Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat

    A successful justice conveyance system is an everlasting and essential determining factor of tranquillity, order, advancement and administration of every nation. It is the foremost obligation of the State to make sure uniform and fair justice for everyone by controlling and managing the dealings of citizens with each other, by examining disarray and arbitrariness of one group of individuals above others, and also by preserving each and every right that is basic to the survival and elevation of an individual. In actual fact, the assurance of equality before law does not give any content to a poverty-stricken individual if he or she does not have proper access to justice.  Few among the many reasons for poor management or dissemination of justice are hold-up of a large number of undecided cases, corruption, high-priced legal proceedings, lack of access or opportunities, the deficiency in the number of courts, judicial officers and formal employees, existing extensive procedures and absence of proper legal help and legal knowledge to those in need. Lok Adalat was created considering these deficiencies of the judicial system.

    Lok Adalat

    The Panchayati Raj system of India contributed immensely to the creation of such courts in India. It is also popularly known as the People’s Court. It is one among the units of alternative dispute resolution techniques and has manifested itself to be a very successful substitute to litigation method. The rise of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provided legal recognition to the concept of Lok Adalats. The said legislation is harmonious to the mandate under Article 39-A of the Constitution of India and includes several sections for dispute resolution through the institution of Lok Adalat. It is an Act to form legal services authorities to give proficient legal aids to the delicate groups of the nation free of cost and also to make sure that chances for acquiring justice are not refused to any individual due to financial or other disabilities. The Act helps in systematizing them to make sure that the operation of the legal structure nurtures justice on a ground of equal opportunity.

    Composition of Lok Adalat

    The individuals resolving the cases which come before such courts are known as the Members of the Lok Adalats. They play solely the character of statutory conciliators and do not have a judicial function. Hence, they can at best convince both the sides to arrive at an amicable solution for dispute settlement outside the court in the Lok Adalat. They should never push or force any of the sides to resolve or clear up cases either directly or indirectly. The Lok Adalat should never adjudicate the case so referred at its own instance; rather the same should be resolved by compromise or settlement among the parties. The members shall aid both the sides of the case in an unfettered and unbiased way in their trial to attain friendly settlement of their matter or issue. 

    They are formed at state authority level, High Court level, district level and taluk level. The following is the composition of Lok Adalat at these different levels:

    State Authority Level 

    • The Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority.
    • A retired or sitting judge of the High Court or a retired or sitting judicial officer or both.
    • A member of the legal profession. 
    • A social worker intrigued in the administration of legal aid services.

    High Court Level

    • The Secretary of the High Court Legal Services Committee.
    • A retired or sitting judge of the High Court
    • A member of the legal profession.
    • A social worker intrigued in the administration of legal aid services.

    At District Level

    • The Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority.
    • A retired or sitting judicial officer.
    • A member of the legal profession.
    • A social worker intrigued in the administration of legal aid services.
    • A person involved in para-legal undertakings of the locality, ideally a woman.

    At Taluk Level

    • The Secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee.
    • A retired or sitting judicial officer.
    • A member of the legal profession. 
    • A social worker intrigued in the administration of legal aid services.
    • A person involved in para-legal undertakings of the locality, ideally a woman.

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    Jurisdiction of Lok Adalat

    They have the jurisdiction to decide and come to an agreement or understanding between both the sides to a dispute with respect to:

      1. Every case undecided before a court.
      2. Every case which is coming under the jurisdiction of, and is not put forward before, any court for which the Lok Adalat is created.

    They can help resolve even criminal cases which are, under the applicable laws, compoundable. 

    Award: The decision given by the Lok Adalat is considered to have the same legal binding force as that of a decree made by a civil court. It is regarded as final for all the parties and is not appealable. If the parties do not acknowledge the verdict of the Lok Adalat, they can commence litigation by proceeding towards the court that has the fitting jurisdiction.

    Permanent Lok Adalat

    Section 22B of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 creates the institution of Permanent Lok Adalat.[1] 

    Composition of Lok Adalat 

    It is composed of:

    • Chairperson – who is a retired or sitting Sessions or District Judge or any Judicial Officer having higher rank. 
    • Two other individuals, executing functions that are judicial in nature. 

    In the case of S.N Pandey v. Union of India [2], the Supreme Court of India held that the individuals who are appointed on the Permanent Lok Adalats should possess a high level of honesty, ethics and necessary experience. The court also held that suitable rules and guidelines, among other things, in this regard, will have to be formulated, if not already established.

    Jurisdiction of Lok Adalat

    The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalat is ten lakh rupees. Simultaneously, in cases which have no straight pecuniary link, the Permanent Lok Adalat can pronounce any decision or direction which is within the wider purview of the Constitutional and Statutory mandate. It is set up all over India in states like Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, RajasthanKerala, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. It is set up for giving a mandatory mechanism for conciliation and resolution of cases concerning Public Utility Services such as telegraph, postal, transport etc., and may manage the proceedings in a way as it regards fit, looking into consideration the state of affairs of the case, desires of both the sides to the case, such as plea to hear oral statements, expeditious resolution of dispute etc. It, while managing conciliation proceedings or resolving a dispute, is led by the principles of natural justice, impartiality, fairness, integrity and other principles of justice. Here, even if the parties do not succeed in reaching an agreement, they have jurisdiction to adjudicate the issue, on condition that no offence is linked to the issue. Moreover, the Award pronounced by the Permanent Lok Adalat is ultimate and irrevocable on both the parties. 

    The Permanent Lok Adalat is neither tied up by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 nor the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It has wide authorities to draw up its course of actions, in contrast to national courts. It has powers same as that of a civil court. For example, it can summon an individual and examine him on oath, demand discovery and production of any document, etc.

    Difference between Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat

    1. Permanent Lok Adalat is fixed and permanent in character but Lok Adalat is temporary in character.
    2. Any of the parties to a dispute can create an application to the Permanent Lok Adalat for solving an issue or case, before the case is submitted in any court. Nevertheless, in Lok Adalat, a specific condition or requisite like that does not exist.
    3. Permanent Adalat runs on all days in which the courts are functioning. But Lok Adalat is held on Saturday and Sunday only.
    4. Permanent Lok Adalats have jurisdiction only over pre-litigation issues but Lok Adalats have jurisdiction over both pending and pre-litigation issues.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, the goal of Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat, as it has been repeatedly mentioned all through the article, perform extremely pivotal purposes in a nation due to several reasons like quicker and inexpensive remedy, simpler procedures, etc. Their goal is to resolve the issues which are lying undecided in the courts. This is done by negotiations, conciliation and by embracing convincing sensibleness and compassionate attitude to the issues of the parties. The institutions of Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat have gained tremendous appreciation from both the parties to a case and also from the legal and public officials. Their procedures are discretionary and run on the strategy that both sides to the issues or cases are ready to compromise their disputes by reaching friendly conclusions. Through them, these issues can be resolved in an easier and economical manner at all the three levels i.e. pre-litigation, pending-litigation and post-litigation. The idea has been a victory in application. They have an extremely significant part to promote and nourish “equal access to justice”, the heart of the Constitution of India, a reality. 

    References:

    [1] Permanent Lok Adalat, NALSA, available at: https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat/permanent-lok-adalat  (last visited on November 7, 2020).

    [2] (2012) 8 SCC 261.


    BY BINOOSHA BENOY K | GOVT. LAW COLLEGE, ERNAKULAM

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