Sei sulla pagina 1di 28

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

Dr. Vijaykumar Shrikrushna Chowbe1 Miss Priya S. Dhanokar2

Abstract :
Lok-Adalat has symbolized a human sensitive forum to provide amicable, speedy, cheap justice by adopting informal procedure and avoiding technicalities. Present article has attempted the history and development of Lok-Adalat in India. An analysis has been made on potential utility of Lok-Adalat as one of the ADR tools. An exploration has been made about the validity of the award of Lok-Adalat and grounds that keep it open to challenge for its judicial review. At the end, SWAT analysis of Lok-Adalat has been made and its probable solution in the form of Permanent Lok-Adalat has been discussed. Present article, thus provide a deep insight of Lok-Adalat and its potential utility to the existing legal system which has been overburdened with pending litigations. Concluding remarks are self-explanatory demanding the adaptations of concept of Lok-Adalat to suit the changing need of poor and needy people. The suitable recommendations have been made to that effect.

"[It] is of fundamental importance that, justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done".3 LORD HEWERT CJ

The administration of justice is the primary task of judiciary being one of the essential organs of the state. India has a unified judicial system with hierarchy of Courts in a pyramidal structure, in which the Supreme Court

Associate Professor & Head, Post Graduate Teaching Department of Law, Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University, Amravati. Suggestion, if any, may be addressed at vijuchowbe@gmail.com 2 Researcher & Student LL.M. IInd Year, Post Graduate Teaching Department of Law, Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University, Amravati. 3 R v Sussex Justices Ex parte McCarthy (1924) KBD. Lord Hewart CJ had delivered the judgement on behalf of majority, Justice Lush J & Sankey J agreed]. Quoted from A.K.Bansal., Arbitration and Alternate Dispute Resolution, Universal Law Publishing Co.Pvt.Ltd, New Delhi,2005, p. 31. Available at, en.wikipedia.org/.../R_v_Sussex_Justices,_ex_parte_McCarthy visited on 22.01.2011
1

stands like a sentinel on the qui vive at the apex, below which are High Courts and below High Courts, there is a vast network of Subordinate Courts. The Courts in India have emerged as a vital institution in interpreting the Constitution of India and thereby assuring justice to the common man. The principle of Equal and Social Justice, which is duly enshrined in the Constitution of India and in particular, in the Directive Principles of State Policy aim at removing social and economic anomalies from our social set-up and the credit for upholding this principle as well as rights of common man must be given to the judiciary. However, in recent time, the community world over have become more and more conscious about their rights. They frequently resort to redresses through Courts of law by way of litigation, when their rights are infringed. Due to the complexities of modern lifestyle, disputants want a decision as quick as possible. This has resulted in "Litigation Explosion" across various Courts in the country. Particularly, civil litigation in India is well known for pending cases flooded by adjournments, revision, appeals, cross-appeals etc. Due to this, litigants have to wait for a long time to seek justice from the Courts. Thus, traditional Courts in India have become infamous for delays and its rigid procedural rules and expensiveness of litigation processes. The problem of delays and expensive litigation has engaged the attention and consideration of several legal luminaries, those connected with the management of the judicial system of the country. Thereby various Committees were appointed. Law Commission of India also in its various reports,4 have considered this problem in all its facets and have suggested some remedial measures.5 Accordingly, a few procedural amendments were carried out,6 a piece of substantial law emerged7 and other improvements in

See for e.g., Law Commission Reports No. 14 on Reforms of the judicial administration. Report No. 123 on Decentralisation of administration of justice: Disputes involving centres of Higher Education; Report No. 124 on The High court arrears-a fresh look; Report No. 129 on Urban legislation mediation as alternative to adjudication; 213th Report on Fast Track Magisterial Courts for Dishonoured Cheque Cases; 176th Report of Law Commission on the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996; 188th report on proposals for constitution of hi-tech fast-track Commercial Divisions in High Courts; Report No. 221st Report Need for Speedy Justice Some Suggestions ; Report No. 222nd on Need for Justice-dispensation through ADR etc. 5 For e.g. Public Interest Litigation to make Justice dispensing system more human sensitive and friendly. Similarly, Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 is also one of the piece of legislation for resolving dispute out of court by way of Arbitration mode. 6 S. 89 of Civil Procedural Code, 1908 has been amended which mandate to opt any ADRs system before initiation of litigation in the court.
4

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

the working of the system have also been introduced. Many tribunals, forums have been created to reduce workload in Courts. Besides, many mechanisms for amicable settlement of disputes such as negotiation, conciliation, mediation, arbitration, Nyaya-Panchayat and institution like Ombudsman, Lok Adalat have been set up to provide rapid, effective and cheap remedies that can be made available to the people along with Traditional Legal System and to ensure guarantee of equal access to justice. More promising among all is LOK ADALAT!

What is Lok Adalat ? :


Lok Adalat is neither a Bench Court nor a statutory tribunal meant to adjudicate or arbitrate. At the first instance, it is meant to act as conciliator. It appears to be a unique institution meant to take care of disputes as they arise between members of any section of society. Thus, Lok Adalats are the enterpore Courts created as per the requirement of people of a particular area. The camps of Lok Adalats are settled as a part of strategy to relieve heavy burden on the courts having pending cases and to give speedy relief to the litigants, who are in queue to get justice. Though initially, Lok Adalat camps were started at Junagarh District in Gujrat by 1982, the first Lok Adalat was held in Chennai in 1986. Soon this programme was adopted by several other states, such as Bihar, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra etc. and now gained popularity throughout the country.8 The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 implemented in its true spirit has created popularity for and utility of Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of disputes.9 It is believed that the "Lok Adalat" is an old form of adjudicating system which had been prevailing in ancient India and it's validity has not been taken away even in the modern days too. The word 'Lok Adalat' means 'Peoples Court'. This system is based on Gandhian Principles. It is one of the components of ADR system. As the Indian Courts are over burdened with the backlog of cases and the regular Courts are to decide the cases involve a lengthy, expensive and tedious procedure. The Court takes years together to

For e. g., the Legal Services Authorities Act,1987., the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 for resolving the disputes by ADR and without litigation. 8 http://www.mail-archive.com/gay-bombay@yahoogroups.com/msg.html, Visited on 14/01/11. 9 See, Law Commission Report No. 222 on Need for Justice-dispensation through ADR etc. pg. 14
7

3|Page

settle even petty cases. Lok Adalat, therefore provides alternative resolution or devise for expeditious and inexpensive justice.10 In Lok Adalat proceedings there are no victors and vanquished and, thus, no rancour. Experiment of 'Lok Adalat' as an alternate mode of dispute settlement has come to be accepted in India, as a viable, economic, efficient and informal one. LOK ADALAT is another alternative to JUDICIAL JUSTICE. This is a recent strategy for delivering informal, cheap and expeditious justice to the common man by way of settling disputes by mutual compromise and settlement, which are pending in Courts and also those, which have not yet reached Courts by negotiation, conciliation and by adopting persuasive, common sense and human approach to the problems of the disputants, with the assistance of specially trained and experienced Members of a Team of Conciliators.11 In the light of above, the Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok-Adalat are considered to be need of the day. Even the Law Commission also recommended that where there is a huge pendency of cases, the only panacea is establishment of more and more permanent Lok Adalats where the expertise of the judicial officers both in service and retired could be effectively utilized in resolution of matters by conciliation.12 The philosophy behind setting up of permanent and continuous Lok Adalats is that in our country, the litigant public has not so far been provided any statutory forum for counseling and as such, these Lok Adalats may take upon themselves the role of counsellors as well as conciliators. Experiment of Lok Adalat as an ADR mode has come to be accepted in India as a viable, economic, efficient and informal one.13 Therefore, Court also pressed upon that since Lok-Adalats and Permanent Lok-Adalats are need of the day and facilitating expeditious disposal of all kinds of cases permanent Lok Adalats must be set up.14

Lok Adalat Conceptual Analysis


The concept of Lok Adalat is based upon the underlined preposition of resolving disputes by mutual compromise. In Lok Adalat; voluntary efforts are made to bring about settlement of disputes between the parties through
P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 19]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 Ibid 12 See, Law Commission Report No. 222 on Need for Justice-dispensation through ADR etc. pg. 13 13 Ibid 14-15. 14 Abdul Hassan v. Delhi Vidyat Board AIR 1999 DELHI 88 [Paras 14, 18]
10 11

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

conciliatory and persuasive efforts without sticking to rigid technicalities of procedural laws. In literal sense, the term, Lok Adalat means peoples court. In its phraseology, both these words namely, Lok and Adalat are equally thoughtful, profound and influence the purport of each other. The term, Lok is of wide connotation. It signifies the people in general and conveys the abiding sense of ultimate authority of people. On the other hand, the term, Adalat signifies a sense of thorough, dispassionate and expert deliberation of issues before it, so that its decisions inspire intrinsic trust- worthiness. Whereas vernacular meaning of the term, Adalat is the court. In short, Lok suggests the aspect of public sensitive while Adalat suggests the accurate and through deliberation aspect and both collectivity signify an institution entirely committed to sub serve the aspirations of speedy justice of people with a missionary zeal.15 Thus, it provides speedy,16 amicable17 and inexpensive18 justice to the parties keeping human sensitive aspect at the core of justice dispensing machanism. The cases refered to the Lok Adalat by the Court which could be settled by conciliation and compromise. The Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting judge or retired judicial officer as a chairman and two other members as usually lawyer or a social worker. The main condition for recourse to a Lok Adalat is that, both parties in dispute should agree to reach a settlement. Thus, Lok Adalat is a suitable alternative mechanism to resolve disputes in place of litigation. The purpose of Lok Adalat is only to help the parties to arrive at a settlement. 19 Therefore, the Lok-Adalat shall be court of compromise and settlement and it is desirable that it shall stick up to these objectives.20
AIR 2000 (jour.) p. 97 As the dispute end in one sitting in Lok-Adalat and does not linger for longer period. 17 As Lok-Adalat is based on the concept of compromise and settlement not party feel frustration and being cheated at the end. 18 As Court-Fee paid are refuened if the settlement reached in Lok-Adalat. Therefore it is one of the cheapest judicial forum. 19 Basamma v. Taluka Legal Services Committee AIR 2003 KARNATAKA 242 [Para 13]. 20 The Apex Court in Union of India v. Ananto AIR 2007 S 1561While clarifying the limit of the jurisdiction of Lok-Adlat expressed,
15 16

The specific language used in sub-section (3) of Section 20 makes it clear that the Lok Adalat can dispose of a matter by way of a compromise or settlement between the parties. Two crucial terms in sub-sections (3) and (5) of Section 20 are "compromise" and "settlement". The former expression means settlement of differences by mutual concessions. It is an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims by reciprocal modification of demands. As per Termes

5|Page

Lok Adalat : Legislative Base


The Lok Adalat system is given statutory status through the piece of enactment entitled, "The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987" [hereinafter the Act].21 This act contains various provisions for settlement of disputes through Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat. The source of inspiration for formation of Lok-Adalat and the constitutional obligation is Article 39A.22 The purpose behind this was to quicken the process of justice, to provide access to justice for economically backward segments of the society and thus to ensure that operation of legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity.23 Recently, the Code of Civil Procedure has been Amended in 2002 so as to provide for settlement of disputes outside the Court by way of arbitration, conciliation, mediation and judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat, when the Court is prima satisfied that, there are chances of settlement or the matter is appropriate one to be taken cognizance by Lok

de la Ley, "compromise is a mutual promise of two or more parties that are at controversy". As per Bouvier it is "an agreement between two or more persons, who, to avoid a law suit, amicably settle their differences, on such terms as they can agree upon". The word "compromise" implies some element of accommodation on each side. It is not apt to describe total surrender. (See Re NFU Development Trust Ltd. (1973) 1 All ER 135(Ch.D). A compromise is always bilateral and means mutual adjustment. "Settlement" is termination of legal proceedings by mutual consent. The case at hand did not involve compromise or settlement and could not have been disposed of by Lok Adalat. If no compromise or settlement is or could be arrived at, no order can be passed by the Lok Adalat. Therefore, question of merger of Lok Adalats order does not arise. [para 7]. See also, "State of Punjab v. Ganpat Raj AIR 2006 SC 3089 [Para 7-8]; 2006 AIR SCW 4585 (Followed) 21 For history of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, See, United India Insurance Co. Ltd vs Ajay Sinha And Another on 13 May, 2008, [Bench: Justice V Sirpurkar, Justice S. B Sinha, judgement delivered by Justice S.B. Sinha], para 1-5. Available at, Available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1100992/ visited on 05.02.2011. For historical perspectives, object and philosophy of formation and development of Lok-Adalat in India, See also, Law Commission Report No. 222 on Need for Justice-dispensation through ADR etc 22 Art. 39A of the Constitution of India, 1950. See also, United India Insurance Co. Ltd vs Ajay Sinha And Another on 13 May, 2008, [Bench: Justice V Sirpurkar, Justice S. B Sinha, judgement delivered by Justice S.B. Sinha],Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (the Act) was enacted to constitute Legal Services Authorities to provide for free and competent legal service to the weaker sections of the society, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organize Lok Adalats to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity. [Para 1] available at Available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1100992/ visited on 05.02.2011 23 See, Bhoopesh vs M/S.New India Assurance W.P.(C) Nos.30239 of 2007, The Hon'ble the Chief Justice MR.S.R.BANNURMATH The Hon'ble MR. Justice KURIAN JOSEPH [para 2] available at, http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/975382/ visited on 05.02.2011.

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

Adalat.24 The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 has also recognized the rights of parties to affect compromise and withdraw from the suit under Order-23, Rule-3. While Order-32A, Rule-3(2) provides that if in any suit or proceedings, at any stage, the Court finds the possibility of settlement, may adjourn such proceedings for a reasonable length of time to enable the attempts to be made to effect such an amicable settlement. Besides, as per Rules-1A, 1B, 1C to Order-10, after a suit is filed, the Court can direct the parties to opt for any of the methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution as stated above. 25 Thus, the statutory recognition of settlement of disputes through Lok Adalat under Section-89 of Civil Procedure Code has certainly added color and majesty to our legal system and increased a sense of confidence in public mind. Besides this, Section-320 of the Code of Criminal Procedural provides a long list of compoundable offences, e.g.:- Assault, House Trespass etc., which fall within the purview of jurisdiction of Lok Adalat to be settled or arrived at compromise by it.26

Recent Concept of Mobile Lok Adalat: Justice at the Door Step


Recently, the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority has introduced an innovative scheme named as, Scheme for Mobile Legal Services-cum- Lok Adalat. It provides for organization of Mobile Lok Adalat. The idea behind this concept of mobile Lok Adalat has recognized the fact that, still today the poor, needy and marginalized sections of our society face many difficulties to approach the Court of law for enforcement of their rights or redressal of their grievances and so the Legal Services and Lok Adalat itself would approach them at their door step. Through this scheme, the trained and experienced judicial officers, social activists, Law students etc. in collaboration with concerned District Legal Services Authority, are able to visit every nook and corner of the villages including remote tribal areas, slum

Section 89 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (as inserted by C.P.C. (Amendment) Act, No. 46 of 1999 25 Consented compromise between contesting litigants is not new. S. 96 of the C.P.C., 1908 has also prescribed the procedure for compromise. However, the procedure is tedious and under complete judicial control requiring legal formalities at the discretion of court. But LSA Act provide entire openness, transparency and speedy aspirations to it and parties are at liberty to adopt the recourse of their dispute settlement. 26 Proviso to Section 19 (2) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
24

7|Page

areas, hamlets of tribes so as to impart legal awareness among them and to organize Lok Adalats to resolve disputes amicably and instantly. Thus, the concept of Lok Adalat aims at giving speedier justice at the door steps of the parties by way of associating the community representatives and at lesser costs. The endeavor is to enliven the Constitutional goals of equal and effective access to justice.

Organizational Set-up of Lok Adalat


Organizational aspect of an institution like Lok Adalat is an important one so as to access its functioning. Whatever high the ideals and goals of the institution are set; they remain unaccomplished unless there is proper organization suitable to such goals. The Lok Adalats are organized by the concerned Legal Services Committees or Authorities as the case may be at such intervals and places and for such areas as it deems fit.27 Such Lok Adalats consists of serving or retired judicial officers and such other persons as specified by that Legal Services Committee or Authority. Generally, the date and place of organizing Lok Adalats are fixed about a month in advance. Information for the same is given wide publicity through press, posters, pamphlets etc.

Jurisdiction of Lok Adalat


Reference of dispute for settlement to Lok Adalat has been circumscribed by conditions laid down u/S.19(5) and u/S.20(1) and u/S.20(2) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Further u/S. 20 (3) the Lok Adalat is empowered to dispose of case or matter referred to it only on basis of compromise or settlement between parties alone.28 Accordingly, Lok

27 28

The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, Section 19(1). Dr. Smt. Shashi Prateek v. Charan Singh Verma and Anr. AIR 2009 ALLAHABAD 109 [Paras 13, 16 & 17]. Court while clarifying the limit of the jurisdiction of the Lok-Adalat commented, The court dealing with the case can refer a dispute for settlement to Lok Adalat either where parties agree for such reference or where court, or Authority or Committee organising Lok Adalat, on application of any one of parties to dispute after affording reasonable opportunity of hearing to parties, or where Court itself found that such matter needs to be determined by Lok Adalat, in such situation they can refer any mater before Lok Adalat. In other words the power of court before which any dispute is pending or any authority or committee organising Lok Adalat to refer a dispute to Lok Adalat is circumscribed by aforesaid conditions laid u/S. 19 (5) and S. 20 (1) and (2) of the Act. These conditions are sine qua non for making a valid reference before Lok Adalat organised u/S. 19 of the Act. Therefore, unless these conditions are satisfied, Lok Adalat organised u/S. 19 (1) has no jurisdiction to

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

Adalat exercises its jurisdiction to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to any disputes falling within the jurisdiction of any civil, criminal, revenue court or any tribunal constituted under any law for time being in force. It may be any case pending before the court or any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of the court but not yet brought before it. However, the offences, which are non-compoundable under any law, fall outside the purview of jurisdiction of Lok Adalat & Permanent Lok-Adalat. Lok Adalat is empowered to take cognizance of following kinds of cases: 1. Any case, pending before the Court and referred by that Court to Lok Adalat, where both parties agree for such reference, or 2. Where one of the parties makes an application to the Court for such reference and the court is prima facie satisfied about chance of such settlement, or 3. Where, the court is satisfied that, the matter is an appropriate one to be taken Cognizance by the Lok Adalat. Thus, it is clear that while referring a case to Lok Adalat, Court can exercise suo moto powers. However, reference of the matter to the Lok-Adalat on suo moto way, court itself need not have to investigate whether there are chances of settlement. It only has to explore possibility of settlement before such a reference.29 The court can also refer a case to Lok Adalat even at the
take cognizance of matter or dispute, even if referred to it by court or authority or committee organising Lok Adalat. (Paras 13, 16) Further u/S. 20 (3) the Lok Adalat is empowered to dispose of case or matter referred to it only on basis of compromise or settlement between parties alone. In case no compromise or settlement could be arrived at between parties, no award could be made by 'Lok Adalat and the dispute would be required to be returned to the court which has made reference of dispute to the Lok Adalat under sub-Section (5) of S. 20 of Act. Therefore, while deciding the application moved by the petitioner the Lok Adalat was required to examine the question as to whether the parties have in fact entered into compromise or not. In case it is found that they did not enter into compromise or settlement as alleged by petitioner that she was neither present before the Lok Adalat nor signed the compromise alleged to have been entered into the parties before Lok Adalat, in that eventuality Lok Adalat could not make impugned award, therefore, it was necessary for the Lok Adalat to recall the award and return the matter to the court from which the reference was made to it but the Lok Adalat has not done so and rejected the aforesaid application of the petitioner as not maintainable inasmuch as on the merits too. Such approach of Lok Adalat is erroneous and contrary to law. (para 17) 29 See, Pusha Suresh Bhutada v. Subhash Bansilal Maheshwari, AIR 2002 Bom. 126.

9|Page

request of one of the parties provided that it is done after giving a hearing to all the parties and is satisfied that there are chances of settlement or a case is a fit one to be taken cognizance by Lok Adalat and also records such satisfaction. After such a reference, the Lok Adalat proceeds to dispose of the case and arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties. Lok Adalat can take cognizance of matters involving not only those persons, who are entitled to avail free legal services but of all other persons, be they women, men or children and even institutions. As far as the typology of cases that can be taken cognizance and settled through Lok Adalat is considered, initially, Lok Adalat lends itself to easy settlement of money claims. But with the way Lok Adalats have been working, they have acquired peoples faith and thus succeeded in settling disputes concerning insurance, Motor Accident Claims, partition of suits, damages, matrimonial cases Land Acquisition disputes as there is a better scope for settlement.

Procedure of Lok Adalat


The basic strength of the Lok-Adalat is that it is not a regular court,30 thus not bound to follow the strict formalities of court rooms. Its role is targeted for the settlement or compromise between the consenting litigant to arrive at mutual compromise and settlement. Since, settlement of dispute by compromise is the foundation of the procedure of Lok Adalat, the procedure of Lok Adalat is simple, quick, flexible, informal and non-controversial. Lok Adalat follows a single and uniform procedure to all civil and criminal cases. The procedure is also devoid of all technicalities and baffling formalities but molded in consonance with exigencies of the situation. At the same time, it
30See,

The Public Prosecutor, vs Basireddy Vema Reddy, S/O. decided on on 10 July, 2008 [Bench of Justice DSR Verma & Justice Bhanu Criminal Revision Case No.1725 of 2002]. While distinguishing between Court and Lok-Adalat, AP High Court commented, The dateline between the Lok Adalat and the Court is adjudication. In a regular Court, the matters will be adjudicated after taking into consideration the stands taken by both the parties, the evidence on record and also the merits. It has also got the power to record compromise and a decree in that regard can also be passed, as contemplated under Order-23 Rule-3 C.P.C. Nevertheless, the regular Court will not decide the matter by way of conciliation or mediation etc., invoking the ADR mechanism by itself. As already pointed out, the Court has the power only to refer the matter for resolution outside the Court under the above said identified modes of settlement. Whereas in a Lok Adalat, the parties would be advised or counseled or any other efficacious method would be chosen to reconcile the parties to arrive at an amicable settlement and thereby pass an award. [Para 21-23] Available at; http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1120336/ visited on 05.02.2011

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

ensures minimum standards of fairness. It gives more emphasis on the principles of Natural Justice rather than the rigors of law.31 It also fallows the procedure prescribed under the Act, Rules and Regulations framed there under.32 In many respects Lok Adalats are planned as an activity closely linked to the court proceedings. While considering the provisions of the Act and the objections filed against the award made by the Lok Adalat the division bench of PunjabHaryana High Court in Bharti Mehta And Ors. vs Haryana Roadways And Ors33 has come to the conclusion that the procedure for entertaining objections against the award of the Lok Adalat is unknown to the proceedings envisaged under the Act. It has also been held that such an award if it does not spell out a compromise as settlement, would clearly violate the principle of the finality of an award of a Lok Adalat as envisaged under Section 21 of the Act. resultantly, cannot be treated like a decree, it would amount to transgression of the powers of the Court. In Parmod vs Jagbir Singh And Ors.34 Court observed that the 'Lok Adalat' cannot assume the role of the regular Court and decide cases dehors 'Compromise or Settlement'. Thus the power and the jurisdiction has not been conferred upon the Lok Adalat to decide the cases on merits but only the 'Compromise or settlement' can be recorded keeping in mind the principles of justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles. The real settlement must be made by the parties. Order of the Legal Services Authorities must reflect that this procedure has been followed.35

S. 20 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. See also, State of Punjab v. Jalour Singh" AIR 2008 SC 1209 [para 7] 32 Lok-Adalats and Permanent Lok-Adalats are bound by the principles of Natural Justice. See, Moni Mathai, S/O. E.C. Mathai,. vs The Federal Bank Limited, AIR 2003 Ker 164, IV (2004) BC 489 Bench: K P Nair Delivered on 22. 01. 2003. In the instance case, the Kerala High Court observed, the Lok Adalats are also bound to follow the principles of natural justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles. [para 18] 33 1998 ACJ 942, (1997) 117 PLR 177 The relevant para of the judgment reads as under:"It will be clear from the above discussion that the Lok Adalats have been conceptualised as agencies wherein matters can be amicably compromised, settled by mutual agreement. These words have been repeatedly used in the statute, and if such an agreement cannot be reached, the Lok Adalat must divert itself of the controversy and must itself refer or advise the parties to approach a Court" 34 (2003) 133 PLR 365 [Bench: J Narang] [para 4] 35 Basamma v. Taluka Legal Services Committee AIR 2003 KARNATAKA 242 [Para 13].
31

11 | P a g e

In Moni Mathi v. Federal Bank Ltd. Arakkunnam,36 it was had that, the Lok Adalats are bound to fallow the principles of Natural Justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles and also Lok Adalats shall not forget that it is their duty not to dispose of cases some how but to settle cases amicably. Whereas, in Venkatesh v. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd.,37 it is held that, Court owe a duty to examine all cases to find out whether they are fit cases for reference to Lok Adalat and there is a need for constant efforts on the part of the Bar and the Bench to make litigation to the extent possible, pleasant, comfortable short and cheap. In conducting the proceedings of Lok Adalat, its members act as statutory conciliators and encourage parties to arrive at compromise or settlement. While discussing the subject matter with the parties, they only assist the parties in an independent and impartial manner and they have no power to hear the parties so as to adjudicate their dispute as a regular Court. The members of Lok Adalat after hearing both the parties help them to clarify issues and formulate the preposition for the opposite party to respond. The members also explain the position of law and clarify the doubts of the parties in respect of their mutual rights and duties. Parties are given a sufficient time to discuss with their legal adviser. Due to this ill feeling is avoided and friendliness is promoted. The provisions of the Code of Civil Producer, 1908 or the Indian Evidence Act, 1972 are not strictly binding on Lok Adalat so the procedure of Lok Adalat is less technical than that of regular law courts. The working style of is evolved out of experiences and often modified to fulfill the local needs of the litigants, who are coming to Lok Adalat This helps to secure an equitable and substantial justice. Lok Adalat during its functioning keeps in mind that the problem is to be solved from its root. They have their eyes always on social goals like, ending feuds rather than pending disputes and to restore peace in the family, community and locality. Section 20 (4) requires every Lok Adalat, while determining any reference before it to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties, to be guided by the principles of justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles. This includes good conscience.38

AIR 2003 Ker. 164. 2002 (2) KLJ 519. 38 See, Merlin v. Yesudas AIR 2007 KERALA 199 [Para 10]
36 37

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

Award of Lok Adalat


Lok Adalats have no adjudicatory or judicial functions. The Lok Adalats are ambulatory in nature and can supplement the efforts of the court to resolve disputes.39 Their functions relate purely to conciliation. The 'award' of the Lok Adalat does not mean any independent verdict or opinion arrived at by any decision making process. The making of the award is merely an administrative act of incorporating the terms of settlement or compromise agreed by parties in the presence of the Lok Adalat, in the form of an executable order under the signature and seal of the Lok Adalat.40 The Lok Adalat shall proceed and compromise or settlement by following natural justice. Ultimately the Lok Adalat award shall be deemed to be a decree of which is final.41 dispose the case and arrive at a the legal principles, equity and passes an award, and every such Civil Court or as the case may be

The award of Lok Adalat is thus made by following non adversarial procedure. Every award of the Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court and it is final and binding on all the parties to the dispute and also is not appeable.42

Abul Hassan And National Legal Services Authority vs Delhi Vidyut Board & Ors., 1999 IIAD Delhi 105, AIR 1999 Delhi 88 Bench: A D Singh [para 9] 40 State Of Punjab & Anr vs Jalour Singh & Ors on 18 January, 2008 , Appeal (civil) 522 of 2008 Date of Judgement : 18/01/2008 [BENCH: CJI K G Balakrishnan,G P Mathur & R V Raveendran, Judgement delivered by CJI K.G. Balakrishnana] [para 8]. Available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/483834/ visited on 05.02.2011. See also, Pu Lalkanglova Sailo v. Pi Ngurthantluangi Sailo AIR 2009 GAUHATI 39 " [Para 6] 41 P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 21]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 42 Section 21(2) of the Legal Services Authorities Act,1987. See also, State Of Punjab & Anr vs Jalour Singh & Ors on 18 January, 2008 , AIR 2008 SUPREME COURT 1209 "State of Punjab v. Jalour Singh" Appeal (civil) 522 of 2008 Date of Judgement : 18/01/2008 [BENCH: CJI K G Balakrishnan,G P Mathur & R V Raveendran, Judgement delivered by CJI K.G. Balakrishnana] [para 12]. Court commented, an award is made by Lok Adalat in terms of a settlement arrived at between the parties, (which is duly signed by parties and annexed to the award of the Lok Adalat), it becomes final and binding on the parties to the settlement and becomes executable as if it is a decree of a civil court, and no appeal lies against it to any court. If any party wants to challenge such an award based on settlement, it can be done only by filing a petition under Article 226 and/or Article 227 of the Constitution, that too on very limited grounds. Available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/483834/ visited on 05.02.2011
39

13 | P a g e

In Thomas v. Thomas Job,43 it was held that the award of Lok Adalat is the decision of the Court itself though arrived at by the simper method of conciliation instead of the process of arguments in the Court. It is final, permanent and equivalent to the executable degree and the same is ending to the litigation among parties. The award of Lok Adalat is also passed with the consent of the parties and is deemed to be a degree of Civil Court. Therefore, no appeal shall lie from the award of Lok Adalat. In this context, section of 96(3) of the Code of Civil Producer, 1908 is worthy to be noted. It provides that, no appeal shall lie from a decree passed by the court with the consent of the parties. Similarly, S. 21 (2) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 also prescribe, that every award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute, and no appeal shall lie to any court against the award. This helps to avoid unnecessary delay caused by appeals and review procedures. However, when no award is made on the ground of compromise or settlement between the parties by the Lok Adalat, the case is returned to the Court, who has referred it or the parties are advised to seek remedy in a Court as the case may be.44 Here the difference between the procedure of Lok Adalat and that of regular Court can be marked out. It is the accepted fact that, litigation does not always lead to the satisfactory results. In each case there is a winner and the loser and also a case won or lost in a Court of law does not change the attitude of litigants. They continue to be adversaries and go on fighting in appeals after appeals. But Lok Adalat helps to change this approach of parties. It brings a case or dispute to a final resolution in a single forum and stage. This promotes unity and integrity of the society. This philosophy behind the working of Lok Adalat can better be explained in the words of Abraham Lincoln: Discourage litigation persuade your neighbors to compromise wherever you can. Point out them, the nominal winner is often a real loser; in fees, expenses and waste of time.45

Award of the Lok-Adalat shall be final


The Lok Adalat will pass the award with the consent of the parties, therefore there is no need either to reconsider or review the matter again and
AIR 2005 SC 3575. Section 20(5) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. 45 http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/2661.html, visited on 15/01/2011.
43 44

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

again, as the award passed by the Lok Adalat shall be final. Even as under Section 96(3) of C.P.C. that "no appeal shall lie from a decree passed by the Court with the consent of the parties". The award of the Lok Adalat is an order by the Lok Adalat under the consent of the parties, and it shall be deemed to be a decree of the Civil Court, therefore an appeal shall not lie from the award of the Lok Adalat as under Section 96(3) C.P.C.46 By virtue of Section 21, the award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil Court and shall be final and binding to all the parties to the dispute.47 It is also final against the court and even the court which has refered the case to Lok-Adalat cannot became functus officio, to decide the case after the award passed by Lok Adalat.48 Therefore, an award passed by statutory court conducted by any of the authorities, as per the provisions of the Act, cannot be challenged through the regular remedies available under the law, including under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.49 While adding the rational of the finality in the nature for the award of the Lok-Adalat Madhya Pradesh High Court held "The provisions of the Act shall prevail in the matter of filing an appeal and an appeal would not lie under the provisions of Section 96 C.P.C. Lok Adalat is conducted under an independent enactment and once the award is made by Lok Adalat the right of appeal shall be governed by the provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act when it has been specifically barred under Provisions of Section 21(2), no appeal can be filed against the award under Sec. 96 C.P.C." The Court further stated that "It may incidentally be further seen that even the Code of Civil Procedure does not provide for an appeal under Section 96(3) against a consent decree. The Code of Civil Procedure also intends that once a consent decree is passed by Civil Court finality is attached to it. Such finality cannot be permitted to be destroyed, particularly
P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 22]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 See, Merlin v. Yesudas AIR 2007 KERALA 199 [Para 10]. For Award of the Lok-Adalat is finalsee, Punjab National Bank v. Laxmichand Rai AIR 2000 MADHYA PRADESH 301 [Paras 8, 9]. See also, M. I. Ibrahim Kutty v. Indian Overseas Bank AIR 2005 MADRAS 335 [Para 24, 25, 26] 48 Valarmathi Oil Industries v. Saradhi Ginning Factory AIR 2009 MADRAS 180 [Para 14] 49 P. K. Rajeswari v. P. K. Sooraj Kumar AIR 2006 KERALA 137 [Para 5]. P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job, (2005) 8 SCC 478 : (AIR 2005 SC 3575), Thomas Job v. P. T. Thomas AIR 2004 Ker 47, Moni Mathai v. Federal Bank of India AIR 2003 Ker 164 followed.
46 47

15 | P a g e

under the Legal Services Authorities Act, as it would amount to defeat the very aim and object of the Act with which it has been enacted, hence, we hold that the appeal filed is not maintainable.50 The same observation has also been confirmed by the Apex Court in P. T. Thomas case. 51 The finality clause of the judgement of Lok-adalat has two bases. First, as it is consented, and against, due to principle of estoppels. The judgement of the Lok-Adalat is deemed to be final on agreed consent and therefore based on the principle of estoppel. A Judgment by consent or default is as effective an estoppel between the parties as a judgment whereby the court exercises its mind on a contested case.52 a judgment by consent or default is as effective an estoppel between the parties as a judgment whereby the Court exercises its mind on a contested case.53 The similar principle has been followed by the High Courts in number of its decisions.54 Upholding the judgment of Vaughan Williams, 55 J. Lord Herschell said "The truth is, a judgment by consent is intended to put a stop to litigation between the parties just as much as is a judgment which results from the decision of the Court after the matter has been fought out to the end. And I think it would be very mischievous if one were not to give a fair and reasonable interpretation to such judgments, and were to allow questions that were really involved in the action to be fought over again in a subsequent action."

In the same manner, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh held


"The award is enforceable as a decree and it is final. In all fours, the endeavour is only to see that the disputes are narrowed down and make the final settlement so that the parties are not again driven to further litigation or any dispute. Though the award of a Lok Adalat is not
Punjab National Bank v. Lakshmichand Rah reported in AIR 2000 Madhya Pradesh 301, 304, P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 23]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 52 Sailendra Narayan Bhanja Deo v. The State of Orissa, AIR 1956 Supreme Court 346, (Constitution Bench); See also, P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 26]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 53 'In re South American and Mexican Co., Ex. Parte Bank of England', (1895) 1 Ch 37(C),: See also, P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 26]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 54 See for e.g. 'Secy. Of State v. Ateendranath Das', 63 Cal 550 at p. 558(E); 'Bhaishanker v. Moraji', 36 Bom 283(F) and 'Raja Kumara Venkata Perumal Raja Bahadur v. Thatha Ramaswamy Chetty', 35 Mad 75(G). 55 Ibid 44; pg. 50
50 51

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

a result of a contest on merits just as a regular suit by a Court on a regular trial, however, it is as equal and on par with a decree on compromise and will have the same binding effect and conclusive just as the decree passed on the compromises cannot be challenged in a regular appeal, the award of the Lok Adalat being akin to the same, cannot be challenged by any regular remedies available under law including invoking Article 226 of the Constitution of India challenging the correctness of the award on any ground. Judicial review cannot be invoked in such awards especially on the grounds as raised in this writ petition.56

The award of Lok Adalat is final and permanent which is equivalent to a decree executable, and the same is an ending to the litigation among parties.57 This also have legislative backing.58 Similarly, the principle of estopell also work in the compromised and consented order of Lok-adalat. Speaking about the plea of estoppels, the Judicial Committee in - 'Kinch v. Walvott', observed, "First of all their Lordships are clear that in relation to this plea of estoppel it is of no advantage to the appellant that the order in the libel action which is said to raise it was a consent order. For such a purpose an order by consent, not discharged by mutual agreement, and remaining unreduced, is as effective as an order of the Court made otherwise than by consent and not discharged on appeal."59 Although the provisions of the Act are intended to make award of Lok Adalat arrived at on basis of compromise or settlement between parties to dispute as final and remedies of appeal, review and revision against the award of Lok Adalats are not available under law but being a tribunal of

in Board of Trustees of the Port of Visakhapatnam v. Presiding Officer, Permanent, Lok Adalatcum-Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Visakha-patnam and another reported in 2000(5) ALT 577; 2000 Lab IC 3735; See also, P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 24]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 57 P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 25]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 58 The judgement has been based on compromised between the parties are also be held final as per the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. "Order 23 Rule 3 provides for compromise of suit- where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that a suit has been adjusted wholly in part by any lawful agreement or compromise, written and signed by the parties. The Court after satisfying itself about the settlement, it can convert the settlement into a judgment decree." 59 1929 AC 482 at p. 493 (D)
56

17 | P a g e

special nature, the remedy to recall the order/award passed by Lok Adalat on the ground of fraud or misrepresentation or mistake of fact cannot be held to be barred under law, as power to recall its order on the aforesaid grounds is inherent in every court or tribunal or statutory functionary. Similarly, the awards made by the Lok Adalat organised or established under the Act cannot be held to be immune from judicial review as High Court under Art 227 has ample power of superintendence over decisions of all the courts or tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction, therefore, orders passed or awards made by Lok Adalats organised or established under Act within territorial limits of High Court, are subject to judicial review on grounds available under Art. 226/227 of the Constitution of India, otherwise person aggrieved would be left remediless.60 The award of the Lok-Adalat cannot be challenged on the grounds mentioned in other legislations.61

Award of Lok Adalat and Judicial Review


As discussed earlier, one of the objectives of Lok Adalat is to settle the disputes, which are pending before the courts by negotiations, conciliation and by adopting persuasive common sense and humane approach to the problems of the disputants. This can help to put an end to the disputes summarily and thereby reduce the burden of the courts. As provided by the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 Lok Adalat decides the matter on a consent or compromise basis and there is no need either to reconsider or review the matter again and again. The award passed by the Lok Adalat is final and binding on the concerned parties. However, the consent of the parties must be clear, agreed upon and without any fraud and misrepresentation. This shows that matter of consented decree need not go in appeal, specifically when it is expressly provided by the Act itself. However, the power of judicial review in such a case is not barred and is implicit in the Constitution of India unless expressly excluded by the provisions of statute itself. Here, it is submitted that, there is always a scope to go for a writ petition to challenge the award in case of any grave illegality. There is always
Dr. Smt. Shashi Prateek v. Charan Singh Verma and Anr. AIR 2009 ALLAHABAD 109 [Para 31]. Court also refered L. Chandra Kumar's case discussion the limit of the Higher judiciary to take cognizance of lower tribunals. 61 E.g. the award cannot be challenged us/ 148 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. See, Nimma Venkateswarulu v. Devireddy Krishnayya AIR 2007 ANDHRA PRADESH 300 [Para 4]
60

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

a possibility of fraud, misrepresentation, coercion etc, while arriving at the consent or compromise. The likelihood of such event cannot be ruled out in Lok Adalat proceedings. Accordingly, in Mansukhlal Vithaldas Chauhav v. State of Gujrat,62 it was held that, in case, Lok Adalat exceeds its powers, committed an error of law, breach of rules of Natural Justice or abused its powers, the award passed by it cannot be tolerated and it will justify the interference by courts under Article 226 and Article 32 of the Constitution of India. As far as the question of appeal and judicial review is considered in case of Permanent Lok Adalat, the position is different as there is no provision of appeal but is also not expressly excluded by the provisions of the said Act.63 Here, however, the Permanent Lok Adalat does not simply adopt the role of an Arbitrator whose award could be the subject matter of challenge but the role of an adjudicator. The Parliament has given the authority to the Permanent Lok Adalat to decide the matter.64 The power of judicial review is implicit under the Constitution unless expressly excluded by a provision of the Constitution. Limitation on High Court to have judicial review resorting to Art. 226 against order passed by Lok Adalat is in cases where a totally arbitrary and unreasonable order has been passed.65 Hence, forum of judicial review is always open to the parties through the writ petitions. This is a basic structure of the Constitution of India and cannot be ruled out. Denial of it would be unfair and unwarranted. This attitude of judiciary is really to promote justice. Because if appeals are allowed from the award of Lok Adalat, it will defeat the very purpose of

http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/lok-a.htm, visited on 16/01/2011. This may be because the Permanent Lok Adalats differ from Lok-Adalat in several respects. The former has power to act both as conciliator and adjudicator, whereas, the latter only has to restrict its role as conciliator. See for more detail for the role of Permanent Lok-Adalat, United India Insurance Co. Ltd vs Ajay Sinha And Another on 13 May, 2008, [Bench: Justice V Sirpurkar, Justice S. B Sinha, judgement delivered by Justice S.B. Sinha], the court describe, .the Permanent Lok Adalat does not simply adopt the role of an Arbitrator whose award could be the subject matter of challenge but the role of an adjudicator. The Parliament has given the authority to the Permanent Lok Adalat to decide the matter. It has an adjudicating role to play. [Para 26]. Available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1100992/ visited on 05.02.2011 64 United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Ajay Sinha AIR 2008 SC 2398 [para 26] 65 Paras Holidays Pvt. Ltd. M/s. v. State of Haryana AIR 2009 PUNJAB AND HARYANA 9 [Para 5]
62 63

19 | P a g e

providing easy and speedy justice. But by reserving the power of judicial review, court can control possible arbitratoriness in working of Lok Adalat. Power of judicial review is available to correct any order passed by a statutory authority which is violative of any of the provisions of the statute. The Lok Adalat is a creation of statute and gets jurisdiction from it and hence this Court is competent to go into an order passed by it, to decide whether the order in question is valid in law. The writ jurisdiction of the High Court cannot be circumscribed by provisions of any enactment as is to be found in Sec. 21 of the Act and it can always exercise its jurisdiction if an order, left alone, would amount to abrogating the Rule of law.66 The court has power of judicial review if any order even by Constitutional Court leads to public injury.67 Court, however categorically expressed that there is not as much of scope for the review of the award passed by the Lok-Adalat. Specially, u/s 96 (3) of C.P.C., 1908, no remedy is available and as the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 is special legislation, the remedy shall be sought under that act, and not under procedural law. Such award can only be challenged and open for judicial review on limited grounds.68
Commr., K. S. P. Instruction v. Nirupadi Virbhadrappa Shiva AIR 2001 KARNATAKA 504 [Para 15] 67 Commr., K. S. P. Instruction v. Nirupadi Virbhadrappa Shiva AIR 2001 KARNATAKA 504 [Para 15]. Court in instance case refered the judgement of Apex Court in Mansukhlal Vithaldas Chauhan v. State of Gujarat, (1997) 7 SCC 622 : (AIR 1997 SC 3400) where a defence was taken that the judgment passed by the High Court cannot be questioned before the Apex Court as it had become final. Dealing with the said defence, the Apex Court held :
66

68

"The contention that the judgment passed by the High Court cannot be questioned in these proceedings as it had become final is wholly devoid of substance. The appellant had questioned the legality of the sanction on many grounds one of which was the sanctioning authority did not apply its own mind and acted at the behest of the High Court which issued a mandamus to sanction the prosecution. Since the correctness and validity of the sanction was assailed before the Supreme Court, the High Court judgment has necessarily to be considered and its impact on the sanction. The so-called finality cannot shut out the scrutiny of the judgment in terms of actus curiae neminem gravabit as the order of the High Court in directing the sanction to be granted, besides being erroneous, was harmful to the interest of the appellant, who had a valuable right of fair trial at every stage, from the stage it began till the conclusion of the proceedings." A.P. High Court in Board of Trustees of the Port of Visakhapatnam v. Presiding Officer, Permanent, Lok Adalat-cum-Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Visakha-patnam and another reported in 2000(5) ALT 577 [2000 Lab IC 3735] held, "The award is enforceable as a decree and it is final. In all fours, the endeavour is only to see that the disputes are narrowed down and make the final settlement so that the parties are not again driven to further litigation or any dispute. Though the award of a Lok Adalat is not a result of a contest on merits just as a regular

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

Award of the Lok-Adalat is open to challenge and subject to judicial review on the grounds such as, i. ii. iii. iv. v. Fraud69 and misrepresentation70 Absence of free Consent, absence of parities or any parties or consent not proper71 By coercion,72 or pressuring the parties to refer the matter to LokAdalat by Court73 No dispute existed between the parties for resolving or settling74 Impair the interest of the minor75

suit by a Court on a regular trial, however, it is as equal and on par with a decree on compromise and will have the same binding effect and conclusive just as the decree passed on the compromises cannot be challenged in a regular appeal, the award of the Lok Adalat being akin to the same, cannot be challenged by any regular remedies available under law including invoking Article 226 of the Constitution of India challenging the correctness of the award on any ground. Judicial review cannot be invoked in such awards especially on the grounds as raised in this writ petition. See also, P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 24]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593. For ratio and limit of jurisdiction of Lok Adalat on Compromise and settlement, See, "Shashi Prateek v. Charan Singh Verma" AIR 2009 ALLAHABAD 109 69 Mahila Bhanwari Bai v. Kashmir Singh AIR 2009 MADHYA PRADESH 232 [Paras 14,16]. Madhya Pradesh High Court observed, The S. 21 (2) of the Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987 prohibits the appeal against the award of the Lok Adalat, if the award has been passed by the authorities legally. The intention of legislature in prohibiting an appeal against the award of Lok Adalat is to give finality to the award so unnecessary further litigation could be saved, however, when the award as void an initio, the parties who entered into compromise had no power to enter into the compromise and the compromise has been entered by playing a fraud, in such circumstances, that award could be said to be a void and, admittedly, the compromise has been entered before the Lok Adalat in accordance with the provisions of Civil Procedure Code and when the order was void in that circumstances, an appeal could be maintainable under Section 96 of the Civil Procedure Code. N. Khosla v. Rajlakshmi (Dead), reported in (2006) 3 SCC 605 : (AIR 2006 SC 1249) & A.V. Papayya Sastry v. Government of A.P., AIR 2007 SC 1546, [Para 22] refered & followed. 70 Shashi Prateek v. Charan Singh Verma AIR 2009 ALLAHABAD 109 [Para 31] 71 Jai Devi Hans v. Beena Singh AIR 2005 ALLAHABAD 349 [Para 9] 72 "Damera Raj Kumar v. Doli Srinivas" AIR 2007 ANDHRA PRADESH 14 [Para 8] 73 Union Bank of India v. M/s. Narendra Plastics AIR 1991 GUJARAT 67 [Paras 12 & 13]. In the instance case, the Gujrat High Court criticized the approach of the trial court to get obsessed with the idea of certain number of disposals in Lok Adalat and suggesting the plaintiff bank to adopt "flexible and pragmatic" approach. 74 See, Basamma v. Taluka Legal Services Committee AIR 2003 KARNATAKA 242 [Para 12]. 75 See, Merlin v. Yesudas AIR 2007 KERALA 199 [Para 10]. Kerala High Court upheld the award of Lok-Adalat as it appearent reflect that the in the award the interet of the minor has taken proper care for in accordance with Order 23, Rule 3 and Order 32, Rule 7 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.

21 | P a g e

vi. vii.

viii. ix. x. xi. xii.

Totally arbitrary and unreasonable76 If the award is observed to be without the parties having voluntarily, out of their own accord, without a free will, have entered into settlement.77 Ex-partie or Ex-facie judgement without compromise and settlement.78 Production of Succession Certificate cannot be considered as consent79 If the parties are not heard in the matter.80 Procedural lapses.81 Related to non-compoundable offence.82

Paras Holidays Pvt. Ltd. M/s. v. State of Haryana AIR 2009 PUNJAB AND HARYANA 9 [Para 5]. In the instance case, High Court has made it clear the ground challenging the order of LokAdalat and limitation on High Court u/Art 226 to interfere with. 77 See, Basamma v. Taluka Legal Services Committee AIR 2003 KARNATAKA 242 [Para 13]. 78 New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Lohit Dist. Legal Service Authority AIR 2008 GAUHATI 166 [Paras 21, 22 & 23]. See also, Kishan Rao v. Bidar District Legal Services Authority AIR 2001 KARNATAKA 407 [Para 7]. In the instance case Karnataka High Court commented Decree paced by Lok Adalat in respect of Parties who have not entered into compromise - Null and void. 79 Sreemanthula Kesavachari (deceased by LR) v. Yayyavuru Vallamma (deceased by LRs) and Ors. AIR 2008 ANDHRA PRADESH 74 [Para 8] 80 Commr., K. S. P. Instruction v. Nirupadi Virbhadrappa Shiva AIR 2001 KARNATAKA 504 [Para 9]. The Karnataka High Court in the instance case observed, The power to refer the case to Lok Adalat vested in the civil Court under S. 20 of the Act being subject to the rider as contained in the proviso, any reference either under sub-cl. (b) of cl. (i) or cl. (ii) will be invalid if the parties are not heard in the matter. When the reference made is not valid in the eye of law, the Lok Adalat would not derive jurisdiction to determine any dispute and the Lok Adalat cannot take cognisance of the case under sub-cl. (3) of S. 20. In the instant case the civil Court has given a short shrift to S. 20 and has referred the matter to the Lok Adalat without the consent of the defendants for such reference. The civil Court even if prima facie is satisfied under sub-clause (b) of Cl. (i) that there are chances of settlement, still it is barred from acting there under if the proviso to S. 20 is not complied with by giving a reasonable opportunity. Compliance with the proviso to S. 20 is condition precedent for reference by the civil Court. The case overruled on the ground for not providing reasonable opportunity of being heard to one of the parties. 81 Dinesh Kumar v. Balbir Singh AIR 2008 HIMACHAL PRADESH 59 [Para 18]. In the instance case, the Himachal Pradesh High Court observed, that the Advocate had no jurisdiction to make concession on question of law. The concession given on question of law, more particularly, when the jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalat was involved will not be binding upon the claimant. 82 State of Kerala v. Ernakulam District Legal Service Authority AIR 2008 KERALA 70 [Para 6]. See also, Proviso clause of S. 19 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
76

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

xiii. xiv.

Without jurisdiction and contravenes the principles of justice, equity and fair-play.83 If court overstep its power while refering the matter to LokAdalat.84

Benefits Under Lok Adalat :


1. 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 according to the rules. 2. The basic features of Lok Adalat are the procedural flexibility and speedy trial of the disputes. There is no strict application of procedural laws like Civil Procedure Code and Evidence Act while assessing the claim by Lok Adalat. 3. The parties to the dispute can directly interact with the Presiding Officer through their Counsel which is not possible in regular Courts of law. 4. 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 finally. 5. In view of above facilities provided by the 'Act' Lok Adalats are boon to the litigating public they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost amicably.85 6. Though the Lok-Adalat have no adjudicatory or judicial functions, their functions relate purely to conciliation,86 the permanent Lok-Adalat enjoys these features and may be act as purely tribunal and deciede the matter, even if the parties does not arrived at compromise and settlement.87

Commr., K. S. P. Instruction v. Nirupadi Virbhadrappa Shiva AIR 2001 KARNATAKA 504 [Para 11] 84 See, Pushpa Suresh Bhutada v. Subhash Bansilal Maheshwari AIR 2002 BOMBAY 126 (Para 4) 85 P. T. Thomas v. Thomas Job AIR 2005 SC 3575 [para 20]; 2005 AIR SCW 4593 86 he State of Punjab and another v. Jalour Singh and others, reported in (2008) 2 SCC 660 : (AIR 2008 SC 1209); See also, "Pu Lalkanglova Sailo v. Pi Ngurthantluangi Sailo AIR 2009 GAUHATI 39 [Para 6] 87 Pu Lalkanglova Sailo v. Pi Ngurthantluangi Sailo AIR 2009 GAUHATI 39 [Para 6]
83

23 | P a g e

Permanent Lok Adalat


The Permanent Lok-Adalat is advance version of Lok-Adalat with additional features of having residuary powers. Therefore with these advance versions, it can act boldly, effectively and does not depends upon the mercy of parties to have compromise and settlement at per their choices and halt the process at any stage. As, Permanent Lok-Adalat is statutory body and its decision is binding and it can decide the matter even if, the parties fails to arrive at settlement and compromise.88 Therefore, the permanent Lok-Adalat has residuary jurisdiction, in addition to the jurisdiction enjoy by the LokAdalat, to decide dispute by virtue of S.22C(8) even if dispute between parties failed after conciliation.89 For the purpose of determination of claim, it is not necessary for the Permanent Lok Adalats to dispose of the matter only by way of compromise or settlement arrived at between the parties. Even if parties fail to compromise or fail to arrive at a settlement, Permanent Lok Adalat can decide the claim, on merit, in respect to any Public Utility Service, as defined u/s. 22A. Thus, if conciliation before the Lok-Adalat fails, the award passed by the Permanent Lok-Adalat is valid and binding u/s 22C (8).90 Also, the Lok Adalats can settle disputes only on the basis of compromise or settlement between the parties. If the parties do not arrive at

88

See, Ram Niwas v. D.D.A. AIR 2007 DELHI 115 [para 15]. Delhi High Court rejected the validity of insertion of Chapter 6A making the decision optional choise for DDA. Court commented,

This Court is constrained to observe that the Permanent Lok Adalat is a statutory body in terms of Section 22 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (LSA Act). The purpose of setting up such a body would be rendered nugatory if its decisions are sought to be undermined by the unreasonable stand of the DDA. The object of introducing these provisions, and in particular Chapter VI A, in the LSA Act would be defeated if DDA does not accept the decision of its own Permanent Lok Adalat particularly where it is upon an investigation of facts and after hearing the representative of the DDA. [Para 15]. See also, State of Rajasthan v. Silochana Devi AIR 2006 RAJASTHAN 5 [Para 19]. Also also, Life Insurance Corpn. of India v. State of Rajasthan AIR 2005 RAJASTHAN 65 [Para 9]. Held, Permanent Lok Adalat is competent to decide dispute even if no compromise between parties arrived. 89 Pu Lalkanglova Sailo v. Pi Ngurthantluangi Sailo AIR 2009 GAUHATI 39 . See also, "New India Assurance Company Ltd. v. Sabharathanam AIR 2009 KERALA 71 [Para 9] 90 National Insurance Co.Ltd. v. Sanjori Devi AIR 2009 JHARKHAND 157 [Paras 10 & 11]. Jharkhand High Court in the instance case observed, the case and in view of the admitted position that in the instant case when the conciliation failed and the settlement/agreement could not be reached then the Permanent Lok Adalat rightly decided the dispute and directed the payment of the assured amount of the policy in the light of the residuary power conferred under Section 22C(8) of the Legal Services Authority Act. [para 11]

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

a settlement or compromise, the case is either returned to the Court of law or the parties are advised to seek remedy through the Court of law. This thus causes unnecessary delay in dispensation of justice. 91 But to avoid this drawback, the Amendment has been introduced in Section 22 of the said Act in 2002, which provides for setting up of Permanent Lok Adalats92 to provide compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of cases relating to public utility services, like postal, telegraph or telephone service etc. Award of the Permament Lok-Adalat is open to challenge and subject to judicial review on the following grounds, i. ii. Offence of non-compoundable in nature93 Permannent Lok-Adalat cannot take cognizance of the case, if it is pending before any court. Such pending cases could be only referred to Lok Adalat as per S. 20 and not to Permanent Lok Adalat - Order passed by Permanent Lok Adalat would be without jurisdiction and liable to be set aside.94

Drawbacks of Lok Adalat


Presently, Lok Adalat is considered to be one of the best Alternative Disputes Resolution Systems. Just like every other system, Lok Adalat is also having several virtues and it suffers from few ill as well. As it is rightly said that, Justice delayed is a Justice denied but Justice hurried is a Justice buried. Keeping this fact in mind, the higher judiciary in many of its judgments directed that, the speedy proceeding conducted by way of Lok Adalat should not impair the right of any party. In this respect, the judgment
Municipal Council, Tank v. Serva Seva Sadan, Tank and others, AIR 2004 Rajasthan 96. Delhi High Court in Abul Hassan And National Legal Services Authority vs Delhi Vidyut Board & Ors., 1999 IIAD Delhi 105, AIR 1999 Delhi 88 [Bench: A D Singh] also issued mandate to established the Permanent Lok-Adalat and describe its important for poor and illiterate litigants. Court observed, The need to establish permanent and continuous Lok Adalat(s) and to resort to alternative dispute resolution mechanism cannot be overlooked. The Lok Adalat and alternative dispute resolution experiment must succeed otherwise the consequence for an overburdened court system would be disastrous. The system needs to inhale the life giving oxygen of justice through the Lok Adalats. [Para 16]. Available at, http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/776755/ visited on 05.02.2011 93 United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Ajay Sinha AIR 2008 SUPREME COURT 2398 [Para 39]. Ajay Sinha v. Br. Manager, United India Insurance Co. Ltd. AIR 2006 JHARKHAND 113 reversed. 94 Dinesh Kumar v. Balbir Singh AIR 2008 HIMACHAL PRADESH 59 [Paras 16 & 29]
91 92

25 | P a g e

given in the case of Manju Gupta V National Insurance Company95 is significant. The instant case demonstrates the sad state of compromises and settlements in Lok Adalats, denying the fair minimum claims to the petitioners. In this case, Manju Gupta a three years old girl lost her legs in a Motor Accident. A Claim Petition in this respect was filed for Rs. 2.21 Lakhs. But there was an inordinate delay in its disposal, due to which the father of the claimant agreed to settle the claim through Lok Adalat only for Rs. 30,000/- This issue has been reported in the local news papers. The High court of Allahabad had taken suo muto note of the issue and required the record of the case to be presented before it. Consequently, the High Court awarded Rs. 1, 10,000/- as compensation to the claimant. In this case the said High Court observed,
In the name of the speedy resolution of disputes, the fair

interests of the parties cannot be sacrificed, more importantly when the petitioners involved are minors, insane and disabled.96 While expressing its lamented remark about the present Lok-Adalat system, the Kerela High Court poited out the drawback as
However, the major drawback in the existing scheme of organization of the Lok Adalats under Chapter VI of the said Act is that the system of Lok Adalats is mainly based on compromise or settlement between the parties. If the parties do not arrive at any compromise or settlement, the case is either returned to the court of law or the parties are advised to seek remedy in a court of law. This causes unnecessary delay in the dispensation of justice. If Lok Adalats are given power to decide the cases on merits in case parties fail to arrive at any compromise or settlement, this problem can be tackled to a great extent.97

However this defects has been removed in permanent Lok-Adalat. It has also been observed that since the forum of Lok-adalat are headed by the person from judiciary, they assume the role of Lok-adalat as judicial

1994 ACJ 1036 Manju Gupta V National Insurance Company 1994 ACJ 1036 97 Bhoopesh vs M/S.New India Assurance W.P.(C) Nos.30239 of 2007, The Hon'ble the Chief Justice MR.S.R.BANNURMATH The Hon'ble MR. Justice KURIAN JOSEPH [para 26] available at, http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/975382/ visited on 05.02.2011.
95 96

LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE

forum and deviate from the basic objectives for which it has been formed. The apex court had also lamented on this issue.98

Lok Adalat Challenges Ahead


1. No doubt that, speedy justice is one of the important characteristics of Lok Adalat, but such speed must be reasonable, so that such awards should not be passed, which defeats the cause of justice. 2. To increase its utility, the concerned Legal services Authority or Committee should disseminate information to the public about the holding of various Lok Adalats by it and success achieved thereby in providing speedy, equitable and inexpensive justice. 3. It is observed that, there is sufficient number of statutory provisions allowing justice through Lok Adalat. The only need is to organize awareness camps at grass-root level so that, the ignorant people living in far-flung areas of the State get information about those provisions and reap the benefits of the same. The street plays are the best means to convey the massage to the illiterate people. Law students can contribute in such activities effectively. Besides, the mass media like newspapers, television, radios can also be desirable for this purpose. 4. The Lok Adalat Movement can be successful only if the people participate on voluntary basis in the functioning of Lok Adalat. This can be achieved by restraining themselves from invoking the jurisdiction of traditional Courts in trifle disputes. 5. It is also suggested that, there should be increased involvement of law students, social workers at various stages of Lok Adalat proceedings. Their help can be taken to impart knowledge to the litigants about general working of Lok Adalat, its purpose, why their case is referred to Lok Adalat etc. so as to enable them to put their points during Lok Adalat proceedings and get effective and equitable justice through Lok Adalat.

98

State of Punjab and another vs. Jalour Singh and others : JT 2008 (2) SC 83, 2008 AIR SCW 1196. Also, "United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Ajay Sinha AIR 2008 SC 2398 [para 35]

27 | P a g e

Conclusion
From above discussion it reveals that, the institution of Lok Adalat revolves round the principle of creating awareness amongst the disputants to the effect that, their welfare and interest really lies in arriving at amicable, immediate, consensual and peaceful settlement of disputes. It will go a long way in strengthening our pluralistic, democratic values and rule of Law. The working of Lok Adalat seems to be both fruitful and successful and has achieved those objectives, for which it has been meant. It is thus can be said that, the institution of Lok Adalat has a better utility in the context of Indian society and the problems relating thereto. The overall functioning and achievement of Lok Adalat appears to be appreciable though not remarkable. Thus Lok Adalat acts as a forum for speedy and equitable justice, where any of the sections of the can approach to resolve his dispute in speedy and inexpensive manner and to his own satisfaction. So there is a need strengthen the system of Lok Adalat in recent context, which in turn, help to realize the Constitutional goals of equal and social justice to its fullest extent. It will, in turn, helpful to regain to reaffirm the public confidence in the judiciary.