This article is written by Simran from Mody University of Science and Technology, Lakshmangarh, Rajasthan, and curated by Dheepika R from ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad.
Lok Adalat is also known as “People of the Court” or People’s Court and is one of the systems of alternative dispute redressal mechanisms that are developed in India. It is the forum where cases are pending in the court of law or at a pre-litigation stage which is duly settled by the mediator amicably or by compromise by one party. Lok Adalat is based on the principle of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a judicial setup whose purpose is to peaceful resolution of disputes between litigation parties.
Origin of Lok Adalat
The concept of Lok Adalat was pushed back unconsciously in the last few centuries before independence and now this concept has again rejuvenated. It has become famous and popular among litigants. As far as in Indian legal history, this system has deep roots. The first Lok Adalat was commenced on March 14, 1982, at Junagadh in Gujarat. Maharashtra commenced the Lok Nyayalaya in 1984. Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 following to the Constitutional mandate in Article 39-A of the Constitution of India which contains various provisions for the settlement of disputes through Lok Adalat to secure that the execution of the legal system promotes justice based on equality and equal opportunity to every section of the society.
Article 39A of the Constitution provides that State shall secure that the accomplishment of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that the opportunities for securing justice which is not denied to any citizen because of economic or other disability.
Article 14 and 22(1) also make it mandatory for the state to ensure equality before the law and equal protection of law to every person and a legal system that promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all. Legal aid strives to ensure that the constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden, and weaker sections of the society. So, the evolution of this movement was a part to relieve the heavy burden on courts with pending cases to give relief to litigants also.
Permanent Lok Adalats
Parliament brought certain amendments to the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to institutionalize Lok Adalats by making them permanent bodies to settle the disputes related to Public Utility Services. Public Utility Services mainly include Transport service, Postal, telegraph or telephone services, Supply of power, light and water to the public, System of public conservancy or sanitation, Insurance services, and other services that are notified by the Central or State Governments. Permanent Lok Adalats have the same powers that are indulged in the Lok Adalats.
Jurisdiction of Lok Adalats
To determine and to arrive at the compromise or to settle the dispute between the parties there is some jurisdiction of Lok Adalat in respect of any case pending before the court, any matter which is falling under that particular jurisdiction and which is not brought before, any court for which the Lok Adalat is established or organized.
Powers of Lok Adalat
- The Lok Adalat shall have the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure.
- Power to summon, examine, and enforce the attendance of witnesses and also to take the evidence of the case.
- Power for determination of any dispute coming before this court by specifying its procedure.
- Power of requisitioning of any document or public record or copy from any court.
- Power to enforce the production and find out any document.
Every Lok Adalat organized for an area shall consist of 1.Sitting/ retired judicial officer which is also known as Chairman and two members who are lawyers and social workers. Lok Adalat minimizes expenses of litigation, saves valuable time of parties and witnesses, and also facilitates settlement to the satisfaction of parties.
Lok Adalats have the competence to deal with several cases like:
- Matrimonial case
- Unpaid loan cases
- Family Dispute Cases
- All damage Cases
- Motor Accident Cases
- Case of Unpaid Bill
- Land acquisition Cases
- Partition suits
- Money Disputes
- Compoundable civil, revenue and criminal cases
- Arrears of retirement benefits cases
Advantages of Lok Adalats
It mainly helps in speedy justice by reducing the workload of courts and the backlog of the disputed cases and also helps in unburdening the courts. As stated, it is economical and maintains cordial relations since the main thrust is on compromise, not punishment. Award is final without any appeal and fast and inexpensive remedy with legal status also provided.
This Lok Adalat mainly focuses on compromise and if it reaches an award is made which is binding on the parties. It is enforced as a decree on parties. Award is final and cannot be appealed because it is judgmental based.