The State Legal Services Authority or the District Legal Services Authority or the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee or the High Court Legal Services Committee or the Taluk Legal Services Committee may organise Lok Adalats at such intervals and places and for exercising such jurisdiction and for such areas as it thinks fit.
- Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall consist of such number of serving or retired judicial officers and other persons of the area as may be specified by the agency organizing such Lok Adalat.
- Generally, a Lok Adalat consists of a judicial officer as the chairman and a lawyer (advocate) and a social worker as members.
- The Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
- Any case pending before the court can be referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement if:
- the parties thereof agree to settle the dispute in the Lok Adalat
- one of the parties thereof makes an application to the court referring the case to the Lok Adalat; or
- the court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
- In the case of a pre-litigation dispute, the matter can be referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement by the agency organizing the Lok Adalat, on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to the dispute.
- The Lok Adalat shall have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure (1908), while trying a suit in respect of the following matters:
- the summoning and enforcing the attendance of any witness examining him on oath;
- the discovery and production of any document;
- the reception of evidence on affidavits;
- the requisitioning of any public record or document from any court or office; and such other matters as may be prescribed.
- Further, a Lok Adalat shall have the requisite powers to specify its own procedure for the determination of any dispute coming before it.
- Also, all proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of the Indian Penal Code (1860) and every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for the purpose of the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973).
- An award of a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court or an order of any other court.
- Every award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute. No appeal shall lie to any court against the award of the Lok Adalat.
- There is no court fee and if court fee is already paid the amount will be refunded if the dispute is settled at Lok Adalat.
- The basic features of Lok Adalat are the procedural flexibility and speedy trial of the disputes.
- There is no strict application of procedural laws like the Civil Procedure Code and the Evidence Act while assessing the claim by Lok Adalat.
- The parties to the dispute can directly interact with the judge through their counsel which is not possible in regular courts of law.
- The award by the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties and it has the status of a decree of a civil court and it is non-appealable, which does not cause the delay in the settlement of disputes.
In view of above facilities provided by the Act, Lok Adalats are boon to the litigating public as they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost amicably.
Source: The Hindu