National Legal Services Authority Act was enacted by the parliament
in the year of 1987. It came into force on 9th November 1995. Its
main motive is to establish a nationwide uniform network providing
free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society
on the basis of equal opportunity. National Legal Services Authority
(NALSA) has been constituted under the legal services authority Act,
1987 to monitor and evaluate implementation of legal aid
programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal
services available under the Act.
Article 39A of the constitution of India
provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the
society and ensures justice for all. Article 14 and 22(1) of the Indian
constitution is fundamental right mentioned in part Ⅲ. It also make it
obligatory for the state to ensure equality before law and a legal
system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to
- Here, the free legal services include:
- Payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any
- Providing services of lawyers in legal proceedings.
- Obtaining and supply of certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings.
- Preparation of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.
- Main functions inscribed under this act are as follows:
- To provide free and competent legal services to the eligible persons.
- To organise Lok Adalat for amicable settlements of disputes.
- To organise legal awareness camps in the rural areas.
- It has been constituted at different level:
- Centre Level - National Legal Service Authority. It is mentioned in Section -3 of the Act.
- State Level - State Legal Service Authority. It mentioned in Section - 6.
- District Level - District legal Services Authority. It is under Section - 9.
- Taluk Level - Taluk Legal Services committee under Section -11A.
- Supreme court legal services committee under Section - 3A.
- High Court Legal Services Committee under Section - 8A.
- The persons eligible for getting free legal services include:
- Women and Children
- Members of SC/ST
- Industrial workers
- Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster
- Disabled persons
- Victims of trafficking in human beings or beggar
- Persons whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 1 lakh (in the Supreme Court Legal
Services Committee the limit is Rs. 1,25,00).
Lok Adalat is a forum where the cases which are pending in a court
or which are pre litigation (not yet brought) before a court are
compromised or settled in an amicable manner.
The Supreme Court has explained the
meaning of the institution of the Lok Adalat in the following
"The Lok Adalat is an old form of adjudicating system
prevailed in ancient India and its validity has not been taken
away even in the modern days too ". Here, the word ' Lok
Adalat ' means 'People's Court' it shows it is available at
ground root level also.
It is one of the components of ADR
(Alternate Dispute Resolution) system. Lok Adalat provides
alternate resolution of disputes with inexpensive mode and
speedy justice. It is based on Gandhian principles as it supports
peaceful resolution of disputes among parties by means of
compromise. In Lok Adalat proceedings, there are no victors,
vanquished and rancour.
As Indian courts are overburdened
with the backlog of cases and the regular courts are to decide the
cases involving a lengthy, expensive and tedious procedure, Lok Adalat is introduced for speedy justice.
Need For The Lok Adalat:
Lok Adalat has positive contributory role in the administration of justice. It supplements the efforts and work of the courts. Area of
contribution chosen for the purpose specially concerns and helps the common man, the poor, backward and the needy most sections of the society.
- Justice Ramaswamy says: 2
"Resolving disputes through Lok Adalat not only minimizes litigation expendititure, it saves valuable time of the parties and their witnesses and also facilitates inexpensive and prompt remedy appropriately t the satisfaction of both the
Law courts in India are facing mainly four problems:
- The number of courts and judges at level are inadequate for speedy justice.
- Increase in flow of cases in recent years due to multifarious acts enacted by the central and state governments.
- The high cost involved in prosecuting or defending a case in a court of law, due to heavy court fee, lawyer's fee and incidental charges.
- Delay in disposal of cases resulting in huge pendency in all the courts.
Statutory StatusIn 1982, for the first time Lok Adalat camp was organised in Gujarat 3. This initiative was proved very successful in the settlement of disputes. Thus, the country started implementation
of Lok Adalat at distinct places.
Constitution Of Lok Adalat:
The State Legal Services authority or the District Legal Services Authority or the Supreme court Legal Services Committee
or the High Court Legal Services Committee or the Taluk Legal Services Committee may organise Lok Adalats at such intervals and places and for such areas as it thinks fit.
Composition Of Lok Adalat: Every Lok Adalat organised for an area
shall consist of such number of serving or retired judicial
officers and other persons of the area as may be specified
by the agency such as State Authority, District Authority
or Supreme court legal services committee, High court
legal services committee or may be by Taluk legal services
committee. Generally, a Lok Adalat consists of a judicial
officer as the chairman and a lawyer as ( ADVOCATE )
and a social worker as members. The experience and
qualification of other persons referred to in clause (b) of
sub section (2) for Lok Adalat other than referred to in sub
section (3) shall be such as may be prescribed by the State
Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the
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:
Thus, the Lok Adalat can deal with not only the cases pending before a court but also with the disputes at pre-litigation stage.
- Any case pending before any court; or
- Any matter which is falling within the
jurisdiction of any court and is not brought before such court.
- Matters such as can be taken up in Lok Adalat: 4
But, the Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law. In other words we can say
that, the offences which are non – compoundable under any law fall outside the purview of the Lok Adalat.
- Matrimonial / family Disputes
- Criminal cases (Compoundable Offences)
- Land Acquisition cases
- Labour Disputes
- Worker's compensation cases
- Bank recovery cases
- Pension cases
- Housing Board and slum clearance cases
- Housing Finance cases
- Consumer Grievances cases
- Electricity matters
- Disputes relating to Telephone Bills
- Municipal Matters including House Tax cases
- Disputes with Cellular Companies, etc.
Cognizance Of Cases By Lok Adalats:
- The parties thereof agree to settle the dispute in the Lok Adalat; or
- One of the parties thereof makes an application to the court, for referring the case to the Lok Adalat; or
- The court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
- In case of pre-litigation dispute, the matter can be referred to the Lok Adalat for the settlement by the agency organising the Lok Adalat, on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to the dispute.
Provided that no cases shall be referred to the Lok Adalat by such court except after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the parties.
Powers Of The Lok Adalat: 5
- 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 the following matters:
- The summoning and enforcing the attendance of any witness examining him on oath
- The discovery and production of any document
- The reception of evidence on affidavit
- The requisitioning of any public record or document from any court or office
- Such other matters as may be prescribed.
- Without prejudice to the generality of the powers contained in sub – section (1), Every Lok Adalat shall have the requisite powers to specify its own procedure for the determination of any
dispute coming before it.
- All the proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of sections - 193, 219 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) and every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a civil court for the purpose of section 195 and chapter ⅩⅩⅥ of the Code of Criminal
Award Of The Lok Adalat:An award of a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court or an order of any other court and where a compromise or settlement has been arrived at, by a Lok Adalat in a case reffered to it under sub-section (1) of section 20, the court fee paid in such case shall be refunded in the manner
provided under the Court Fees Act , 1870. Every award by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute. No appeal shall lie to any court against the award of the Lok Adalat.
BenefitsAccording to the Supreme Court, the benefits under Lok Adalat are as follows:
- 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. Abraham Lincon 6 has observed:
Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise wherever you can. point out to them How the
nominal winner is often a real loser - in fees,
expense, and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a
good man. there will still be business enough .."
Lok Adalat is the only institutionalized mechanism of dispute resolution in which the parties do not have any expenses.
Denial of free legal services to the poor accused persons or under trial
prisoners would vitiate the principle of reasonable, jst and fair procedure which is implied in the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In Suk Das v. Union territory of Anurachal Pradesh 7, the Apex Court held that:
Failure to provide free legal aid to an accused on the ground that he was not provided with legal aid at the time of his trial and thus
there was violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The basic features of Lok Adalat are the
procedural flexibility and speedy trial of the
disputes. There is no strict application of
procedural laws like the Civil Procedure Code
and the Evidence Act while assessing the claim
by Lok Adalat. Lok Adalat ensures speedier
justice because it can be conducted at suitable
places, arranged very fast, in local languages
too, even for the illiterates.
- The parties to the dispute can directly interact
with the judge through their counsel which is
not possible in regular courts of law.
- The award by the Lok Adalat is binding on the
parties and it has the status of a decree of a
civil court and it is non-applicable, which does
not cause the delay in the settlement of
disputes finally. In Punjab National Bank v. Lakshmichand Rai 8
, an appeal was filled
under S.96 of the Code of Civil Procedure
against the award made by the Lok Adalat.
The question before the court was whether
such can appeal is maintainable. so in the case
it was iterated that:
"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 Legal Services Authority Act."
It has been
specifically mentioned in Section - 2 (2) that
no appeal shall die against an order of a Lok
- The main thrust of the Lok Adalat is on compromise. When no compromise is reached, the matter goes back to the court.
While conducting the proceedings, a lok Adalat acts as a conciliator and not as an arbitrator.
Its role is to persuade the parties to hit upon a solution and help in reconciling the contesting
differences. Lok Adalat cannot decide in a particular way. It encourages consensual
arrangements. it is not possible for Lok adalat to decide upon any issue not acceptable to any
of the parties. Lok Adalat are also required to follow the principles of natural justice and
other other legal principles.
In Kishan Rao v. Bidar District Legal Services Authority 9, the question raised was whether the lok Adalat could pass a decree when all the parties had
not appeared before the Lok Adalat nor had notice been issued to them. The Karnataka
High Court interepreted Section 20(3) of the Legal Services Authorities Act to hold that all
the parties to suit must be present if the compromise was to be a valid one. thus the
impuned decree was struck down as being a nullity by reason of violation of natural
In view of above facilities provided by the Act, Lok Adalat are boon to the litigation public as they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost amicably. Hence, it is a very healthy way of dispute resolution.
Permanent Lok AdalatThe Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 was amended in 2002 to provide for establishment of the Permanent Lok Adalat to deal with cases pertaining to the public utility services like
transport, postal, telegraph, etc 10
Reasons For Permanent Lok Adalat:
- The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was enacted to constitute
legal services authorities for providing free and competent legal services
to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities for
securing justice were not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or
other disabilities and to organise Lok Adalats to ensure that opportunities
for securing justice were not denied to any citizen by reason to ensure that
the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal
- The system of Lok Adalat, which is an innovative
mechanism for alternate dispute resolution, has proved
effective disputes in a spirit of conciliation outside the
- However, the major drawback in the existing scheme of organisation of the Lok adalat under the said Act is that the
system of Lok Adalat is mainly based on compromise or
settlement, the case is either returned to the court of law or
the parties are advises to seek remedy in a court of law.
This causes unnecessary delay in the dispensation of justice. If Lok Adalats are given power to decide the cases on
merits in case parties fails to arrive at any compromise or
settlement, this problem can be tackled to a great extent.
- Further, the cases which arise in relation to public utility
services such as Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited,
Delhi Vidyut Board11, etc, need to be settled urgently so
that people get justice without delay even at pre-litigation
stage and thus most of the petty cases which ought not to go
in the regular courts would be settled at the pre-litigation
stage itself which would result in reducing the workload of
the regular courts to a great extent.
- It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Legal Services
Authorities Act, 1987 to set up Permanent lok Adalats for
providing compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for
conciliation and settlement of cases relating to public utility
Features Of Permanent Lok Adalat:
The salient features of the new institution of Permanent Lok Adalat
are as follows:
- The Permanent Lok Adalat shall consist of a Chairman who is or
has been a district judge or additional district judge or has held
judicial office higher in rank than that of the district judge and two
other persons having adequate experience in public utility services.
- The Permanent Lok Adalat shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of
one or more public utility services such as transport services of
passengers or goods by air, road and water ;postal, telegraph or telephone services ; supplyof power, light or water to the public by
any establishment; public conservancy or sanitation ; services in
hospitals or dispensaries ; and insurance services.
- The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalat shall be up
to rupees ten lakhs. However, the Central Government may increase
the said pecuniary jurisdiction from time to time.
- The Permanent Lok Adalat shall have not jurisdiction in respect of
any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
- Before the dispute is brought before any court, any party to the
dispute may make an application to the Permanent Lok Adalat for
settlement of the dispute. After an application is made to the
Permanent Lok Adalat, no party to that application shall invoke
jurisdiction of any court in the same dispute.
- Where it appears to the Permanent Lok Adalat that exist elements
of a settlement, which may be acceptable to the parties, it shall
formulate the terms of a possible settlement and submit them to the
parties for their observations and in case the parties reach an
agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall pass an award in terms
thereof. In case parties to the dispute fail to reach an agreement, the
Permanent Lok Adalat shall decide the dispute on merits.
- Every award made by the Permanent Lok Adalat shall be final and
binding on all the parties thereto shall be by a majority of the persons
constituting the Permanent Lok Adalat.
We can trace Lok Adalat presence from the past life itself. As
earlier there was an ancient concept of settlement of dispute
through mediation, negotiation or through arbitral process
which were headed by the most trusted or highly intellectual or
senior persons of the society. The judgement of Heads were
considered as full and final award by everyone.
conceptualized and institutionalized behind the philosophy of
Lok Adalat. It involves people who are directly or indirectly
affected by disputes. It is easy mode of conducting justice to
everyone at grassroot level. It also promotes Gandhian principle
of peacefullness. It is based on transparency, efficiency and
less expensive form of justice. It is formed with the motive to
decrease the backlog of the cases. It promotes speedy justice to
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. Everyone has conscience to
choose for it as their dispute resolving body. 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 the way of
conciliation in presence of the Lok Adalat judges who would be
guiding them on technical legal aspects of the controversies.
Hence, it is the most effective, easiest, non – expensive mode
of delivering justice to the wider sections of the society.