Introduction: – Article 39-A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker section of the society and ensure justice for all. Article 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution of India also made it obligatory for the state to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
In the year 1987, the legal service authority act was enacted by the Parliament which came into force on 9th November 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker section of the society.
The 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.
In every State – State legal Services Authority,
In every High Court – High Court legal Services Committee,
In every District – District Legal Services Authority,
In every Taluk – Taluk Legal Services Committee,
All this is constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of NALSA and to provide free legal aid.
Supreme Court Legal Services Committee has been constituted to administer and implement the legal services program in so far as it relates to the Supreme Court of India.
- All these authorities and committees are made to discharge the following main functions on regular basis: –
- To provide free and competent legal services to the eligible person.
- To organise Lok Adalat for amicable settlement of disputes.
- To organise legal awareness camp in the rural areas.
The Free Legal Services Include: –
- Payment of the Court fee, procedure fee and all other charges related with legal proceedings.
- Providing services of lawyer 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.
- Person Eligible for Getting free Services includes: –
- Women and children.
- Members of SC/ST.
- Industrial Workmen.
- Disable person.
- Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster.
- Persons in custody.
- Persons whose annual income does not exceed ₹ 1lakh (₹ 1.25 lakh in Supreme Court).
- Victims of trafficking in human beings or beggars.
Introduction: – NALSA along with other legal services institutions conduct Lok Adalat.
Lok Adalat have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authority Act 1987. Under the said act, the award (decision) made by Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any court of law.
If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat, though there is no provision for an appeal against such an award, but they are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case of following the required procedure in exercise of their right to litigate.
There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat. If a matter pending in the court of law is referred to the Lok Adalat and is settled subsequently the court fee originally paid in the court on the petition is also refunded back to the parties. The person deciding the case in the Lok Adalat are called members of the Lok Adalat, they have the role of statutory conciliators only and don’t have any judicial role. Therefore, they can only persuade the parties to come to a conclusion for settling the dispute outside the court in the Lok Adalat and shall not pressurise or coerce any of the parties to compromise or settle cases or matters either directly or indirectly. The Lok Adalat shall not decide the matter so referred at its own instance. Instead, the same would be decided on the basis of the compromise or settlement between the parties. The member shall assist the parties in an independent and impartial manner in their attempt to reach amicable settlement of the dispute.
Nature of Cases to be referred to Lok Adalat
- Any case pending before any court.
- Any dispute which has not been brought before any court and is likely to be filed before the court.
- Provided that any matter relating to an offence not compromised under the law shall not be settled in Lok Adalat.
Which Lok Adalat to be Approached
As per section 18(2) of the act, a Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise/settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of: –
- Any case pending before, or,
- Any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of and is not brought before, any court for which Lok Adalat is organised, provided that Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of matters relating to divorce or matters relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
How to get the case referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement
The state legal service authority or district legal service authority as the case may be on receipt of an application from any one of the parties at a pre-litigation stage may refer such matters to the Lok Adalat for amicable settlement of the dispute for which notice would then be issued in the other party.
Levels and Composition of Lok Adalat
- At the State Authority level: – The member secretary of the state legal services authority organising the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or a retired judge of the High Court or a sitting or a retired judicial officer and anyone of both of a member from legal profession, a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker section and interested in the implementation of legal services scheme or programme.
- At High Court level: – The member secretary of the High Court legal services committee organising the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or a retired judge of the High Court or a sitting or a retired judicial officer and anyone of both of a member from legal profession, a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker section and interested in the implementation of legal services scheme or programme.
- At District level: – The member secretary of the district legal services authority organising the Lok Adalat, would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or a retired judicial officer and anyone of both of a member from legal profession, a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker section and interested in the implementation of legal services scheme or programme.
- At Taluk level: – The member secretary of the taluk legal services committee organising the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or a retired judicial officer and anyone of both of a member from legal profession, a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker section and interested in the implementation of legal services scheme or programme.
National Lok Adalat: –
National Lok Adalat are held at regular intervals, where on a single day lok Adalat are held throughout the country, in all the courts right from the Supreme Court till the taluk level, where in cases are disposed of in huge number. From February 2015 National Lok Adalat are being held on a specific matter every month.
Permanent Lok Adalat: –
The other type of Lok Adalat is ‘Permanent Lok Adalat’, organised under section 22-B of the legal services authority act 1987. It has been set up as permanent bodies with a chairman and two members for providing compulsory pre-litigation mechanism for conciliation, and settlement of cases relating to public utility services like transport, hostel, telegraph etc. Jurisdiction of permanent lok adalat is ₹10 lakh.
Mobile Lok Adalat: –
It is also organised in various parts of the country which travel from one location to another to resolve dispute in order to facilitate the resolution of dispute through this mechanism.
On 30-09-2015, more than 15.4lakh lok adalat have been organised in the country, and more than 8.25 crore cases have been settled by this mechanism so far.
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