Legal Service India.com  
law articles

law Articles Lok Adalats And Permanent Lok Adalats
A Scope For Judicial Review ?
A Critical Study

click here for LIVE help-desk
Chat with us  (2 PM - 9 PM IST)


 Karthyaeni.V and Vidhi Bhatt

  Search On:Laws in IndiaLawyers Search

Introduction:
1. Lok Adalats in India
ADR has been an integral part of our historical past. Like the zero, the concept of Lok Adalat (Peoples' Court) is an innovative Indian contribution to the world jurisprudence. The institution of Lok Adalat in India, as the very name suggests, means, People's Court. "Lok" stands for "people" and the vernacular meaning of the term "Adalat" is the court. India has a long tradition and history of such methods being practiced in the society at grass roots level. These are called panchayat and in the legal terminology, these are called arbitration. These are widely used in India for resolution of disputes ? both commercial and non-commercial. Other alternative methods being used are Lok Adalat (People's Court), where justice is dispensed summarily without too much emphasis on legal technicalities. It has been proved to be a very effective alternative to litigation.

The ancient concept of settlement of dispute through mediation, negotiation or through arbitral process known as "Peoples' Court verdict" or decision of "Nyaya-Panch" is conceptualized and institutionalized in the philosophy of Lok Adalat. Some people equate Lok Adalat to conciliation or mediation, some treat it with negotiations and arbitration. Those who find it different from all these, call it "Peoples' Court". It involves people who are directly or indirectly affected by dispute resolution.

The salient features of this form of dispute resolution are participation, accommodation, fairness, expectation, voluntariness, neighbourliness, transparency, efficiency and lack of animosity.

The concept of Lok Adalats was pushed back into oblivion in last few centuries before independence and particularly during the British regime. Now, this concept has, once again, been rejuvenated. It has, once again, become very popular and familiar amongst litigants. This is the system which has deep roots in Indian legal history and its close allegiance to the culture and perception of justice in Indian ethos. Experience has shown that it is one of the very efficient and important ADRs and most suited to the Indian environment, culture and societal interests.

Camps of Lok Adalats 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 and to give relief to the litigants who were in a queue to get justice. The first Lok Adalat was held on March 14, 1982 at Junagarh in Gujarat the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Lok Adalats have been very successful in settlement of motor accident claim cases, matrimonial/family disputes, labourdisputes, disputes relating to public services such as telephone, electricity, bank recovery cases and so on.

Some statistics may give us a feeling of tremendous satisfaction and encouragement. Up to the middle of last year (2004), more than 200,000 Lok Adalats have been held and therein more than16 million cases have been settled, half of which were motor accident claim cases. More than one billion US dollars were distributed by way of compensation to those who had suffered accidents. 6.7 million persons have benefited through legal aid and advice.

The Statistics of the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority as to the number of cases disposed, the amount of compensation paid etc have been annexed herewith.

1.1 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. Even before the enforcement of the Act, the concept of Lok Adalat has been getting wide acceptance as People's Courts as the very name signifies. Settlement of disputes at the hands of Panchayat Heads or tribal heads was in vogue since ancient times. When statutory recognition had been given to Lok Adalat, it was specifically provided that the award passed by the Lok Adalat formulating the terms of compromise will have the force of decree of a court which can be executed as a civil court decree.

1.2 Procedure at Lok Adalat:
 The procedure followed at a Lok Adalat is very simple and shorn of almost all legal formalism and rituals. The Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, with two other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker. It is revealed by experience that in Lok Adalats it is easier to settle money claims since in most such cases the quantum alone may be in dispute. Thus the motor accident compensation claim cases are brought before the Lok Adalat and a number of cases were disposed of in each Lok Adalat. One important condition is that both parties in dispute should agree for settlement through Lok Adalat and abide by its decision. A Lok Adalat has the jurisdiction to settle, by way of effecting compromise between the parties, any matter which may be pending before any court, as well as matters at pre-litigative stage i.e. disputes which have not yet been formally instituted in any Court of Law. Such matters may be civil or criminal in nature, but any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law cannot be decided by the Lok Adalat even if the parties involved therein agree to settle the same. Lok Adalats can take cognizance of matters involving not only those persons who are entitled to avail free legal services but of all other persons also, be they women, men, or children and even institutions. Anyone, or more of the parties to a dispute can move an application to the court where their matter may be pending, or even at pre-litigative stage, for such matter being taken up in the Lok Adalat whereupon the Lok Adalat Bench constituted for the purpose shall attempt to resolve the dispute by helping the parties to arrive at an amicable solution and once it is successful in doing so, the award passed by it shall be final which has as much force as a decree of a Civil Court obtained after due contest.

1.3 Finality of Lok Adalat award:
One issue which raises its head often is the finality of the award of the Lok Adalat. During the Lok Adalat, the parties agree to abide by the decision of the judge at the Lok Adalat. However, it is often seen that later, the same order is challenged on several grounds. In one of the recent decisions, the Supreme Court of India has once again laid to rest all such doubts. In unequivocal terms, the Court has held that award of the Lok Adalat is as good as the decree of a Court. The award of the Lok Adalat is fictionally deemed to be decrees of Court and therefore the courts have all the powers in relation thereto as it has in relation to a decree passed by itself. This, includes the powers to extend time in appropriate cases. The award passed by the Lok Adalat is the decision of the court itself though arrived at by the simpler method of conciliation instead of the process of arguments in court.

1.4 Consent of Parties
The most important factor to be considered while deciding the cases at the Lok Adalat is the consent of both the parties. It can not be forced on any party that the matter has to be decided by the Lok Adalat. However, once the parties agree that the matter has to be decided by the Lok Adalat, then any party cannot walk away from the decision of the Lok Adalat. In several instances, the Supreme Court has held that if there was no consent the award of the Lok Adalat is not executable and also if the parties fail to agree to get the dispute resolved through Lok Adalat, the regular litigation process remains open for the contesting parties.

The Supreme Court has also held that compromise implies some element of accommodation on each side. It is not apt to describe it as total surrender.

A compromise is always bilateral and means mutual adjustment. Settlement is termination of legal proceedings by mutual consent. If no compromise or settlement is or could be arrived at, no order can be passed by the Lok Adalat.

1.5 Benefits of Lok Adalat
The benefits that litigants derive through the Lok Adalats are many. # 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.

#  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.

#  Thirdly, disputes can be brought before the Lok Adalat directly instead of going to a regular court first and then to the Lok Adalat.? 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.

#  Last but not the least, faster and inexpensive remedy with legal status.

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.

Overall effect of the scheme of the Lok Adalat is that the parties to the disputes sit across the table and sort out their disputes by way of conciliation in presence of the Lok Adalat Judges, who would be guiding them on technical legal aspects of the controversies.

The scheme also helps the overburdened Court to alleviate the burden of arrears of cases and as the award becomes final and binding on both the parties, no appeal is filed in the Appellate Court and, as such, the burden of the Appellate Court in hierarchy is also reduced. The scheme is not only helpful to the parties, but also to the overburdened Courts to achieve the constitutional goal of speedy disposal of the cases. About 90% of the cases filed in the developed countries are settled mutually by conciliation, mediation etc. and, as such, only 10% of the cases are decided by the Courts there. In our country, which is developing, has unlike the developed countries, number of Judges disproportionate to the cases filed and, hence, to alleviate the accumulation of cases, the Lok Adalat is the need of the day.

2. Permanent Lok Adalats
During the last few years Lok Adalat has been found to be a successful tool of alternate dispute resolution in India. It is most popular and effective because of its innovative nature and inexpensive style. The system received wide acceptance not only from the litigants, but from the public and legal functionaries in general. In India, during the last few years Lok Adalat has been functioning continuously and permanently in every district centre. In taluk centres also sittings of Lok Adalats have been held successfully. Several thousands of pending cases and disputes which had not reached law courts have been settled through Lok Adalats.

The major defect of the mechanism of Lok Adalat is that it cannot take a decision, if one of the parties, is not willing for a settlement, though the case involves an element of settlement. The adamant attitude shown by one among the parties will render the entire process futile. Even if all the members of the Lok Adalat are of the opinion that the case is a fit one for settlement, under the present set-up, they cannot take a decision unless all the parties consent.

In his inaugural address at the second annual meet of the State Legal Services Authorities, 1999, the then Hon'ble Chief Justice Dr A.S. Anand airing him views stated thus:

"There will be no harm if Legal Services Authorities Act is suitably amended to provide that in case, in a matter before it, the Judges of the Lok Adalats are satisfied that one of the parties is unreasonably opposing a reasonable settlement and has no valid defence whatsoever against the claim of the opposite party, they may pass an award on the basis of the materials before them without the consent of one or more parties. It may also be provided that against such awards, there would be one appeal to the court to which the appeal would have gone if the matter had been decided by a court.... This course, I think, would give relief to a very large number of litigants coming to Lok Adalats at prelitigative stage as well as in pending matters."

In 2002, Parliament brought about certain amendments to the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The said amendment introduced Chapter VI-A with the caption PRE LITIGATION CONCILIATION AND SETTLEMENT. Section 22-B envisages establishment of "PERMANENT LOK ADALATS (PLA)" at different places for considering the cases in respect of Public Utility Services (PUS).

If there is a dispute with respect to PUS, as per Section 22-C(1), any party to such a dispute can, before bringing it to a court of law for adjudication, make an application to PLA for the settlement of that dispute. The party making such application need not be a party who raises a claim against a public utility service. If a claim is made by one against a public utility service, the establishment carrying out the public utility service can also raise that dispute before PLA to resolve it. The only limitation is that PLA shall not have jurisdiction to consider a dispute relating to an offence not compoundable under any law or any matter where the value of the property in dispute exceeds Rs 10 lakhs. But the Central Government can, by an appropriate notification, increase this limit. Once an application has been made to PLA by one party, no party to that application shall invoke the jurisdiction of any court in the same dispute.

PLA has to be established by the National Legal Services Authority or the State Legal Services Authorities. It shall have three members; the Chairman, who is or has been a District Judge or an Additional District Judge or has held a judicial office higher in rank than that of a District Judge and two other members having adequate experience in public utility service. Such persons shall be appointed by the State or the Central Authority, as the case may be, upon nomination by the respective Governments. But at the same time, such nomination shall be on the recommendation of the Central or the State Authority. Section 22-C(3) provides that when an application is filed raising a dispute, the parties shall be directed to file written statements with appropriate proof, including documents and other evidence. Copies of documents produced and statements made by the parties shall be given to each other. Thereafter PLA shall conduct conciliation proceedings between the parties to bring about an amicable settlement to the dispute. It is the primary duty of PLA as per Section 22-C(4). While conducting such conciliation proceedings, it is incumbent on the members of PLA to assist the parties to reach an amicable settlement.

The parties are also obliged to cooperate in good faith with PLA. If PLA is of the opinion that "there exist elements of settlement in such proceedings, which may be acceptable to the parties", it shall formulate the terms of possible settlement, communicate its observations to the parties and if the parties agree, the settlement shall be signed and an award shall be passed in terms of such settlement and copies of the award shall be furnished to the parties. See Section 22-C(7). It is also provided in sub-section (8) that in cases where there exist elements of settlement, but the parties fail to reach at an agreement, "the Permanent Lok Adalat shall, if the dispute does not relate to any offence, decide the dispute". "For the purpose of holding any determination" the Permanent 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 summoning and enforcing of attendance and examining of witnesses, discovery or production of documents, reception of evidence on affidavits, requisitioning of public records and documents and such other matter as the Government may prescribe. PLA can specify its own procedure for deciding the dispute coming before it and the proceedings shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings. The award of PLA, whether made on merit or on settlement shall be final and binding on parties and be deemed to be a decree of a civil court. It shall be executed as if it is a decree of a civil court having jurisdiction in respect of the dispute involved. But the award cannot be called in question in any "original suit, application or execution proceedings". This, in effect, is the scheme of the amendment establishing a Permanent Lok Adalat (PLA).

This will, certainly, prove to be very effective, litigant-friendly and less-expensive mechanism to resolve certain serious disputes. As PUS are rendered mainly by corporate bodies, this virtually will be a forum for ordinary men and women to ventilate their grievances against such corporate bodies. In the changing economic scenario of the country where insurance, communication and other services are thrown open to corporate giants, it is all the more necessary to provide for cost-effective and delay-free tools for resolution of disputes. PLA is a structured clubbing conciliatory mode with certain features of arbitration to arrive at decisions under given circumstances. There is sharp criticism against this machinery both in its constitution and its functioning especially from lawyers. The main opposition against the amendment is based on the following viz. (1) with regard to the constitution of PLA; (2) insofar as PLA is given the power to decide a dispute unlike the ordinary Lok Adalats (LA) envisaged as per Section 19 of the Act which only conciliates the dispute; and (3) absence of provision for appeal against the decision of PLA.

It is submitted that there is no basis for these criticisms. As the Government is nominating the members, there may be political consideration in their appointment, it is said. It is true that the members of PLA shall be nominated by the respective Governments. But such nomination shall be, in terms of Section 22-B(2)(b) of the Act, on recommendation by the Legal Services Authority concerned. After such nomination, they have to be appointed by the Legal Services Authority concerned. So there is no chance for the Government's nominee getting appointed.

There is a Central Authority called the "National Legal Services Authority". Its patron is the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India. Its Executive Chairman is the seniormost Judge of the Supreme Court of India. Two among the members are two Chairmen of the State Legal Services Authorities who are invariably sitting Judges of the High Courts concerned. Another member is the Secretary of the Department of Legal Affairs and there is a Member Secretary who is a District Judge. Apart from that, there are members like the Secretary, Department of Expenditure, and members appointed by the Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. Those persons shall be eminent persons in the field of law or persons of repute in the legal services schemes or eminent social workers.

So far as the State Legal Services Authorities are concerned, it is headed by a Patron-in-Chief who is none other than the Hon'ble Chief Justice of the High Court. In almost all the State Authorities, except perhaps one or two, a sitting Judge of the High Court functions as the Executive Chairman. A District Judge functions as the Member Secretary.

So far as Kerala is concerned, the other members are the Registrar of the High Court, the Advocate-General, the Director General of Prosecutions, the Chairman of the Bar Council of Kerala, President of the Kerala High Court Advocates' Association, the Law Secretary, the Finance Secretary, Director of Health Services, Director General of Police, Chairman, Kerala State Women's Commission and persons having special knowledge and practical experience in social service etc. Other State Authorities also have similar constitution. It is these authorities with such eminent personalities which shall recommend the names of the members of PLA. It is a body consisting of the Chief Justice of the High Court and a sitting Judge who is the Executive Chairman of the State Authority, which consists of eminent persons in the legal field that recommends such members. Members so recommended shall have to be nominated by the Government. The members so nominated shall have to be appointed by the authority concerned as members of PLA. It cannot be taken that the members so recommended by the authority shall be on political consideration or incompetent to function as members of PLA. It cannot be taken that a body consisting of the Chief Justice and a sitting Judge or retired Judge and other persons with the status of a District Judge and Advocate-General, Chairman of Bar Council etc. will recommend incompetent persons to be members of PLA. These respectable persons, it is hoped, will always recommend only competent persons. It cannot be presupposed that these respectable bodies consisting of very eminent persons will recommend incompetent incumbents.

There is criticism that the persons so appointed will not have legal background. Presently, the specialised tribunals are appointed with the representatives of social organisations or experts. In the case of machineries set up to try disputes raised by consumers, members other than Chairman are persons without legal background. Even in administrative tribunals, persons without legal background, but only with administrative experience are appointed as members. Along with persons with judicial background experts or experienced persons without legal background are also appointed in other alternative dispute redressal forums.

The second criticism is with regard to the functioning of PLA insofar as it is given the power to decide a dispute when the parties do not agree for a settlement. While deciding the dispute, it is made clear that the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act will not have application. In other words, the determination or decisions will be in a summary manner. As already mentioned above, PLA is given ample power in the matter of reception of evidence, examination of witnesses etc. the power that a civil court has. A decision is possible only in those cases where in the opinion of the Permanent Lok Adalat "there exist elements of settlement". In such cases, PLA formulates the terms of a possible settlement and gives such terms to the parties concerned for their observations. These observations will be considered on the basis of evidence produced by the parties. If they do not come to a settlement, PLA shall decide the dispute. That means, PLA is not given the power to decide every dispute coming before it. Only those disputes where there exist elements of settlement can be decided by the Permanent Lok Adalat. The decision or the opinion of the Permanent Lok Adalat as to whether there exist elements of settlement is also a matter which can be subjected to judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, there shall be a check in that respect as well.

It is further ensured in the Act that while deciding the dispute on merit, PLA shall be guided by the "principles of natural justice, objectivity, fair play, equity and other principles of justice". Thus, a fair procedure is always envisaged. Therefore, there is no reason for any criticism on the power granted to PLA to decide the dispute in the event of a settlement not being arrived at despite the existence of an element of settlement.

It cannot be said that there is no appeal against the decision of PLA. So far as the ordinary Lok Adalats (LA) are concerned which is in existence even prior to the amendment and is still being continued no appeal will lie against an award of that Lok Adalat. The ordinary LA adopts only a conciliatory method and does not decide a dispute. Therefore, disputes are settled on consent of the parties. When a dispute is settled based on consent, no appeal need lie from any such order or award even if there is a settlement in court. Under the civil procedure law also no appeal shall lie from a decree passed on consent of the parties. This is the reason the Act declares that "no appeal shall lie to any court against the award" of ordinary Lok Adalat (LA) envisaged in Chapter VI of the Act.

But the award of Permanent Lok Adalat (PLA) envisaged in the newly introduced Chapter VI-A is different. If it is an award upon consent of parties and is as a result of compromise, necessarily, nobody will think of an appeal. When there is a decision by PLA, as the parties did not agree for a compromise, it is possible that the aggrieved party may think of an appeal. Every award of the Permanent Lok Adalat, whether it is based on consent of the parties, or on compromise or upon the decision, "shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court". Thus the decision taken by PLA will have all the attributes of a decree of a civil court. It will be taken and considered in all respects, as a decree of a civil court. Every decree, unless it is appealed against and so long as it is allowed to continue, will be final and binding on the parties. Same is the case of an award of PLA. It is true that there is no provision for appeal. But appeal is not expressly excluded, in the case of award of PLAs. It is not stated anywhere in the Act that an award of a PLA shall not be called in question in any appeal, as is done in the case of the award of an ordinary Lok Adalat (LA) in Section 21(2) of the Act.

Certainly, appeal will lie only if it is provided somewhere by law. Otherwise, one cannot file an appeal. It seems that the provision of Section 96(1) CPC could be relied on to establish that an appeal is not excluded. As already mentioned above, the award of PLA has all the attributes of a civil court decree and it is deemed as a decree of a civil court. Section 96(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 provides:

Save where otherwise expressly provided in the body of this Code or by any other law for the time being in force, an appeal shall lie from every decree passed by any court exercising original jurisdiction to the court authorized to hear appeals from the decisions of such court." When the award of PLA is treated as a decree of civil court and as it is not otherwise provided in the Legal Services Authorities Act that no appeal shall lie from such award, necessarily, that being deemed a civil court decree, an appeal shall lie from that decree.

An award of PLA shall be executed by a civil court "having local jurisdiction" depending upon the amount of the decree. Necessarily, an appeal shall also lie to a court depending upon the quantum of the amount involved in the decree or to the High Court being a decision of a body consisting of three persons of which a District Judge or a retired District Judge is the Chairman. So there is possibility for a judicial review in an appeal.

In the case of the awards of ordinary Lok Adalat (LA), the statute specifically provides that it shall not be challenged in an appeal. But the very same legislature did not legislate such a provision when it dealt with the award of PLA. The manifest difference in the provisions relating to the awards of PLA and LA is not accidental. The difference really means that an appeal is possible against an award of PLA in terms of Section 96(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, when it is not specifically barred by the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and as the award has all the attributes of a decree of a civil court. Even otherwise, the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India cannot be ruled out, being one among the basic features of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the criticism that the award of PLA cannot be called in question in a higher forum has no force. Moreover, PLA is a machinery to settle or decide disputes relating to public utility services. In the changing economic scenario, the establishments rendering public utility services, enumerated in the Act might be run by corporate sectors. Common people may have claims against these corporates. If they are given a speedy and inexpensive remedy to resolve their grievances, it should be welcomed.

Lawyers can very well apprise the client of the demerits, if any, of the machinery of PLA. In spite of that, if the party is inclined to resort to the cheaper remedy, it cannot be said that the legislation is antilitigant, as there is no compulsion that one shall first approach PLA before approaching a court of law.

Of course, as already mentioned, the party other than the claimant also can raise the dispute before PLA and it is likely that PLA may render a decision, if no settlement is arrived at, in spite of the existence of elements of settlement. Thus an award may come against a person who really did not desire to avail of this remedy in respect of his claims. In such circumstances, he can either resort to an appeal, or at any rate, to proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It cannot be argued that the members of PLA will be biased in their decision and that they may even defeat the decision of the Chairman by forming a majority on extraneous considerations. Even if it happens so in a rare situation, certainly it can be corrected either in a proceeding under Article 226 of the Constitution of India or in an appeal as mentioned above.

There shall be some definite qualifications for the other members of PLA. Presently what is required is that they shall have "adequate experience in public utility service". This is too vague a phraseology. It is always advisable to spell out definite qualifications, so that the litigants will have confidence that the persons deciding their disputes are sufficiently qualified and able.

As already mentioned above, it is possible, if somebody raises a claim against public utility services, the latter can bring that dispute before PLA. PLA may take some time to render a decision. In case no compromise is arrived at, and if the case involves no element of settlement what will happen, if in the meantime the period of limitation is over, so far as the claimant party is concerned Can it be taken that he has been "prosecuting with due diligence in civil proceedings" in a court  Because, so far as PLA is concerned, he was not the party initiating the dispute. The Lok Adalat is not treated as a court, but only vested with certain powers of a civil court or shall be deemed to be a civil court for the purpose of Section 195 and Chapter XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. These aspects require consideration.

3. Scope For Judicial Review
-A Critical Study

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

The large population of India and the illiterate masses have found the regular dispensation of justice through regular courts very cumbersome and ineffective. The special conditions prevailing in the Indian society and due to the economic structure, highly sensitized legal service is required which is efficacious for the poor and ignorant masses. The Lok Adalat movement is no more an experiment in India. It is now a success and but needs to be replicated in certain matters.

In this chapter the researchers have tried to arrive at whether there is any need for a judicial review in the current status and scenario of Lok Adalats with the necessary critical study over the matter with possible solutions and suggestions as and when needed.

As aforesaid in the objective of the Lok Adalats, the intention of the legislator has been to put an end to the disputes summarily and reduce the burden of the courts. Therefore, the Lok Adalats decide the matters on a consent/ compromise basis. The Lok Adalat passes the award after the parties have agreed on the settlement and have given consent over it.

The Lok Adalat will passes the award with the consent of the parties, therefore there is no need either to reconsider or review the matter again and again, as the award passed by the Lok Adalat shall be final. Even as under Section 96 of C.P.C. that "no appeal shall lie from a decree passed by the Court with the consent of the parties". The award of the Lok Adalat is an order by the Lok Adalat under the consent of the parties, and it shall be deemed to be a decree of the Civil Court, therefore an appeal shall not lie from the award of the Lok Adalat as under Section 96 C.P.C.

In Punjab National Bank v. Lakshmichand Rai the High Court held that "The provisions of the Act shall prevail in the matter of filing an appeal and an appeal would not lie under the provisions of Section 96 C.P.C. Lok Adalat is conducted under an independent enactment and once the award is made by Lok Adalat the right of appeal shall be governed by the provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act when it has been specifically barred under Provisions of Section 21(2), no appeal can be filed against the award under Section 96 C.P.C." The Court further stated that "It may incidentally be further seen that even the Code of Civil Procedure does not provide for an appeal under Section 96 against a consent decree. The Code of Civil Procedure also intends that once a consent decree is passed by Civil Court finality is attached to it. Such finality cannot be permitted to be destroyed, particularly under the Legal Services Authorities Act, as it would amount to defeat the very aim and object of the Act with which it has been enacted, hence, we hold that the appeal filed is not maintainable.

The High Court of Andhra Pradesh held that, in Board of Trustees of the Port of Visakhapatnam v. Presiding Officer, Permanent, Lok Adalat-c` The award is enforceable as a decree and it is final. The endeavour is only to see that the disputes are narrowed down and make the final settlement so that the parties are not again driven to further litigation or any dispute. Though the award of a Lok Adalat is not a result of a contest on merits just as a regular suit by a Court on a regular suit by a Court on a regular trial, however, it is as equal and on par with a decree on compromise and will have the same binding effect and conclusive just as the decree passed on the compromises cannot be challenged in a regular appeal.

"The truth is, a judgment by consent is intended to put a stop to litigation between the parties just as much as is a judgment which results from the decision of the Court after the matter has been fought out to the end. And I think it would be very mischievous if one were not to give a fair and reasonable interpretation to such judgments, and were to allow questions that were really involved in the action to be fought over again in a subsequent action."

To the like effect are the following observations of the Judicial Committee in - 'Kinch v. Walvott', :-
"First of all their Lordships are clear that in relation to this plea of estoppel it is of no advantage to the appellant that the order in the libel action which is said to raise it was consent order. For such a purpose and order by consent, not discharged by mutual agreement, and remaining unreduced, is as effective as an order of the Court made otherwise than by consent and not discharged on appeal."

On this authority it becomes absolutely clear that the consent order is as effective as an order passed on contest, not only with reference to the conclusion arrived at in the previous suit but also with regard to every step in the process of reasoning on which the said conclusion is founded.

When we say "every step in the reasoning" we mean the findings on the essential facts on which the judgment or the ultimate conclusion was founded. In other words the finding which it was necessary to arrive at for the purpose of sustaining the judgment in the particular case will operate as estoppel by judgment.

In all the above judgments, it has clearly been laid down that, a matter of consent decree need not go on an appeal. However, the power of judicial review in a given case is implicit under the Constitution unless expressly excluded by a provision of the Constitution. This power is available to correct any order passed by a statutory authority which is violative of any of the provisions of the statute. The Lok Adalat is a creation of statute and gets jurisdiction from it and hence this Court is competent to go into an order passed by it, to decide whether the order in question is valid in law. The writ jurisdiction of the High Court cannot be circumscribed by provisions of any enactment as is to be found in Section 21 of the Act and it can always exercise its jurisdiction if an order, left alone, would amount to abrogating the rule of law.

The question of appeal and judicial review in the case of a PLA is however different. It cannot be said that there is no appeal against the decision of PLA. So far as the ordinary Lok Adalats (LA) are concerned which is in existence even prior to the amendment and is still being continued no appeal will lie against an award of that Lok Adalat. The ordinary LA adopts only a conciliatory method and does not decide a dispute. Therefore, disputes are settled on consent of the parties. When a dispute is settled based on consent, no appeal need lie from any such order or award even if there is a settlement in court. Under the civil procedure law also no appeal shall lie from a decree passed on consent of the parties. This is the reason the Act declares that "no appeal shall lie to any court against the award" of ordinary Lok Adalat (LA) envisaged in Chapter VI of the Act.

But the award of Permanent Lok Adalat (PLA) envisaged in the newly introduced Chapter VI-A is different. If it is an award upon consent of parties and is as a result of compromise, necessarily, nobody will think of an appeal. When there is a decision by PLA, as the parties did not agree for a compromise, it is possible that the aggrieved party may think of an appeal. Every award of the Permanent Lok Adalat, whether it is based on consent of the parties, or on compromise or upon the decision, "shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court". Thus the decision taken by PLA will have all the attributes of a decree of a civil court. It will be taken and considered in all respects, as a decree of a civil court. Every decree, unless it is appealed against and so long as it is allowed to continue, will be final and binding on the parties. Same is the case of an award of PLA. It is true that there is no provision for appeal. But appeal is not expressly excluded, in the case of award of PLAs. It is not stated anywhere in the Act that an award of a PLA shall not be called in question in any appeal, as is done in the case of the award of an ordinary Lok Adalat (LA) in Section 21(2) of the Act.

Certainly, appeal will lie only if it is provided somewhere by law. Otherwise, one cannot file an appeal. It seems that the provision of Section 96(1) CPC could be relied on to establish that an appeal is not excluded. As already mentioned above, the award of PLA has all the attributes of a civil court decree and it is deemed as a decree of a civil court. Section 96(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 provides:

Save where otherwise expressly provided in the body of this Code or by any other law for the time being in force, an appeal shall lie from every decree passed by any court exercising original jurisdiction to the court authorized to hear appeals from the decisions of such court.  When the award of PLA is treated as a decree of civil court and as it is not otherwise provided in the Legal Services Authorities Act that no appeal shall lie from such award, necessarily, that being deemed a civil court decree, an appeal shall lie from that decree.

An award of PLA shall be executed by a civil court "having local jurisdiction" depending upon the amount of the decree. Necessarily, an appeal shall also lie to a court depending upon the quantum of the amount involved in the decree or to the High Court being a decision of a body consisting of three persons of which a District Judge or a retired District Judge is the Chairman. So there is possibility for a judicial review in an appeal.

In the case of the awards of ordinary Lok Adalat (LA), the statute the very same legislature did not legislate such a provision when it dealt with the award of PLA. The manifest difference in the provisions relating to the awards of PLA and LA is not accidental. The difference really means that an appeal is possible against an award of PLA in terms of Section 96(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, when it is not specifically barred by the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and as the award has all the attributes of a decree of a civil court. Even otherwise, the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India cannot be ruled out, being one among the basic features of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the criticism that the award of PLA cannot be called in question in a higher forum has no force.

The question of appeal in case of Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat is therefore clear. The whole intention of the legislator has been to provide for a finality of the proceedings since the matters were to be settled on a compromise basis.

There is always the scope to go for a writ petition to challenge the award in case of any grave illegality. The probability of fraud, misrepresentation, force etc while arriving at the consent or compromise cannot be ruled out. There is again a chance that the one of the parties may not be in a position to understand the nature of the legality of the proceedings and an award has been passed due to the sheer negligence of the judge.

The likelihood of such events cannot be ruled out. In Mansukhlal Vithaldas Chauhan v. State of Gujarat, it was held that; The duty of the Court is to confine itself to the question of legality. Its concern should be, (i) whether the decision-making authority exceeded its powers?; (ii) committed an error of law; (iii) committed a breach of the rules of natural justice; (iv) reached a decision which no reasonable Tribunal would have reached; or (v) abused its powers. In the case on hand the Lok Adalat exceeded its powers, committed an error of law, committed breach of the rules of natural justice and abused its powers. Even if this Court were to strictly confine itself to the question of legality, the impugned order cannot still be tolerated as it suffers from all the foibles that justify interference under Article 226 of the Constitution.

The Karnataka State Bar Council was opposed to the section in the Act which said if one party approached the permanent Lok Adalat, the other party had no option but to participate in the litigation. This was opposed to the canons of justice, the lawyers said. "The right of judicial review or appeal is fundamental in all legal matters and making the decision of the permanent Lok Adalats final, without the right of appeal, will vest unrestricted power in the hands of a tribunal in which two non-officials can dominate... it will impair the administration of justice,'' they said.

In Election Commission of India v. Union of India and Ors., the Apex Court while dealing with the powers of the Court under the Constitution to interfere with an order passed by the Election Commission, laid down: "There are no unreviewable discretions under the constitutional dispensation. The overall constitutional function to ensure that constitutional authorities function within the sphere of their respective constitutional authority is that of the Courts". The enunciation by the Apex Court making even an order by a constitutional authority reviewable should leave no doubt in any one's mind that a discretion exercised by a statutory authority would be well-within the reviewable discretion of this Court.

N.L.Rajag, President of Concumer Courts, Bar Association also pointed out that Permanent Lok Adalats do perform and can perform invaluable service as conciliators or mediators. But then to tell parties that even if they do not agree to settle the matter the Lok Adalat would go ahead and pass a decree which will then be binding on them, is horrendously arbitrary and unreasonable.

But one tends to forget the forum of judicial review is always open for the parties through the writ petitions. This is a basic feature of the Constitution and cannot be ruled out. Denial of it would be unfair and unwarranted.

The ultimate result would be that all these matters will come knocking at the doors of the High Court, thus suffocating an already overloaded High Court.
_________________________________________
Significance of Lok Adalats in present scenario: The topic of the assignment paper is "Significance of Lok Adalats in present scenario" and it deals with the very question of the applicability of Lok Adalats.....

Lok Adalat & Perspective of Paribarik Mahila Lok Adalat: Lok Adalat now is playing sole role in solving disputes and settling MACT cases......

Lok Adalats: The concept of Lok Adalats was pushed back into oblivion in last few centuries before independence and particularly during the British regime.......

Significance Of Lok Adalat
Camps of Lok Adalat were started initially in Gujarat in March 1982 and now it has been extended....

lawyers More Articles:
CPC, Evidence Law, LBA & Property Law
Significance Of Lok Adalat
Public Interest Litigation
Legal Aid

We offer Copyright Registration Services
Right from your Desktop
.....

Divorce Advice - Legal Advice Ask Our legal Experts, on issues related to Divorce Click Here

Find A lawyer: Delhi - Kolkata - Mumbai - Chennai - Bangalore - Hyderabad - Allahabad - Pune - Ahmedabad - Nagpur -
Cochin
- Chandigarh - Gurgaon - Jaipur - Ludhiana

Authors contact info - articles The  author can be reached at: karthyaeni@legalserviceindia.com / Law Print This Article

Legal Service India

Arbitration
Cyber Law
Copyright
Protect your website
Trademarks
Passport
Income-Tax
Contract laws
Criminal laws
Lok Adalat, legal Aid & PIL
Supreme Court Judgments
Legal Latin maxims
Famous Trials

Download law Forms
Famous - Quotes
Medico Legal
Divorce law
Family law
Patent Forms
Wills
law ibrary
Law Articles
Legal Resources
Cheque bounce laws
Law Blog
legal Discussion Forum
Osama Bin Laden
Stamp Duty Calculator
Link-Exchange
Bare - Acts
Constitutional Law
Immigration Law

Company Law
Partnership firms
Woman issues
Consumer laws
Cause Lists
High Courts in India
legal Profession
Law Forum
Web-Search
Blogs

Ad page
Sitemap

RSS Feed

Lawyers in India - Search by City

legal Service India

lawyers in Delhi - New Delhi
lawyers in Chennai
lawyers in Chandigarh
lawyers in Surat
lawyers in Nashik
lawyers in Janjgir
lawyers in Indore
lawyers in Allahabad
lawyers in Agra
lawyers in Ahmedabad
lawyers in Jodhpur
Lawyers in Noida & Gr Noida
Lawyers in New York
Lawyers India

lawyers in Kolkata
lawyers in Mumbai
lawyers in Bangalore
lawyers in Pune
lawyers in Hyderabad
lawyers in Rajkot
lawyers in Nagpur
lawyers in Pondicherry
lawyers in Jaipur
lawyers in Cochin
lawyers in Lucknow
International Courts
Law Colleges
Law Debates

Home | About Us | Privacy | Terms of use | F A Q | Divorce by mutual consent | Lawyers | Submit article | Sitemap | Contact Us

legal Service India.com is Copyrighted under the Registrar of Copyright Act ( Govt of India) 2000-2013
ISBN No: 978-93-82417-01-9