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LOK ADALAT

Author: Arushi, pursuing B.A.,LL.B. from Lloyd school of law

Co-author-1: Akshat Singh, pursuing B.A.,LL.B. from Lloyd school of law

Co-author-2: Janhavi, pursuing B.A.,LL.B. from Lloyd school of law


ABSTRACT

Lok Adalat, as it has been again and again iterated throughout the paper, serve very crucial functions in a country due to many factors like pending cases, illiteracy etc. This essay goes into great detail about the Lok Adalat system's history, components, need, and significance.


Additionally, it goes into great length about the Lok Adalats' authority, case-handling process, and other relevant topics.


A creative Indian contribution to international law is the idea of Lok Adalat. The establishment of Lok Adalats opened a new chapter in this nation's justice system and was successful in giving victims of wrongdoing a second platform for amicably resolving their differences. Gandhian ideals are the foundation of this system. It is one of the elements that make up ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) systems. In the past, "panchayats," which were local government bodies, were used to refer to disputes. It also goes into great lengths into village-level structures. Arbitration used to be utilised by panchayats to settle disputes. It has shown to be a very powerful substitute for litigation. The theory of Lok Adalat conceptualizes the idea of resolving disputes by mediation, negotiation, or through an arbitral process known as a "Nyaya-Panchayat" ruling. Those who are either directly or indirectly impacted by dispute resolution are involved.

KEYWORDS: People’s Court, Lok Adalat, Dispute Resolution.


INTRODUCTION

India is the most populous and diverse democracy in the world and it needs a proper legal system to match its differences. If we talk about the present scenario there are nearly 25 million cases pending in Indian courts[1]. Some of them have been appealed and argued for more than 20 years of time period. India is the only country dealing with overburdened legal system with lots of backlog. These backlogs and delay has become more noticeable in the modern day society, which has created pressure on the legal system.


In response, the parliament of India and the courts came up with the solution of creating Lok Adalats. Lok Adalat or People’s Courts is run by Legal Services Institutions. The constitutional status of Lok Adalat is granted by The Legal Services Authority Act,1987[2]. According to the act , the decision granted by Lok Adalats is considered to be an official order of a civil court and is conclusive and binding on both the parties .


Lok Adalats settle the dispute amicably and through compromise. These courts consider those pending lawsuits in the general courts which can be resolved by mediation.


As Abraham Lincoln said, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to comprise where ever you can. Point out them how the nominal winner is often a real loser – in fees, expenses and waste of time. As a peace maker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man, there will be still business enough.”[3]

“Lok Adalat” is defined as a “forum where voluntary effort about bringing a settlement of disputes between the parties is made through conciliatory and pervasive effort”[4]. “Resolving dispute through Lok Adalat not only minimizes litigation expenditure, it saves valuable time of the parties and their witness facilitates inexpensive and promote remedy appropriately to the satisfaction of both the parties”[5].


ORIGIN

Centuries before the Britishers could even arrive, India had a system called panchayat system, whereby respected elder members of the village gather together to resolve the disputes arising in the village. These traditional mediation systems are practiced even today. Mediation being a recent term is not something new to India. During pre-British period, business associates used to request Mahajans (Impartial and respected businessmen) to resolve the disputes using method of mediation and arbitration.


Use of panchas to resolve disputes is an early form of dispute resolution in tribal community. Here, the two parties having dispute meet with a pancha to present their problem and to attempt to come on common grounds.


Before independence and in under British rule, the idea of LOK ADDLATS was forgotten. This idea was reconstructed under again now. Initially in March 1982 Lok Adalats begin in Gujrat, but now have spread again across the country. They have set up to relive the courts from lourd pressure of pending litigation. In this court justice is provided without much emphasis on any strict laws. The parties are advised to get indulge with a judge without a representing attorney to find an amicable solution. Decisions shall be party binding and take place informally.


Lok Adalat is formed through NALSA. NALSA is the national legal service authority which has been constituted under the legal service authorities Act,1987[6] to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society. The main objective of NALSA is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities and to organize Lok Adalat for amicable settlement of disputes.


Nature of Cases to be Referred to Lok Adalat

The kinds of cases that will be sent to Lok Adalat are:


1. Any case that is currently before a court.

2. Any legal issue that hasn't been brought up in court but is likely to be brought up there.


With the exception that no matter involving an offence, that is not punishable by further punishment can be resolved in Lok Adalat.


WHICH LOK ADALAT SHOULD BE CONTACTED

A Lok Adalat has the authority to decide and reach an agreement or settlement between the parties to a dispute regarding, in accordance with section 18(1)[7]of the Act:


(1) A proceeding case; or


(2) Any case that is subject to a court's jurisdiction but is not brought before one for which the Lok Adalat is set up.


LEVELS OF LOK ADALAT

At District Level

Each bench of the Lok Adalat would be composed of a sitting or retired judge, a member of the legal profession, a social worker interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programs, or a person involved in paralegal activities in the area, preferably a woman. The Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat would create the benches.


At High Court Level

The Secretary of the High Court Legal Services Committee would establish benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench consisting of a High Court judge who is either currently serving on the bench or has retired, as well as one or both of the following: a member of the legal profession; a social worker interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programs.


At the State Authority Level

A sitting or retired judge of the High Court, a sitting or retired judicial officer, and either one or both of the following: a member of the legal profession; a social worker interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programs. These benches would make up the Lok Adalat, which would be organized by the Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority.


TYPES OF LOK ADALAT

NATIONAL LOK ADALAT

On a single day, Lok Adalat are held nationwide in all courts, from the Supreme Court down to the taluk levels, when a significant number of cases are resolved. National Level Lok Adalats are held on a regular basis. National Lok Adalats are being held on a certain issue every month since February 2015.


PERMANENT LOK ADALAT

The Permanent Lok Adalat, established in accordance with Section 22-B of The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987[8], is the alternative type of Lok Adalat. In order to provide a mandatory pre-litigative framework for the conciliation and settlement of matters connected to Public Utility Services like transportation, postal service, telegraph, etc., Permanent Lok Adalats have been established as permanent bodies with a chairman and two members. In these cases, even if the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalats will have jurisdiction to resolve the conflict as long as it is unrelated to a criminal offence. The Permanent Lok Adalat's decision is also final and enforceable against all parties. Up to an amount of Ten lakhs Indian Rupees are under the Permanent Lok Adalat's purview. If the parties are unable to agree here The Permanent Lok Adalat has the authority to decide whether or not there should be a settlement. The Permanent Lok Adalat's decision is final and enforceable against the parties. The Lok Adalat is free to conduct the proceedings as it sees fit, taking into account the specifics of the case, the parties’ desires (such as those for oral statements, a prompt resolution of disputes, etc.), and other relevant factors.


Jurisdiction of Lok Adalat as per the section 18(1)[9] of the Act, a Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or to settle the disputes between the parties in respect - if there is any case which is pending before the court or any matter which lies within the jurisdiction of it and is not brought before any court for which Lok Adalat is organized. Lok Adalat can compromise and settle even criminal cases which are compoundable under the relevant laws. Lok Adalat deals with number of cases the cases ranged from matrimonial disputes, partition suits, civil matters, cheque bounce cases in courts, criminal compoundable cases and service matters pertaining to pension, retiral benefits, etc.


MOBILE LOK ADALAT

Mobile Lok Adalat are also organized in various parts of the country which travel from one location to another to resolve disputes in order to facilitate the resolution of disputes through this mechanism.


As on 30.09.2015, more than 15.14 lakhs Lok Adalats have been organized in the country since its inception. More than 8.25 crore cases have been settled by this mechanism so far[10].


ANNUAL REPORT

2018[11]

Lok Adalats were held periodically at every level in 2018. Under the conceptualization of National Legal Service Authority, four Lok Adalats were held across the country.


PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR


​Disposal of

Pre-litigation Cases

​Disposal Of

Pending Cases

​Total Cases Settled

​Lok Adalats( other

than National Lok

Adalat)

​606361

​751602

​1357963

​National Lok Adalat

​3272638

​2609923

​5882561

​Total

​3878999

​3361525

​7240524

2019[1]:

Four Lok Adalats were held across India by legal service Institutions. The cases that were settled included Labour Dispute cases, Service matters, etc.


PERFORMANCE DURING THE YEAR 2019


​Disposal of

Pre-litigation Cases

​Disposal Of

Pending Cases

​Total Cases Settled

State Lok Adalats

​82,166

​5,42,493

​6,24,659

​National Lok Adalat

​26,76,483

​26,16,790

​52,93,273

​Total

​27,58,649

​31,59,283

​59,17,932


​PLAs Functioning

​Cases Pending as on the beginning of the year

​Cases received

during the year

​Cases settled during

the year

​337

​71,655

​92, 413

​1,14,233

2020-21[1]:

Lok Adalats successfully showed their importance in decreasing lourd pressure and burden of courts.


PERFORMANCE DURING THE FINANCIAL YEAR 2020-21


​No. of Lok Adalats held

​Disposal of Pre-

litigation

Cases

​Disposal Of Pending

Cases

​Total Cases Settled

​Total Settlement

Amount

(in Rs.)

​Lok Adalats

( other than

National Lok

Adalat)

​50,451

​1,42,549

​6,01,524

​7,44,073

​42056907755

​National Lok

Adalat

​1

​5,90,427

​7,58,366

​13,48,793

​41568883426

​Total

​50,452

​7,32,976

​13,59,890

20,92,866

​83625791181


STATISTICAL GLIMPSE

​PLAs Functioning

​Cases Pending as on the beginning of the financial year

​Cases received

during the financial

year

​Cases settled during

the financial year

​355

​1,02,624

​58,133

40,458

POWERS OF LOK ADDALAT

The Powers bestowed on Lok Adalat are as follows:


1. Lok Adalat shall have the powers of civil court and the powers of Lok Adalat is given under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908[1].

2. Lok Adalat has power to summon and enforce the attendance of any witness and to examine him/her on oath. It has the power to enforce the discovery and production of any document. It has the power to receive evidence on affidavit It has the power for requisitioning of any public record or document or copy thereof or form any court.

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

4. All the proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of section 193, 219 and 228 of IPC.

5. Every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a civil court for the purpose of section 195 and chapter XXVI of Code of Criminal Procedure.

6. In Lok Adalat if the dispute is resolved through mutual binding, then the judgment/Award is final and binding on the parties and if the Lok Adalat is not able to reach the settlement stage, then the case will again go to courts.


Advantages of Lok Adalat

1. Lok Adalat can be a supplement to the work of courts and could contribute to justice only if there is awareness in the society and people opt for them. For illiterates and poor section of the society, Lok Adalat is an advantageous alternative. Proceedings are held in much faster and simpler way and even in local languages. They are not strict about acts or laws but are based on people’s interests.

2. There is no absolute need of attorneys by the plaintiff and the defendant. They can either prefer to have their cases pleaded by the lawyer or simply discuss the case with the judge directly. This not a possibility in courts and parties get a say only when their turn comes. To explain their stand directly is a major advantage that the Lok Adalats provide.

3. The number of cases in India are increasing at an alarming rate and as compared to that we have inadequate number of courts and judges in the country. This leads to unnecessary delay even in smaller cases. If there is more awareness and people acknowledge the importance of Lok Adalat and utilise it for easy litigation, this will lead to lesser pending cases which are pending since ages.


Problems of Lok Adalat

1. All cases are not suitable for Lok Adalat jurisdiction. Lok Adalats are all about dispute resolution and compromise which is not required by every case. Most of the cases in India require punishments and correctional methods which is not dealt by Lok Adalat. These cases usually fail here and then get recommended to courts. Thiscreates superfluous deferral in the legal proceedings.


2. Further, Judges may not like the presence of attorneys as they negatively impact the resolution process. Some judges believe that lawyers are infamous for dragging cases, which is not ideal for the settlement. Such tensed relationships may lead to undesirable outcomes. Many a times, judges and lawyers do not work together to cater all the interests of their clients in the settlement. This can also result in unfair outcomes for the parties.


3. The emphasis is more on settlement rather than justice. If settlement is not reached, the pressure is applied to convince both the defendants to come on common grounds. This can also lead to less compensation than what can be expected from the case. These cases are therefore being disposed off rather than being solved. In ideal case, if there are no agreements then the case may return to formal court. But there is high possibility that in many cases litigants may compromise due to coercion.


Solutions

1. Legal awareness needs to expand in order to reach poor and ignorant people. This can be done by organizing camps, street plays and legal aid programs at the root level. Legal awareness can also spread through mass media: social media platforms, news channels, etc.

2. To increase its utility the concerned authorities should notify people about the holdings of Lok Adalat and success achieved thereby in proving speedy, equitable and inexpensive justice.


3. For Lok Adalats to be successful, voluntary participation of people is necessary. This can be achieved when they restrain themselves from opting traditional courts in trivial disputes.

4. Increased involvement of law students, social workers, etc. at different levels of Lok Adalat proceedings is appreciated. They can help in explaining litigants that why their case is referred to Lok Adalat so as to enable to put forward their points and get equitable and effective justice.


CONCLUSION

The foundation of the Lok Adalat institution is the idea that disputants should be made aware that their best interests and welfare actually lie in reaching a quick, peaceful, and amicable resolution of their differences. It significantly strengthens the rule of law and our diverse, democratic principles. The goals for which Lok Adalat was intended have been accomplished by its lucrative and effective operations. So, it may be concluded that the Lok Adalat institution is more useful when considering Indian society and the associated issues. Hence, Lok Adalat serves as a venue for quick and fair justice, where any sector of the community can go to resolve an issue quickly and in an inexpensive fashion, satisfying themselves. The fullest possible range of "equal and social justice" has been made possible thanks to Lok Adalats. This will serve to restore and reaffirm the public's faith in the judiciary.

[1]Code of Civil Procedure 1908, No. 05, Acts of Parliament 1908 (India)

[1] National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat

[1] National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat [1]Scott J. Shackelford, In the Name of Efficiency: The Role of Permanent Lok Adalats in the Indian Justice System and Power Infrastructure, 2,2009 [2]MeghaKukreja, An Analysis of Lok Adalat in India, volume 6, JETIR, 579, 579, 2019 [3]THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN [4] AVTAR SINGH, Law of Arbitration & Conciliation, Ninth Edition, Easter Book Company, Page 515 [5] Justice K. RAMASWAMY, Legal Aid News Letter, December 1995 [6]MeghaKukreja, An Analysis of Lok Adalat in India, volume 6, JETIR, 580, 580, 2019 [7]The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987,Section 18(1), No. 39, Acts of Parliament, 1987 (India) [8]The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987,Section 22-B, No. 39, Acts of Parliament, 1987 (India) [9]The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987,Section 18(1), No. 39, Acts of Parliament, 1987 (India) [10] National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat [11]National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat

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