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Lok Adalat: Making justice delivery faster, easier

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    25th Jan, 2022

Context

Lok Adalat has emerged as the most efficacious tool of Alternative Dispute Resolution. A total number of 1,27,87,329 cases were disposed of in 2021. Due to technological advancement like E-Lok Adalats, Lok Adalats have reached the doorsteps of parties. 

About

What are Lok Adalat?

  • The term ‘Lok Adalat’ means ‘People’s Court’ and is based on Gandhian principles. 
  • As per the Supreme Court, it is an old form of adjudicating system prevalent in ancient India and its validity has not been taken away even in the modern days too.
  • It is one of the components of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system and delivers informal, cheap and expeditious justice to the common people.
  • The first Lok Adalat camp was organized in Gujarat in 1982 as a voluntary and conciliatory agency without any statutory backing for its decisions.
  • In view of its growing popularity over time, it was given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. 
  • The Act makes the provisions relating to the organization and functioning of the Lok Adalats.

Powers of Lok Adalat

  • The Lok Adalat will have similar powers of a Civil Court and is governed under the Code of Civil Procedure.
  • It has the power to summon and enforce the attendance of a witness.
  • Power to receive evidence regarding a particular case.
  • The Lok Adalat has the power to follow its own procedure for determining any dispute.
  • The proceedings of a Lok Adalat are considered to be judicial proceedings.

Organization:

  • The State/District Legal Services Authority or the Supreme Court/High Court/Taluk Legal Services Committee may organize Lok Adalats
  • Chairman and members: Generally, a Lok Adalat consists of a judicial officer as the chairman and a lawyer (advocate) and a social worker as members.
  • National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) along with other Legal Services Institutions conducts Lok Adalats.
  • The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was amended in 2002 to provide for the establishment of the Permanent Lok Adalats to deal with cases pertaining to the public utility services.

Jurisdiction of Lok Adalat

  • 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:
    • Any case pending before any court, or
    • Any matter which falls within the jurisdiction of any court and is not brought before such court.
  • Matters such as matrimonial/family disputes, criminal (compoundable offenses) cases, land acquisition cases, labor disputes, workmen’s compensation cases, bank recovery cases, etc. are being taken up in Lok Adalats.
  • However, the Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an offense not compoundable under any law. In other words, the offenses which are non-compoundable under any law fall outside the purview of the Lok Adalat.

Significance of 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.
  • There is procedural flexibility and speedy trial of the disputes. There is no strict application of procedural laws 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.
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