Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Lok adalat in ADR

 Role of Lok Adalat in Alternate dispute resolution

By Shreya Verma

Lok Adalats or people’s courts have been established by the government to settle disputes through conciliation and compromise. It is a judicial institution and a dispute settlement agency developed by the people themselves for social justice based on settlement or compromise reached through systematic negotiations. Lok Adalat is a forum where cases pending on panchayat, or at a pre-litigation stage in a court of law, are settled. Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms, it is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably. Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Besides, Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, enumerates 4 types of alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, in the cases where there is an element of settlement. These methods of settlement are as follows: -

(a) arbitration;

(b) conciliation;

(c) judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat; or

(d) mediation.

Organization of Lok Adalats (Section 19, Legal Services Authorities Act,1987):

Lok Adalats are to be organised from time to time by National Legal Service Authority (NALSA), State Legal Service Authority (SLSA) or District Legal Service Authority (DLSA), as it thinks fit.

Lok Adalat is presided over by: 

  • a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, and

  • two other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker.

Lok Adalats have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of – 

  1. any case pending before it; or 

  2.  any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of, and is not brought before any court for which the Lok Adalat is organised

The Lok Adalat are not as strictly bound by rules of procedure like ordinary courts and thus the process is more easily understood even by the uneducated or less educated.

Award of Lok Adalats (Section 21, Legal Services Authorities Act,1987):

  • Every award of the Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court; and 

  • is considered to be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute, and 

  • no appeal shall lie to any court against the award.





Levels and Composition of Lok Adalats:


  1. At the State Authority Level:

The Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judge of the High Court or a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of- a member from the legal profession; a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes.

  1. At High Court Level:

The Secretary of the High Court Legal Services Committee would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judge of the High Court and any one or both of- a member from the legal profession; a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes.


  1. At District Level:

The Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of either a member from the legal profession; and/or a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.


  1. At Taluk Level:

The Secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee organizing the Lok Adalat would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of either a member from the legal profession; and/or a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.

  1. At National Level:

National Level Lok Adalats are held for at regular intervals where on a single day Lok Adalats are held throughout the country, in all the courts right from the Supreme Court till the Taluk Levels wherein cases are disposed off in huge numbers. From February 2015, National Lok Adalats are being held on a specific subject matter every month.

Conclusion:

Lok Adalats are not necessarily alternatives to the existing courts but rather only supplementary to them. They are considered to be effective for the litigants, where they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost. They are especially effective in settlement of money claims. For example, in disputes like partition suits, damages and even matrimonial cases can also be easily settled before a Lok Adalat as the scope for compromise is higher in these cases.


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