The third National Lok Adalat, held across India (except in Delhi) under the aegis of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and presided over by Chief Justice of India (CJI)-designate UU Lalit, recently resolved 81 lakh cases.
According to the NALSA, the trial courts, which have a huge pendency of 4.2 crore cases, were relieved of 2.2 crore cases this year through three National Lok Adalats.
- The success of digital Lok Adalats was a distinguishing aspect of the third National Lok Adalat (NLA). It settled 81 lakh cases, including 18 lakhs pending and 63 lakh pre-litigation cases, including a settlement value of over Rs 5,500 crore.
- According to the CJI-designate —
- There is little doubt that Lok Adalats have become portals for the impoverished and underprivileged to attain justice.
- These Lok Adalats have been successful in bridging the gap between litigants and dispute redressal agencies.
- They not only give an efficient alternative for seeking redress, but also greatly contribute to reducing the court’s backlog and case pendency.
- They have made access to justice easy for everyone, regardless of financial means.
- Lok Adalats had existed even before the concept received statutory recognition. In 1949, Harivallabh Parikh, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, popularised them in Rangpur, Gujarat.
- NALSA has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, and the Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief of NALSA.
- It aims to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organise Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- Hence, the Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
About the ‘Lok Adalats’ –
- It is one of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms, a forum where disputes or cases are settled or compromised amicably.
- In a nutshell, it is a form of party-based (parties involved in the dispute) justice in which people and judges work together to resolve problems by discussion, persuasion and mutual consent, in order to provide affordable and timely justice.
- Organisation of Lok Adalat —
- The State authority or district authority or the High Court legal services committee or Tehsil legal services committee may organise Lok Adalat at such intervals and places as it thinks fit.
- National Lok Adalats are held at regular intervals, with Lok Adalats held throughout the country on a single day, in all courts from the Supreme Court to the Taluk Levels, where cases are disposed of in large numbers.
- Composition —
- Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall consist of —
- Serving or retired judicial officers.
- Other persons as may be specified by the state/district authority or the High Court/Tehsil legal services committee.
- The persons deciding the cases in the Lok Adalats are called the Members of the Lok Adalats. Role played by these members —
- They have the role of statutory conciliators only and do not have any judicial role.
- This means, they can only persuade (and shall not pressurise or coerce) the parties.
- As a result, the Lok Adalat will not decide the subject on its own initiative, but rather on the basis of a compromise or settlement reached between the parties.
- Types of cases at Lok Adalat —
- Transfer or change of land title cases, compoundable criminal offences, family disputes, encroachment on forest lands, land acquisition disputes, motor accident claims and cases which are not sub-judice.
- The Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter or case relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
- Compoundable offences are those offences in which the parties involved can effect a compromise.
- Powers —
- Lok Adalat has jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of –
- Any case pending before the court.
- Any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of and is not brought before any court for which the Lok Adalat is organised (pre-litigation stage).
- The award made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court.
- Such award is final and binding on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any court of law.
- Court fee —
- There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat.
- The court fee originally paid in the court on the complaints or petition is also refunded back to the parties if a matter pending in the court of law is referred to the Lok Adalat and is later settled.