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Significance Of Lok Adalat

Written By: Kumar Ravish, Pre Law First Year Symbiosis College of Law
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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. 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 flavor 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.

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 since early years. This form was made available for settlement of Motor Third Party claims under the initiative of former Chief Justice of India, Shir P.N.Bhagwati, since then number of lok Adalats have been organized throughout the Country through this forum to the satisfaction of the claimants. It is expected to gather further momentum for settlement of these 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. This is the simplest method, which is devoid of procedural wrangles of regular trial. According to Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act 1994 effective from 09-11-1995 has since been passed, Lok Adalat settlement is no longer a voluntary concept. By this Act Lok Adalat has got statutory character and has been legally recognized. Certain salient features of the Act are enumerated below:

Section 19
1 Central, State, District and Taluka legal Services Authority has been created who are responsible for organizing Lok Adalats at such intervals and place.
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 refrence.
3 Where the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
4 Compromise settlement shall be guided by the principles of justice, equity, fairplay 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.

Section 21
After the agreement is arrived by the consent of the parties, award is passed by the conciliators. The matter need not be reffered to the concerned Court for consent decree.
The Act provisions envisages 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 for the purpose of 
1 Summoning of Witnesses.
2 Discovery of documents.
3 Reception of evidences.
4 Requistioning of Public record.

Hon’ble Delhi High Court has given a landmark decision highlighting the significance of Lok Adalat movement. It has far reaching ramifications.
Landmark Decision of Hon’ble Delhi High Court AIR 1999 Delhi Page-88

Abdul Hasan and National Legal Services Authority-Petitioner Vs. Delhi Vidyut Board and others


Facts of the Case - The petitioner filed a writ petition before Delhi High Court for restoration of electricity at his premises, which was disconnected by the Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) on account of non-payment of Bill. Interalia, the grievances of the citizens were not only confined to the DVB but also directed against the State agencies like DDA, Municipal Corporation, MTNL, GIC and other bodies, Court notices were directed to be issued to NALSA and Delhi State Legal Service Authority. Judgment Held- His lordship Hon’ble Mr. Justice Anil Dev Singh passed the order giving directions for setting up of permanent Lok Adalats. The scholarly observations of His Lordship Mr Justice Anil Dev Singh deserve special commendations and are worthy of note. It will be profitable to reproduce the important text and abstract from this judgment, which should be an eye opener for all of us. It should also steer the conscience of all, as there is an increasing need to make Lok Adalat movement a permanent feature.

Article 39 A of the Constitution of India provides for equal justice and free legal aid. It is, therefore clear that the State has been ordained to secure a legal system, which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. The language of Article-39 A is couched in mandatory terms. This is made more than clear by the use of the twice-occurring word “shall” in Art-39 A. It is emphasized that the legal system should be able to deliver justice expeditiously on the basis of equal opportunity and provide free legal aid to secure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizens by reasons of economic or other disabilities. It was in this context that the parliament enacted the Legal Services Authority Act-1987.

The need of the hour is frantically beckoning for setting up Lok Adalats on permanent and continuous basis. What we do today will shape our tomorrow. Lok Adalat is between an ever-burdened Court System crushing the choice under its own weight and alternative dispute resolution machinery including an inexpensive and quick dispensation of justice. The Lok Adalat and alternative dispute resolution experiment must succeed otherwise the consequence for an over burdened court system would be disastrous. The system needs to inhale the life giving oxygen of justice through the note.

If we closely scrutinize the contents of the decision of Delhi High Court, there has been an alarming situation of docket-explosion and the ultimately remedy is the disposal of cases through the mechanism of Lok Adalat.

You may also contact the author for any query concerning this article : agrawalshyam@legalserviceindia.com

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