:: Significance of Lok Adalat
:: A round table Justice through Lok-Adalat (Peoples'
Court) - A vibrant - ADR - in India
Lok Adalat (people’s courts), established by the government settles dispute
through conciliation and compromise. The First Lok Adalat was held in Chennai in 1986. Lok Adalat accepts the cases which could be settled by conciliation and compromise, and pending in the regular courts within their jurisdiction.
The Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, with two other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker.
There is no court fee. If the case is already filed in the regular court, the fee paid will be refunded if the dispute is settled at the Lok Adalat. The procedural laws, and the Evidence Act are not strictly followed while assessing the merits of the claim by the Lok Adalat.
Main condition of the Lok Adalat is that both parties in dispute should agree for settlement.
The decision of the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties to the dispute and its order is capable of execution through legal process.
No appeal lies against the order of the Lok Adalat.
Lok Adalat is very effective in settlement of money claims. Disputes like partition suits, damages and matrimonial cases can also be easily settled before Lok Adalat as the scope for compromise through an approach of give and take is high in these cases.
Lok Adalat is a boon to the litigant public, where they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost.
of Lok Adalat
Written By : Kumar Ravish, Pre Law First Year Symbiosis College of Law
Camps of Lok Adalat were started initially in Gujarat in March 1982 and now it has been extended throughout the Country. The evolution of this movement was a part of the strategy to relieve heavy burden on the Courts with pending cases. The reason to create such camps were only the pending cases and to give relief to the litigants who were in a queue to get justice.
Seekers of justice are in millions and it is becoming rather difficult for the Courts to cope up with the ever-increasing cases with the present infrastructure and manpower. Courts are clogged with cases. There is serious problem of overcrowding of dockets. Because of the ever-increasing number of cases the Court system is under great pressure. Therefore, if there was at the threshold a permanent mechanism or machinery to settle the matters at a pre-trial stage, many matters would not find their way to the Courts. Similarly, if there are permanent forums to which Courts may refer cases, the load of cases could be taken off the
Courts. In order to reduce the heavy demand on Court time, cases must be resolved by resorting to 'Alternative Dispute Resolution' Methods before they enter the portals of Court. Here comes the significance of Lok Adalat which has showed its significance by settling huge number of Third Party claims referred by Motor Accident Claim Tribunal (MACT). Except matters relating to offences, which are not compoundable, a Lok Adalat has jurisdiction to deal with all matters. Matters pending or at pre-trial stage, provided a reference is made to it by a court or by the concerned authority or committee, when the dispute is at a pre-trial stage and not before a Court of Law it can be referred to Lok Adalat. Parliament enacted the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, and one of the aims for the enactment of this Act was to organize Lok Adalat to secure that the operation of legal system promotes justice on the basis of an equal opportunity. The Act gives statutory recognition to the resolution of disputes by compromise and settlement by the Lok Adalats. The concept has been gathered from system of Panchayats, which has roots in the history, and culture of this Country. It has a native flavor known to the people. The provisions of the Act based on indigenous concept are meant to supplement the Court system. They will go a long way in resolving the disputes at almost no cost to the litigants and with minimum delay. At the same time, the Act is not meant to replace and supplants the Court system. The Act is a legislative attempt to decongest the Courts from heavy burden of cases. There is a need for decentralization of justice.
Since April 1985, Lok Adalats have been exclusively organized for settlement of motor third party claims. Although the concept of Lok Adalat was very much vogue since early years. This form was made available for settlement of Motor Third Party claims under the initiative of former Chief Justice of India,
Shri. P. N. Bhagwati, since then number of Lok Adalats have been organized throughout the Country through this forum to the satisfaction of the claimants. It is expected to gather further momentum for settlement of these claims through this medium as both claimants do and the Insurance Company get benefit out of it.
That is the reason why Insurance Companies are interested in settling Third Party claims by Lok Adalats. The increase in cases in Motor Accident Claim Tribunal (MACT) and backlog of pending cases pressed the insurer and the judicial system to think about the quick disposal oriented system like Lok Adalat/Conciliatory forums should be utilized to optimum level.
Lok Adalat now is playing sole role in solving disputes and settling MACT cases. It has become a Dispute Management Institution. It is an informal system of dispute resolution. This is the expeditious method to settle large number of MACT claims. It is the best provisions by the effort of judiciary. Disposal through Lok Adalat is the only panacea for controlling the arrears of cases. Insurance Company can save additional interest. This is the simplest method, which is devoid of procedural wrangles of regular trial. According to Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act 1994 effective from 09-11-1995 has since been passed, Lok Adalat settlement is no longer a voluntary concept. By this Act Lok Adalat has got statutory character and has been legally recognized. Certain salient features of the Act are enumerated below:-
Central, State, District and
Taluk Legal Services Authority has been created who are responsible for organizing Lok Adalats at such intervals and place.
Conciliators for Lok Adalat comprise the following: -
A sitting or retired judicial officer.
other persons of repute as may be prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court.
Section 20: Reference of Cases
Cases can be referred for consideration of Lok Adalat as under:-
By consent of both the parties to the disputes.
One of the parties makes an application for
Where the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
Compromise settlement shall be guided by the principles of justice, equity,
fair play and other legal principles.
Where no compromise has been arrived at through conciliation, the matter shall be returned to the concerned court for disposal in accordance with Law.
After the agreement is arrived by the consent of the parties, award is passed by the conciliators. The matter need not be
referred to the concerned Court for consent decree.
The Act provisions envisages as under:
Every award of Lok Adalat shall be deemed as decree of Civil Court.
Every award made by the Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute.
No appeal shall lie from the award of the Lok Adalat.
Every proceedings of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings for the purpose of
Summoning of Witnesses.
Discovery of documents.
Reception of evidences.
of Public record.
Hon’ble Delhi High Court has given a landmark decision highlighting the significance of Lok Adalat movement. It has far reaching ramifications.
Landmark Decision of Hon’ble Delhi High Court AIR 1999 Delhi
Page - 88
Abdul Hasan and National Legal Services
Authority - Petitioner Vs. Delhi Vidyut Board and others - Respondents.
Facts of the Case - The petitioner filed a writ petition before Delhi High Court for restoration of electricity at his premises, which was disconnected by the Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) on account of non-payment of Bill.
Inter alia, the grievances of the citizens were not only confined to the DVB but also directed against the State agencies like DDA, Municipal Corporation, MTNL, GIC and other bodies, Court notices were directed to be issued to NALSA and Delhi State Legal Service Authority. Judgment Held- His lordship Hon’ble Mr. Justice Anil Dev Singh passed the order giving directions for setting up of permanent Lok Adalats. The scholarly observations of His Lordship Mr. Justice Anil Dev Singh deserve special commendations and are worthy of note. It will be profitable to reproduce the important text and abstract from this judgment, which should be an eye opener for all of us. It should also steer the conscience of all, as there is an increasing need to make Lok Adalat movement a permanent feature.
Article 39 A of the Constitution of India provides for equal justice and free legal aid. It is, therefore clear that the State has been ordained to secure a legal system, which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. The language of Article-39 A is couched in mandatory terms. This is made more than clear by the use of the twice-occurring word “shall” in Art-39 A. It is emphasized that the legal system should be able to deliver justice expeditiously on the basis of equal opportunity and provide free legal aid to secure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizens by reasons of economic or other disabilities. It was in this context that the parliament enacted the Legal Services Authority Act-1987.
The need of the hour is frantically beckoning for setting up Lok-Adalats on permanent and continuous basis. What we do today will shape our tomorrow. Lok Adalat is between an ever-burdened Court System crushing the choice under its own weight and alternative dispute resolution machinery including an inexpensive and quick dispensation of justice. The Lok Adalat and alternative dispute resolution experiment must succeed otherwise the consequence for an over burdened court system would be disastrous. The system needs to inhale the life giving oxygen of justice through the note.
If we closely scrutinize the contents of the decision of Delhi High Court, there has been an alarming situation of docket-explosion and the ultimately remedy is the disposal of cases through the mechanism of Lok Adalat.
round table Justice through Lok-Adalat (Peoples' Court) - A vibrant - ADR
- in India
by Justice Jitendra N.
(Judge, High Court of Gujarat, and, Executive Chairman, Gujarat State Legal Services Authority, Ahmedabad)
Cite as : (2002) 1 SCC (Jour) 11
The emergence of alternative dispute resolution has been one of the most significant movements as a part of conflict management and judicial reform, and it has become a global necessity. Lawyers, law students, law-makers and law interpreters have started viewing disputes resolution in a different and divergent environmental light and with many more alternatives to the litigation. While ADR is, now, envisioned and ingrained in the conscience of the Bench and the Bar and is an integral segment of modern practice.
The Harvard Business School, also, a few years before added dispute resolution as a new course, as a part of its curriculum. The American Bar Association created a section of dispute resolution. In justice delivery system, ADR, is employed since the litigative journey in the court of law has become exorbitantly expensive, long time consuming, cumbersome, dilatory, complex and also stressful, on account of variety of reasons which may not be deeply probed in this subject at this stage. The necessity and utility of ADR is unquestionable. Since the enactment in 1990 of the Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) in US, there has been tremendous growth in the creation of ADR programmes and their implementations.
Resolution of disputes is an essential characteristic for societal peace, amity, comity and harmony and easy access to justice. It is evident from the history that the function of resolving dispute has fallen upon the shoulders of the powerful ones. With the evolution of modern States and sophisticated legal mechanisms, the courts run on very formal processes and are presided over by trained adjudicators entrusted with the responsibilities of resolution of disputes on the part of the State. The processual formalisation of justice gave tremendous rise to consumption of time and high number of cases and resultant heavy amount of expenditure. Obviously, this led to a search for an alternative complementary and supplementary mechanism to the process of the traditional civil court for inexpensive, expeditious and less cumbersome and, also, less stressful resolution of disputes.
As such, ADR has been, a vital, and vociferous, vocal and vibrant part of our historical past. Undoubtedly, Lok Adalat (Peoples' Court) concept and philosophy is an innovative Indian contribution to the world jurisprudence. It has very deep and long roots not only in the recorded history but even in prehistorical era. It has been proved to be a very effective alternative to litigation. Lok Adalat is one of the fine and familiar fora which has been playing an important role in settlement of disputes. The system has received laurels from the parties involved in particular and the public and the legal functionaries, in general. It also helps in emergence of jurisprudence of peace in the larger interest of justice and wider sections of society.
This movement will be further strengthened with more and more government litigations and disputes by and against the Government going to Lok Adalat since the Government is the
Largest litigant in this country. This olden but, now, legalised proven viripotent and vital mechanism of ADR, is covered by the statutory umbrella, the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, which has given it, a legal sanction and made it more effective and enforceable in different States. Its process is voluntary and works on the principle that both parties to the disputes are willing to sort out their disputes by amicable solutions. Through this mechanism, disputes can be settled in a simpler, quicker and cost-effective way at all the three stages i.e. pre-litigation, pending-litigation and post-litigation.
The National Legal Services Authority constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, acts as the apex and nodal agency for laying down policies and principles for making legal services available under the Act. The ground level operations of
"Lok Adalats" are handled by State-level, district-level and taluka-level agencies constituted in the respective States. Lok Adalat settlement is binding like an order, decree, judgment or award of a "court". It is executable and non-appealable. It brings an end only in one forum or stage and finality is achieved. It is proved inexpensive, easy, expeditious and simple ADR mechanism, particularly, for indigent, illiterate and ignorant sections of society.
There is considerable evidence that ADR was widely used in ancient India, Rome and Egypt for the settlement of varied disputes. ADR's growth has long been an integral part of world's landscape, reflecting a sense that system of justice based on technical rules and procedures and formal processes was inefficient, insufficient and incomplete response to the needs and expectations of mankind. The institution of Lok Adalat in India, as the very name suggests, means, People's Court. "Lok" stands for "people" and the vernacular meaning of the term "Adalat" is the court.
In this respect, traditional system of justice is not enough for the larger societal interest and for the people committed to peace and inquisitive of expeditious, inexpensive and less complex settlement of their disputes. Therefore, even the sacred texts of the major religions and also reflections of words of great philosophers and thinkers are pertinent and evident.
Aristotle in Rhetoric and on Poetics said, "Arbitration was introduced to give equity its due weight". Cicero has also said that for a larger assessment of fairness processual justice many times would march over the substantive justice. He has also advocated the process of arbitration.
Blackstone in his famous Commentaries on the Law of English has observed about the strict justice and formal rules on process and the requirement of adopting principles of process to deal with equities which matter in the controversy.
George Washington, the first President of the United States, borrowing from his experience as an arbitrator of private disputes in the 1770s, crafted it into his last will and testament:
"I hope and trust, that no disputes will arise concerning them; but if, contrary to expectations, of the usual technical terms, or because too much or too little has been said on any of the devices to be consonant with law, my will and direction expressly is, that all disputes (if unhappily any should arise) shall be decided by three impartial and intelligent men, known for their probity and understanding; two to be chosen by the disputants - each having a choice of one - and the third by those two. Which three men thus chosen, shall, unfettered by law, or legal constructions, declare their sense of the testators' intention; and such decision is, to all intents and purposes to be as binding on the parties as if it had been given in the Supreme Court of the United States."
Abraham Lincoln has observed:
"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise wherever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser - in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough."
Mahatma Gandhi, the father of nation, has said:
"I had learnt the true practice of law. I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature, and to enter men's hearts. I realised that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven as under. The lesson was so indelibly burnt unto me that the large part of my time, during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer, was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing, thereby not even money, certainly not my soul."
The common man has started looking upon legal system as a foe and not as a friend. For him, law is always taking something away. When we go to court, we know that we are going to win all or lose all. Whereas, when we go to any method of ADR or for informal settlement with different expectations, we know that we may not get all that we want, but we will not lose everything. In India, arbitration and domestic or in-house tribunals are alternatives to formal courts. However, tribunalisation of justice has yet not, successfully, clicked to prove its true mettle. Many a times, experience has shown that the tribunals often end up as dead cycles of litigative voyage in the courts and resultant lengthening of the life of dispute resolution process.
While we encourage ADR mechanism, we must, also, create a culture of settlement of disputes through such mechanisms. Various ADRM methods have been experimented and accepted as viable methods in different situations in different environments in different countries. The ancient concept of settlement of dispute through mediation, negotiation or through arbitral process known as
"Peoples' Court verdict" or decision of "Nyaya-Panch" is conceptualized and institutionalized in the philosophy of Lok Adalat.
Some people equate Lok Adalat to conciliation or mediation, some treat it with negotiations and arbitration. Those who find it different from all these, call it
"Peoples' Court". It involves people who are directly or indirectly affected by dispute resolution. It is, rightly, said participation, accommodation, fairness, expectation, voluntariness, neighbourliness, transparency, efficiency and lack of animosity are undoubtedly, all important characteristics of this unique Indian institution rooted in India's history and culture and environment.
The concept of Lok Adalat was pushed back into oblivion in last few centuries before independence and particularly during the British regime. Now, this concept has, once again, been rejuvenated. It has, once again, become very popular and familiar amongst litigants. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, pursuant to the constitutional mandate in Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, contains various provisions for settlement of disputes through Lok Adalat. Thus, the ancient concept of Lok Adalat has, now, statutory basis. This is the system which has deep roots in Indian legal history and its close allegiance to the culture and perception of justice in Indian ethos.
This concept is, now, again very popular and is gaining historical momentum. Experience has shown that it is one of the very efficient and important ADRs and most suited to the Indian environment, culture and societal interests. The finest hour of justice is the hour of compromise when parties after burying their hatchet reunite by a reasonable and just compromise. This Indian-institutionalised, indigenised and now, legalized concept for settlement of dispute promotes the goals of our Constitution. Equal justice and free legal aid are hand in glove. It is, rightly said, since the second world war, the greatest revolution in the law has been the mechanism of evolution of system of legal aid which includes an ADRM. The statutory mechanism of legal services includes concept of Lok Adalat in the Legal Services Authorities Act. The legal aid, in fact, is a fundamental human right.
Indian socio-economic conditions warrant highly motivated and sensitised legal service programmes as large population of consumers of justice (heart of the judicial anatomy) are either poor or ignorant or illiterate or backward, and, as such, at a disadvantageous position. The State, therefore, has a duty to secure that the operation of legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. Alternative dispute resolution is, neatly, worked out in the concept of Lok Adalat. It has provided an important juristic technology and vital tool for easy and early settlement of disputes. It has again been proved to be a successful and viable national imperative and incumbency, best suited for the larger and higher sections of the present society and Indian system. The concept of legal services which includes Lok Adalat is a
"revolutionary evolution of resolution of disputes".
The Gujarat State Legal Services Authority is in the forefront, in the whole of India, on road map of legal services and Lok Adalat and through this indigenous and hybrid mechanism and method, only in the last three years, more than 11,41,909 cases out of 12,50,214 cases dealt with of different types have been amicably settled to the satisfaction of parties only in Gujarat (as on 1-9-2001). The updated landscapes of progress and profile of works done by Gujarat State Legal Services Authority are highlighted in Tables A, B and C and that of Parliament Legal Aid Clinic, in Tables D and E, annexed herewith for ready reference.
I must state that mainly it is the outcome of: (1) Joint collaborative efforts of the Bench, the Bar, and the NGOs, (2) useful guidance and dynamic approach and leadership, help and assistance of NATIONAL LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY.
In every kind of civilization, pursuit of justice is instinctive, it is, in fact, a basic and primordial instinct in every human being; it is an individual, as well as, societal instinct and every society strives or aspires to attain it through its legal system. The degree of perfection attained by legal system may be measured by the extent to which it exists in good instinct for justice system to express itself and to find its
fulfillment. Not every legal system succeeds in this goal. Sometimes a legal system fails to achieve its purpose because of defects and deficiencies in its substantive laws and sometimes mainly because of its procedural rules' infirmities.
Law and system of justice are not like antiques to be taken down, dusted, admired and put back on the shelf, but they are rather like a vigorous tree which has its roots in history and takes on new graft, puts out new sprouts and occasionally drops dead wood. It is a dynamic instrument fashioned for the purpose of achieving ameliorative and harmonious adjustment, and settlement of disputes arising out of human relations by eliminating social tensions and conflicts and it must, therefore, change with changing socio-economic conditions.
Law and system should be stable, but not standstill. There is nothing permanent except "CHANGE". It is equally true nothing static would survive long. The duty of justice transcends all other considerations and is of paramount importance and overriding. Benzamin Cardozo, the great American Judge observed: "The inn that shelters for the night is not the journey's end. The law, like the traveller, must be ready for tomorrow."
The concept of Lok Adalat is no longer an experiment in India, but it is an effective and efficient, pioneering and palliative alternative mode of dispute settlement which is accepted as a viable, economic, efficient, informal, expeditious form of resolution of disputes. It is a hybrid or admixture of mediation, negotiation, arbitration and participation. The true basis of settlement of disputes by the Lok Adalat is the principle of mutual consent, voluntary acceptance of conciliation with the help of counsellors and conciliators. It is a participative, promising and potential ADRM. It 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 the disputes.
Let me conclude with a sound but an imperative caveat that we must be ever mindful that
"Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or
lose", and, therefore, let us get together, stand united, and strengthen our Bench and Bar irrevocable unique partnership and make collaborative, concerted, cooperative, creative, collective and cohesive endeavours in popularising, proliferating and pioneering, concept and philosophy of important institution - alternative dispute resolution mechanism - so as to strengthen our pluralistic democratic values, rule of law and thereby invigorate the commandment,
"Justice shall never be rationed". Let us therefore make all efforts to advance and strengthen "equal access to justice", the heart of the Constitution of India, a reality.
GUJARAT STATE LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY
||Lok Adalats for motor accident cases
|| Legal Literacy Camps held
|| Cases dealt with
|| Cases disposed of
|| Cases dealt with
|| Cases disposed of
(Rs in Crores)
(Rs in Crores)
| Mar1992 to
(1998 to 1-9-2001)
|| Grand Total
(Mar1992 to Aug2001)
|| Number of Lok Adalats held
|| Per day Lok Adalat held
|| Expenditure (in Rs) towards Lok Adalat
|| Cost (in Rs) per Lok Adalat
|| Number of cases settled in Lok Adalat
|| Cost per case settled in Lok Adalat
|| Per day disposal of cases settled in Lok Adalat
|| Total disposal of motor accident petitions
|| Total Amount (in Rs) awarded in MA petitions
|| Per day disposal in Lok Adalat for MA petitions
|| Legal Literacy Camps held
|| Per day Legal Literacy Camp held
|| Expenditure towards Legal Literacy Camps
|| Number of persons benefited through LL
|| Cost per individual for Legal Literacy Camp (Rs)
|| Up to
|| Pre-litigation cases settled
|| Execution petitions cases settled
|| Under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act
|| Cases settled
|| Compensation awarded (App. Rs in
LEGAL - AID CLINIC
As on 31-8-2001
|| Grand Total
| Cases received in Permanent Legal-Aid Clinic
|| Cases settled in Permanent Legal-Aid Clinic
|| Para-legal training camps organized
Includes 8031 cases relating to M/s Golden Forests Ltd.
Category wise details of consultants visiting permanent legal-aid clinic:
|| Retired High Court Judges
|| Retired Judges of Subordinate Courts
|| Retired Government Officers
|| Serving Judicial
|| Social Workers