Lok Adalat also known as People’s Court is a statutory body under Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. It has been created as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism in India. The concept of Lok Adalat is based on Gandhian Principles. As per the observance of Hon’ble Supreme Court, this system is ancient in India and its validity has not been taken away even in the modern days also. The first Lok Adalat camp was organized in Gujarat in 1982 as a voluntary and conciliatory agency without any statutory backing for its decisions. Further, in Chennai in 1986.
Organization of Lok Adalat:
Lok Adalats are organized at three levels, namely- National, State and Taluka level. High Court, State Authorities or District authorities may organize Lok Adalat at such intervals and places and for exercising such jurisdiction and for such areas as it thinks fit.
Types of Lok Adalat-
Permanent Lok Adalat – Provides mechanism for disposing cases relating to public utility services transport, postal and telegraph.
National Lok Adalat – Held from year 2015, every month on specific topic across India. These are held on a single day disposing off large number of pending cases.
Mega Lok Adalat – Held across all courts in state in a single day.
Mobile Lok Adalats – These types of Lok Adalats are organised occasionally which travel from one place to other across country occasionally and help resolving disputes.
Constitution of Lok Adalat:
Every Lok Adalat organized in 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 organizing. Generally, a Lok Adalat consists of a judicial officer as the chairman and an advocate and a social worker as members.
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:
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. Any case pending before the court can be referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement if: Parties agree to settle the dispute in the Lok Adalat or one of the parties applies for referral of the case to the Lok Adalat or court is satisfied that the matter can be resolved by the Lok Adalat.
In the case of a pre-litigation dispute, a matter can be referred to the Lok Adalat on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to the dispute. Matters such as matrimonial disputes, criminal (compoundable) offences, land acquisition cases, labour disputes, workmen’s compensation cases, bank recovery cases, etc. are being taken up in Lok Adalats.
However, a Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an offence that is not compoundable under any law. In other words, the offences which are non-compoundable under any law fall outside the purview of the Lok Adalat.
Following matters are to be admitted in a Lok Adalat-
Criminal offences which are compoundable.
Cases under section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act.
Issues relating to recovery of money.
Issues under Indian Motor Vehicles Act,1988.
Issues relating to labour disputes.
Issues relating to public utility bills like electricity, water etc. excluding Non-Compoundable offences.
Issues relating to Matrimony.
The Lok Adalat shall have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Civil Procedure Code (1908).Further, a Lok Adalat shall have the requisite powers to specify its own procedure for the determination of any dispute/case coming before it.
All proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of the Indian Penal Code (1860) and every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for the purpose of the Criminal Procedure Code (1973).
An award of a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court or an order of any other court. Every award made by the Lok Adalat shall be final and binding upon the parties to the dispute and no appeal shall lie to any court against the award of the Lok Adalat.
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. There is procedural flexibility and speedy trial of the disputes in Lok Adalat. There is no strict application of procedural laws while assessing the claim by Lok Adalat. The parties to the dispute can directly interact with the judge through their counsel, which is not possible in regular court 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-appealable, which does not cause the delay in the settlement of disputes.
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