Recently, National Lok Adalats held in 33 States and Union Territories significantly eased the pressure on the judicial system by settling over 15 lakh of more than 33 lakh pending and pre-litigation cases, and awarding a total amount of around Rs 2,281 crore. Let us look at the significance of Lok Adalats in India.
Which law created Lok Adalats?
The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 establishes legal services authorities to provide free and competent legal services, and Lok Adalats as a cost-free alternative forum for legal dispute settlement.
Who organises Lok Adalats?
Lok Adalats can be organised in any area by:
- District Legal Services Authority
- State Legal Services Authority
- Taluk Legal Services Committee
- High Court Legal Services Committee
- Supreme Court Legal Services Committee
Every Lok Adalat consists of serving or retired judicial officers, and other people of the concerned area, as specified by the organising Authority/Committee.
What cases can a Lok Adalat look into?
A Lok Adalat can decide disputes where the law permits a compromise or settlement between individuals. It can take up cases at the pre-litigation stage as well as pending court cases. However, a Lok Adalat organised for a specific area can only look into cases applicable for the court having judicial authority over the area.
When can a Lok Adalat take up a case?
A Lok Adalat can take notice of a case in the following circumstances:
- If both the disputing parties agree to refer a dispute to the Lok Adalat.
- If one of the parties requests the concerned court to refer the case to the Lok Adalat, and the court thinks that there are chances of settlement at the Lok Adalat. Before transferring the case, the court needs to hear out the other party.
- If one of the parties makes an application to the Authority or Committee organising the Lok Adalat, and they refer it to the Lok Adalat.
- If the concerned court believes that the matter is appropriate for the Lok Adalat and refers the case. Before transferring the case, the court needs to hear out both parties.
How does the Lok Adalat resolve disputes?
When any case is referred to a Lok Adalat, it will proceed to speedily dispose of the case and arrive at a settlement between the parties. While doing so, the Adalat should follow the principles of justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles.
In a court-referred case, if the Adalat does not make a decision because the parties refuse to compromise, it will return the case record to the concerned court. The court will then proceed to deal with the case from the stage which was reached before it was referred to the Adalat.
If the case has been referred by the Authority or Committee organising the Lok Adalat, and the Adalat does not make a decision because the parties refuse to compromise, it will advise the parties to seek remedy in a court.