Lok Adalat: An alternate Dispute Resolution

Introduction: Lok Adalats' implementation introduced a new chapter to the country's judicial dispensation framework and contributed to providing victims with an additional platform for a satisfactory resolution of their disputes. This framework is built on Gandhian values. It is one of the elements of ADR structures (Alternative Dispute Resolution). The conflicts were referred to as "Panchayats" in ancient times, which were formed at the level of the village. The disputes were settled by panchayats by arbitration. It has proven to be a very popular solution to lawsuits. Lok Adalat literally means 'people's court' is an institutional alternative dispute resolution forum for the Indian judiciary which serves to settle cases pending the findings of a panchayat (an elected village council) or in a court of law at the pre-litigation level. By offering relatively fast arbitration, Lok Adalats are a typical Indian way of relieving the overburdened court system. Under the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987, the judgments have legislative status. Within this Act, Lok Adalat's decision is considered to have the same legal force as the civil court's findings: conclusive for all the parties and not eligible for appeal. If the parties do not accept the observations of the Lok Adalat, by approaching the court that has the required jurisdiction, they can commence proceedings. The creation of this campaign was part of the strategy to ease the heavy burden of pending cases on the courts and to provide relief to the litigants. The first Lok Adalat was held at Junagarh in Gujarat on March 14, 1982. In 1984, Maharashtra started the Lok Nyayalaya. In accordance with the constitutional mandate in Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, the advent of the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 gave Lok Adalats statutory status. It includes various arrangements for conflict resolution by Lok Adalat. This Statute mandates the establishment of legal services authorities to provide the poorer parts of society with free and qualified legal services and to ensure that any person is not denied opportunities for justice because of economic or other disabilities. Perhaps it binds the Lok Adalats organization to ensure that justice on the basis of equal opportunity is promoted through the activity of the legal system. When Lok Adalat was granted statutory recognition, it was explicitly given that the award passed by the Lok Adalat formulating the terms of the agreement would have the force of a court's decision, which can be enforced as a decision of the civil court. Nature of Lok Adalat cases to be referred: 1. A case that is waiting before a tribunal. 2. Any conflict that has not been presented before any tribunal and is likely to be brought before the tribunal. Given that, in Lok Adalat, any matter relating to an offense not compoundable under the law shall not be resolved.

Different Levels of Lok Adalat: LEVEL OF THE STATE AUTHORITY – The Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat will constitute the seats of the Lok Adalat, each seat comprising a sitting or retired High Court judge or a sitting or retired judicial officer and any or both of a representative of the legal profession; a social worker engaging in the promotion of weaker sections.  AT THE COURT HIGH STAGE- The Secretary of the Legal Services Committee of the High Court will constitute the seats of the Lok Adalat, each seat comprising a serving or retired High Court judge and one or both members of the legal profession; a social worker engaged in the upgrading of the weaker sections and involved in the implementation of legal services or programs.  AT THE LEVEL OF DISTRICT- The Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority coordinating the Lok Adalat will constitute Lok Adalat's benches, each tribunal consisting of a serving or retired presiding judge and either or both of a member of the legal profession; and/or a social worker engaged in improving the marginalized and involved in implementing legal services or program schemes.  TALUK LEVEL - The Secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee organizing the Lok Adalat would establish Lok Adalat banks, each of which would consist of a serving or retired judicial officer and either or both of members of the legal profession; and/or a social worker involved in uplifting the poorer classes and interested in implementing legal services or programs.  LOK ADALAT AT NATIONAL LEVEL- National Level Lok Adalats are conducted at frequent intervals where Lok Adalats are conducted across the nation on a single day, right from the Supreme Court to the Taluk Levels in all the courts where cases are discharged of in tremendous numbers. National Lok Adalats are conducted on a particular subject every month from February 2015 onwards.  PERMANENT LOK ADALAT- The Permanent Lok Adalat, organized under Section 22-B of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, is the other kind of Lok Adalat. Permanent Lok Adalats were formed as legislative entities with a chairman and two members to provide compulsory pre-litigation mechanisms for the conciliation and settlement of public service cases such as transport, postal, telegraph, etc. Where, even though the parties do not reach a settlement, the Permanent Lok Adalat has jurisdiction to resolve the dispute, provided that no offense is involved in the dispute. In addition, the Permanent Lok Adalat Award is binding and enforceable on all parties. The authority of the Adalats Permanent Lok is up to Rs. 10 Lakhs. Here, the Permanent Lok Adalat has the authority to resolve the case if the parties do not find a compromise. It is definitive and binding on the parties to grant the Permanent Lok Adalat. The Lok Adalat may conduct the proceedings in such a way as it considers necessary, taking into account the conditions of the case, the parties' wishes, such as applications to consider verbal statements, prompt resolution of the dispute, etc. In 2002, the Parliament adopted several changes to the Law on Legal Services Authorities, 1987, to institutionalize the Lok Adalats by making them a permanent agency for the resolution of public utility disputes. By notification, the state or central Authorities may create Permanent Lok Adalats for any Permanent Lok Adalats to decide issues relating to Public Utility Services. Includes Public Services: 1. Mobility service. 2. Services for the post, telecommunication. 3. Provide electricity, water, and light to the general public. 4. Public conservation areas or drainage scheme 5. Insurance schemes and other schemes as notified by the Government of the Central or State. 6. The same powers that are vested in the Lok Adalats are the permanent Lok Adalats.

Which Lok Adalat to be approached: A Lok Adalat shall have authority, in accordance with section 18(1) of the Act, to decide and arrive at an agreement or settlement between the parties to a dispute with regard to the dispute. (1) Any case pending in advance; (2) Any matter which falls within the jurisdiction of any tribunal for which the Lok Adalat is organized and is not brought before it. Given that Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction in matters pertaining to divorce or in matters relating to an offense which is not cognizable under any statute. How to have the case referred for settlement to the Lok Adalat: (a) The litigation before the court is pending. (b) The pre-litigation stage of any conflict. As the case may be, on receipt of a request from either party at a pre-litigation stage, the State Legal Services Authority or District Legal Services Authority may refer the matter to Lok Adalat for an amicable settlement of the dispute for which notice will then be given to the other party. Lok Adalats have the potential to deal with a variety of circumstances, such as: • Civil, revenue, and criminal cases compoundable. • Cases with motor accident liability allegations. • Claims about partition. • Damages Cases. • Disputes over marriage and family. • Land Modification Event. • Cases of Land industrial instruments. • Cases of Bonded Laborers. • Disputes over land acquisition. • Bank pending credit cases. • Cases of retirement benefits arrears. • Events from the Family Court. • Cases that are not subjugated. Lok Adalats' powers: Under the Code of Civil Procedure1908, the Lok Adalat shall have the powers of a civil court in proceedings in respect of the following matters: 1. Ability to call and enforce any witness's presence and to question him/her on oath. 2. Right to impose any document's discovery and development. 3. Power to obtain proof concerning affidavits, 4. Power to requisition, or from any court, any public record or document or copy thereof. 5. Such other things as may be mentioned. 6. Each Lok Adalat is empowered to determine its own procedure for the determination of any dispute before it. 7. For the purposes of Sections 193, 219, and 228 of the IPC, all proceedings before Lok Adalat shall be considered to be judicial proceedings. 8. For the purposes of Sec 195 and Chapter XXVI of Cr. P.C., every Lok Adalat is deemed to be a Civil Court. Conclusions: Lok Adalat is one of the most underrated alternative dispute resolution systems and there is a need for the people to take a look at its advantages such as rapid justice, cost-effective, and last but not the least unloading the courts and thus lowering the backlog of cases and at last, the cordial relationship preservation (since the primary emphasis is on compromise and not a punishment) and acknowledge different areas covered and it’s important to understand the jurisdictional powers. In a way, Lok Adalat can be stated as one of the most ancient and effective alternate dispute resolution methods.

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