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An Overview On The Concept Of Lok Adalats

As stated by Aristotle, "Man is a social animal", i.e. man survives on this planet by interacting with other human beings. During this interaction process, there is a possibility of disputes, now if the nature of the dispute is such that it is important and cannot be ignored then the resolution of such dispute also becomes very important. One of the mechanisms that strike our minds when it comes to the matter of Dispute Resolution is the Court System/ the judiciary. Still, there is another effective mechanism as well apart from the judiciary which helps in Dispute Resolution, it is the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system.

As the name itself suggests, the ADR mechanism is a substitute or Alternative to the conventional methods (the court system) for resolving disputes. There are different kinds of ADR mechanisms, they are-
  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Conciliation
  • Arbitration
  • Lok Adalats

This paper will focus on the concept of Lok Adalats.

What Is Lok Adalats?

The term 'Lok Adalats' refers to the 'People's Court'. It is that kind of ADR system or a forum where disputes in a pre-litigation stage or pending in front of the court are settled. It is governed under the Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987, and it is since 1987 statutory backing or the status has been given to the Lok Adalats. It was in the year 1982 when the State of Gujarat widely started the Lok Adalats camps without any statutory backing but one which acted as the foundation for the further development of this concept in India. As the majority population of the country resides in poverty, Lok Adalats plays a crucial role in making the justice delivery system cost-effective.

As a popular saying goes "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied", Lok Adalats in this aspect also plays a crucial role by providing speedy justice and acts as the 'Apertures to Speedy Justice'. In 2018 alone, about 47 lakh cases were disposed of in National Lok Adalats, which included about 21 lakh pending cases and 26 lakh pre-litigation cases.[1]

Lok Adalats also helps in fulfilling the objectives mentioned in the Preamble of our Indian Constitution, i.e., Securing Justice- Social, economic, and political for every citizen of India, and promoting Ar. 39A aims to provide free legal aid to the deprived and the weaker sections of society and to promote justice based on equal opportunity.[2]

Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987:

The advent of the Legal Services Authorities Act, of 1987 gave statutory status to Lok Adalats, under the constitutional mandate in Article 39 A of the Indian Constitution. It contains various provisions for the settlement of disputes through Lok Adalat. The Act clearly makes it mandatory for the Legal Service Authorities to provide free and competent legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to ensure that because of economic or other disabilities, the right to secure justice is not denied to particular sections of society.

The Act also provides that, it is important for the Lok Adalats to ensure justice by providing everyone equal opportunity. The statutory status given to the Lok Adalats specifies that the award that is passed by the Lok Adalats would be deemed as the decree of civil courts.

The Legal Services Authority Act, of 1987 came into effect on 9th November 1995, following the Amendment Act of 1994, that has made several amendments to the main Act.[3] It is divided into VII Chapters and 30 Sections.

Organization And Composition Of Lok Adalats:

The Lok Adalats are established or organized under S. 19 of the Legal Service Authority Act, 1987, according to which, every state authority or district authority the Supreme Court legal service committee or every High Court Legal Service committee or as the case may be Taluka legal committee may organize Lok Adalat at such places and for exercising such Jurisdiction.[4]

The Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, the High Court Legal Services Committee, the State Legal Services Authority, the District Legal Services Authority, or as the case may be, the Taluk Legal Services Authority is responsible for establishing or organizing the Lok Adalats in India.

The Lok Adalats comprise of a:
  • Chairman: A retired or sitting judge of a court could act as the chairman of Lok Adalat.
  • Other two members: who must be the lawyers
  • Renowned social worker: who is engaged in the work of uplifting the poor sections of society and is interested in providing legal services to the needy.
The persons who decide the matters taken up by the Lok Adalats are called the members of the Lok Adalats. The members of the Lok Adalats do not act as the judge of ordinary courts, they act as the statutory intermediaries who can only persuade the parties for settlement but cannot compel them for the same.

The matters of the courts that are organizing the Lok Adalats can be dealt with by the Lok Adalats, hence, it has the same jurisdiction as the courts under which it is organized. It can also take up matters if one of the parties has requested the courts to transfer the matter to Lok Adalats or if the parties have themselves through an agreement decided to resolve their disputes through Lok Adalats. However, it cannot take up the matters non- compoundable.

Award of Lok Adalats: After the proceedings or hearings from the parties, the Lok Adalats settle the case by making the parties arrive at a compromise in a speedy manner. The award so disposed of by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be the decree of a civil court. The award of the Lok Adalats is final and binding and no appeal lies. However, if any of the parties to the dispute is not satisfied with the decision of the Lok Adalats, then such a party may approach the appropriate having the jurisdiction to deal with a like matter.

Types Of Lok Adalats:
  1. Permanent Lok Adalat: Ongoing bodies with the main objective to improve the efficiency of the Legal System by ensuring that disputes in public utility services are promptly addressed.
  2. National Lok Adalat: Held monthly, dealing with specific topics across India. Established in 2015 to clear the backlog of pending cases.
  3. Mega Lok Adalat: Organized on a single day across all courts in a state to handle a large number of cases simultaneously.
  4. Mobile Lok Adalat: Courts on wheels that travel to different areas, especially remote and rural, making justice accessible to all regions.

Advantages Of Lok Adalats:

  1. Procedural Flexibility: Proceedings are flexible, not bound by strict procedures of ordinary codes, allowing parties to interact and settle satisfactorily.
  2. No Court Fees: No fees are collected, and court fees paid for pending matters are refunded upon settlement in Lok Adalat.
  3. Maintenance of Amicable Relations: ADR mechanism that encourages compromise, preserving amicable relations between parties.
  4. Final & Binding Award: Awards are final and binding under Section 21 of the Act, reducing the burden on courts and eliminating appeals.
  5. Reduces Workload of Ordinary Courts: Speedy recovery of long-pending cases and pre-litigation cases, reducing the burden on ordinary courts.
  6. Speedy Justice: Established to provide speedy justice, a part of the Right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  7. Helpful for Weaker Sections of Society: No court fee charged, making justice affordable for the poor sections of the country.

Powers Of Lok Adalat:
The Lok Adalat shall have the powers of a civil court under the CPC, 1908 while trying a suit in respect of the following matters:
  • Lok Adalats have the power to issue summons and ensure the attendance of parties to the forum.
  • It has the power to examine the parties by taking their oath.
  • It can also seek the production of necessary documents from the parties.
  • Power to receive evidence on affidavits.
  • Power for requisitioning of any public record or document or copy thereof or from any court.
  • Any other miscellaneous matters.
  • The proceedings of Lok Adalat shall be deemed judicial proceedings within the meaning of S. 193, 219 and 228 of IPC.
  • Every Lok Adalat shall be deemed a civil court for S. 195 and Chapter XXVI of Cr. P.C.

Functions Of Lok Adalats:

  • Lok Adalats deals with both, civil and criminal matters as it has the same jurisdiction of the court under which it is established. However, it cannot deal with non-compoundable matters.
  • The functions of the Lok Adalats are disposed of by the members of the Lok Adalats comprising of a retired or a sitting judicial officer as a chairman, two lawyers, and a renowned social worker.
  • After the matter is taken up to the Lok Adalats, it specifies the time, date, and place to the parties for disposing off the matter.
  • It persuades the parties to compromise and arranges for such compromise and records.
  • It saves the time and expenses for appeals, hence, saving the time of the courts and reducing the expenses of the parties.

Case Laws On Lok Adalats:

S. S. Bola vs. B. D. Sardana (2004): [8] In this case, the Supreme Court highlighted the importance of Lok Adalats in resolving disputes amicably and reducing the burden on the regular court system. The judgment has highlighted the importance of promoting the ADR mechanism.

Narmada Bai vs. State of Gujarat (2011): [9] The Supreme Court stated the significance of Lok Adalats in providing speedy and effective justice. The judgment emphasized the need to encourage parties to opt for Lok Adalats to resolve disputes.

Murlidhar Aggarwal vs. State of Haryana (2010):[10] The Supreme Court in this case has highlighted the importance of spreading awareness about Lok Adalats and encouraging parties to participate voluntarily in the resolution of disputes through alternative mechanisms.

Criticisms On The System Of Lok Adalats:

Despite the advantages mentioned above, Lok Adalats are criticized on the following points:
  • The objective with which the Lok Adalats are given a statutory value in India is for the speedy recovery of the disputes. However, in reality, the same seems not to be achieved efficiently.
  • Another aim of the Lok Adalats is to provide inexpensive justice to the poor, i.e., to make justice affordable to all the sections of the society. However, the parties, in reality, are incurring large expenses in the form of advocates' fees and other miscellaneous expenses.
  • The retired or the sitting judicial officers are taken as the presiding officers of the Lok Adalats. Despite having great experience in resolving disputes and good knowledge of the law, they lack the skills to convince the parties and bring them to a compromise.
  • The Lok Adalats can only pass the award if the parties come to a compromise, but if they have failed to arrive at the same, it would be again taken back to the ordinary court for settlement, hence, making the process of dispute resolution lengthier and more delayed.

The above-mentioned criticisms are only situational or circumstantial. No system of Dispute Resolution has proved flawless, therefore, apart from a few flaws, the Lok Adalats as a Dispute Resolution mechanism does significantly contribute to the Indian Legal System, by reducing the burden on the Indian Judiciary and providing speedy and affordable or accessible justice to all the sections of the society.

  1. Live Laws News Network, Over 10 Lakh Cases Settled in National Lok Adalat, LIVE LAW, (10:32 AM, 13th March, 2019),
  2. India Const. ar. 39A
  3. Nikunj Arora, Legal Services Authority Act, 1987, I PLEADERS, (June 2, 2022),
  4. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987, No. 39, Acts of Parliament, 1987 (India).
  5. Government of India, Lok Adalat, National Legal Services Authority, (3:25 PM, June 4, 2019),
  6. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987, No. 39, Acts of Parliament, 1987 (India).
  7. 1979 SCR (3) 532
  8. AIR 1997 Supreme Court 3127
  9. AIR 2011 Supreme Court 1804
  10. 1975 SCR (1) 575
Written By: Bammidi Preethy

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