Before understanding about Lok Adalat, we should know about something called as NALSA National Legal Services Authority. It is a statutory body which was set up under a legal services authorities act 1987. It has two important objectives: one is to give life to article 39 A which guarantees free and competent legal services for weaker sections so one objective is to ensure free legal services to the weaker section and second objective is to organize Lok Adalat for amicable settlement of disputes for facilitating out of court settlement alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. This NALSA is headed by chief justice of India and similarly we have a state level legal service authority which will be headed by high court chief justice. There will be district level legal services authority which will be headed by district judge. All these Lok Adalat will be set up organized in the court complexes itself.
So, Lok Adalat refers to people’s court which aims to have a alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The cases which are pending in the court, the cases which are in the pre-litigation stage if the parties are interested to settle the case outside the court through amicable settlement, through alternative resolution dispute resolution mechanism, through mediation and conciliation, they can approach this Lok Adalat and they can settle the case.
The Lok Adalat’s arrangement or the order passed by the Lok Adalat will be final and there is no appeal. For example, let us take I have a dispute with another person. We are not interested in going to court because court is time consuming, lot of money is involved so we want to settle it outside the court, but we want someone to give an unbiased solution. Now the opposite person and I, we both approach Lok Adalat.
Lok Adalat will act like a mediator as it will create a platform in which myself and the opposite party will discuss and we will arrive at some solution, that arrangement will be passed as an order by this Lok Adalat and there is no appeal for that order. However, if you want you can file a fresh litigation and you can take it to court. So that is different but if you want to go for an out of court settlement there is an option called as Lok Adalat where the order passed by the Adalat will be final and there is no appeal. You are not prevented to go to court, but you have to refresh the case proceedings and then you can approach the court and you can solve the case.
The persons deciding the cases in the Lok Adalat are called as members. Generally, as a retired judge and advocate and a social worker will be the members of this Lok Adalat. They will not pressurize to arrive at some arrangement rather they are simply facilitators or mediators. They will not decide anything on their own, they will decide based on the compromise or settlement arrived between the parties.
Nature of cases to be referred to Lok Adalat are:
Any cases that are pending before the court or any cases even before going to the Court. The offence should be a compoundable offense. There are offenses where compromise is possible and there are offenses where compromise is not possible so Lok Adalat can take up the cases only where there is compromise possible.
If you want to take a case to Lok Adalat first approach the district level legal service authority and they will be arranging this Lok Adalat facility. There will be a judicial officer, a lawyer, and a social worker. National level, state level, district level, taluk level, legal service authority will be conducting Lok Adalat at different levels.
National Lok Adalat: Starting from supreme court I mean starting from national level Lok Adalat till taluk level, a lot of cases in a single day will be disposed, that is referred as National Lok Adalat. We have permanent and mobile Lok Adalat. Permanent Lok Adalat – If you have any issue dispute between public utility services, for example water supply, electric services, gas supply services, telephone services. So, if you have any issue or any case to be settled with the public utility services, there are permanent Lok Adalat facilities.
You have mobile Lok Adalat. It will be traveling from one location to another to facilitate the resolution of disputes through this mechanism. There are almost four crore pending cases at different levels of courts in India. Traditional courts are bound by the strictest CRPC procedure and lot of money and time is also involved but if you take Lok Adalat, they are not bound by the rigid procedural aspect of criminal procedure code, there is no court fee. Even if you have gone to court and you have filed some court fee but still you want to settle through Lok Adalat, you come and settle through Lok Adalat. The court fee which you have paid already will be refundable. So, this Lok Adalat is completely free, fast, inexpensive, that is why Lok Adalat assumes a lot of significance. This also can help to reduce the burden of the pending cases in the traditional court.
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