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GS Mains Test Series 2018
GS Mains Test Series 2018

LOK ADALAT

In every system of government, the effective justice delivery mechanism is a permanent and necessary condition of peace, order, civilization and governance of the country.

It is the primary duty of State to ensure equal and even handed justice for all by regulating the dealings of citizens with one another, by checking disorder and high handedness of one class of people over others and by maintaining all those rights which are fundamental to the existence and upliftment of common man through establishing the effective administration of justice.

But, in reality, the guarantee of equality before law does not provide any satisfaction to a poor man due to lack of access to justice.  The other reasons which affected badly the administration of justice are delay, corruption, expensive litigation, non access, less number of courts, judges and official staff, lengthy process and lack of legal aid and legal awareness to the needy.

So in the light of these weaknesses of the existing judicial system, Lok Adalat has been established.

Legislation pertaining to Lok Adalats

The advent of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 gave a statutory status to Lok Adalats, pursuant to the constitutional mandate in Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, contains various provisions for settlement of disputes through Lok Adalat.

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 organize Lok Adalats to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity.

Salient features of Lok Adalat

  • It is based on settlement or compromise reached through systematic negotiations.
  • It is a win - win system where all the parties to the dispute have something to gain.
  • It is one among the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) systems. It is an alternative to "Judicial Justice".
  • It is economical - No court fee is payable. If any court fee is paid, it will be refunded.
  • The parties to a dispute can interact directly with the presiding officer, which is not possible in the case of a court proceeding.
  • Lok Adalat is deemed to be civil court for certain purposes.
  • Lok Adalat is having certain powers of a civil court.
  • The award passed by the Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court.
  • An award passed by the Lok Adalat is final and no appeal is maintainable from it.
  • An award passed by the Lok Adalat can be executed in a court.
  • The award can be passed by Lok Adalat, only after obtaining the assent of all the parties to dispute.
  • Code of Civil Procedure and Indian Evidence Act are not applicable to the proceedings of Lok Adalat.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Levels and Composition of Lok Adalats

  • At the State Authority Level

The Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judge of the High Court or a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of- a member from the legal profession; a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes.

  • At High Court Level

The Secretary of the High Court Legal Services Committee would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judge of the High Court and any one or both of- a member from the legal profession; a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes.

  • At District Level

The Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of either a member from the legal profession; and/or a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.

  • At Taluk Level

The Secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee organizing the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of either a member from the legal profession; and/or a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.

National Lok Adalat

National Level Lok Adalats are held for at regular intervals where on a single day Lok Adalats are held throughout the country, in all the courts right from the Supreme Court till the Taluk Levels wherein cases are disposed off in huge numbers.

Permanent Lok Adalat

The other type of Lok Adalat is the Permanent Lok Adalat, organized under Section 22-B of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Permanent Lok Adalats have been set up as permanent bodies with a Chairman and two members for providing compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of cases relating to Public Utility Services like transport, postal, telegraph etc. Here, even if the parties fail to reach to a settlement, the Permanent Lok Adalat gets jurisdiction to decide the dispute, provided, the dispute does not relate to any offence. Further, the Award of the Permanent Lok Adalat is final and binding on all the parties. The jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalats is upto Rs. Ten Lakhs. Here if the parties fail to reach to a settlement, the Permanent Lok Adalat has the jurisdiction to decide the case. The award of the Permanent Lok Adalat is final and binding upon the parties. The Lok Adalat may conduct the proceedings in such a manner as it considers appropriate, taking into account the circumstances of the case, wishes of the parties like requests to hear oral statements, speedy settlement of dispute etc.

Mobile Lok Adalats

They 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.

 Benefits of Lok Adalat

The benefits that litigants derive through the Lok Adalats are many.

  1. a) 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.
  2. b) 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.
  3. c) Thirdly, disputes can be brought before the Lok Adalat directly instead of going to a regular court first and then to the Lok Adalat.
  4. d) 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.
  5. e) Last but not the least, faster and inexpensive remedy with legal status.

Conclusion

Objective of Lok Adalat is to settle the disputes which are pending before the courts, by negotiations, conciliation and by adopting persuasive common sense and human approach to the problems of the disputants.

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