Lok Adalat is one of the Alternative Dispute Redressal(ADR) mechanisms, it is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at the pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably.
Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
Under the said Act, the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any court of law.
The procedural laws and the Evidence Act are not strictly followed while assessing the merits of the claim by the Lok Adalat.
The Lok Adalat may conduct the proceedings in such a manner as it considers appropriate, taking into account the circumstances of the case, wishes of the parties like requests to hear oral statements, speedy settlement of dispute etc.
Right to Litigate
If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat though there is no provision for an appeal against such an award, but they are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case by following the required procedure, in the exercise of their right to litigate.
No Court Fee
There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat. If a matter pending in the court of law is referred to the Lok Adalat and is settled subsequently, the court fee originally paid in the court on the complaints/petition is also refunded back to the parties.
Power of Lok Adalats
The persons deciding the cases in the Lok Adalats are called the Members of the Lok Adalats, they have the role of statutory conciliators only and do not have any judicial role; therefore they can only persuade the parties to come to a conclusion for settling the dispute outside the court in the Lok Adalat and shall not pressurize or coerce any of the parties to compromise or settle cases or matters either directly or indirectly.
The members shall assist the parties in an independent and impartial manner in their attempt to reach an amicable settlement of their dispute.
Nature of Cases to be Referred to Lok Adalat
- Any case pending before any court.
- Any dispute which has not been brought before any court and is likely to be filed before the court.
Provided that any matter relating to an offense not compoundable under the law shall not be settled in Lok Adalat.
Levels of Lok Adalats:
- At the State Authority Level
- At High Court Level
- At District Level
- At Taluk Level
A sitting or retired judicial officer along with two other members (usually a lawyer and a social worker) presides over the Lok Adalats.
National Lok Adalat
National Level Lok Adalats are held at regular intervals where on a single day Lok Adalats are held throughout the country, in all the courts right from the Supreme Court till the Taluk Levels wherein cases are disposed off in huge numbers. From February 2015, National Lok Adalats are being held on a specific subject matter every month.
Permanent Lok Adalat
- The other type of Lok Adalat is the Permanent Lok Adalat, organized under Section 22-B of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- Permanent Lok Adalats have been set up as permanent bodies with a Chairman and two members for providing compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of cases relating to Public Utility Services like transport, postal, telegraph etc.
- Here, even if the parties fail to reach to a settlement, the Permanent Lok Adalat gets jurisdiction to decide the dispute, provided, the dispute does not relate to any offence.
- Further, the Award of the Permanent Lok Adalat is final and binding on all the parties. The jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalats is upto Rs. Ten Lakhs.
Mobile Lok Adalats are also organized in various parts of the country which travel from one location to another to resolve disputes in order to facilitate the resolution of disputes through this mechanism.