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Lok Adalats at a Glance | Overview
- Legality of Lok Adalats
- Cognizance of cases by Lok Adalats
- Powers of (Lok Adalat Or Permanent Lok Adalat)
- Structure of Lok Adalats
- Types of Lok Adalats
Lok Adalats are para-judicial institutions and, as the name suggests it is people’s court which is meant for the general masses like middle-class people and poor people. This institution is the product of modern judicial reforms and characterized as constituting people’s programme for speedy justice. In a strict sense, the Lok Adalats are not the Courts, since the technical court’s procedures are not followed in it. E.g.,
- No court-fee is being paid;
- There is no limitation period;
- The decision is final and binding and the parties have no right to appeal.
Lok Adalat is one of ADR methods wherein the case at the pre-litigation stage is decided amicably between the two parties based on the principals of justice, equity, fair play(section 20(4)). According to the provisions given under the Legal Services Authorities Act, cases in the pre-litigation stage are resolved by the Lok Adalat by mutual consent.
The members of Lok Adalat who are mostly retired judges, act as mediators and conciliators to facilitate a mutual agreement between the parties. According to section 22-D, the Permanent Lok Adalat is not bound by the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code and the of the Indian Evidence Act. When the case is “referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement two courses are open:-
- If a compromise is arrived between the parties to make an award incorporating such compromise.
- If there is no compromise or settlement to return the record with a failure report to the court and nothing hybrid.” 
Legality of Lok Adalats
The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 has given legal recognition to the Lok Adalats and has also mentioned its types and functions. Chapter VI of the Legal services Authorities Act from Section 19-22 mentions about the Lok Adalats. Sections 22(A-E) of Chapter VI-A also has provisions for Lok Adalats.
In addition to it, The Central Government devised the Permanent Lok Adalat(Other Terms and Conditions of Appointment of Chairman and Other Persons ) Rules in the year-2003 which enshrines the office of the Chairman. The National Legal Services Authority (Lok Adalats) Regulations, 2009 was established by the Central Government which contain a plethora of procedural guidelines for the Lok Adalats.
No court fee is payable for a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat. Court fees payable at the time of registration of complaint is also deemed to be refunded if the cases are settled by the Lok Adalat.
Cognizance of cases by Lok Adalats
Section 20 of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 refers to the cognizance of cases by 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.
However, the court of judicature has to be convinced of the fact that the case could be settled mutually and thus refer the case to the Lok Adalat.
Award of Lok Adalat
According to Section 21 of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, on a successful agreement between the parties the bench passes an award which bears power similar to that of an order of the court. The award given by the Lok Adalat is not subject to appeal. If any party is unsatisfied with the award the parties can avail the option of initiating a suit in the court of law.
The Lok Adalat will pass the award with the consent of the parties, therefore there is no need to wither reconsider or review the matter again and again, as the award passed is final. If any party wants to challenge such an award based on settlement it can be done only by filing a petition under Article 226 or/and 227 of the Constitution, that too on very limited grounds.
Powers of (Lok Adalat Or Permanent Lok Adalat)
Under Section 22 of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 gives power to the Lok Adalat the same power as that Code of Civil Procedure, 1908(5 of 1908);
- Summoning and Enforcing attendance of witnesses and examining him on oath
- Power with respect to documents
- Receiving evidence on affidavits
- Requisitioning of public and other documents as it deems fit.
The SLSA or DLSA as the case may be on receiving of an application from any one of the parties at a pre-litigation stage may refer such matter to the Lok Adalat. The case would be referred for the amicable settlement of the dispute for which notice would then be issued to the other party.
Structure of Lok Adalats:
As per Section 6 of the Regulations of 2009, the Composition of the Lok Adalat will be as follows. There is a mix of legal and non-legal fraternity as members of Lok Adalat. The Supreme Court held that the entire idea of having non-judicial members in a tribunal like Permanent Lok Adalat is to make sure that legal technicalities do not get paramountcy in conciliation or adjudicatory proceedings of the Permanent Lok Adalat.
At the State Authority Level –
The Member Secretary of the SLSA is given the power to organize the Lok Adalat. Further, he is given the power to constitute benches of the Lok Adalat which shall comprise of a sitting or retired judge of the High Court, sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of- a member from the legal profession; a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes.
At High Court Level –
The Secretary of the High Court Legal Services Committee is given the authority to constitute benches of the Lok Adalat. Each of such benches shall comprise of the following:
- a sitting or retired judge of the High Court and
- any one or both of- a member from the legal profession;
- a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes.
At District Level –
The Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority is given the authority to organise the Lok Adalat which would constitute benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench comprising of the following :
- a sitting or retired judicial officer and
- any one or both of either a member from the legal profession; and/or
- a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.
At Taluk Level –
The Secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee is given the power to organise the Lok Adalat and would also constitute benches of the Lok Adalat.
Each bench shall comprise of a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of either a member from the legal profession; and/or a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes or a person engaged in para-legal activities of the area, preferably a woman.
Types of Lok Adalats
The court in Interglobe Aviation Limited v. Sachidanand mentioned the difference between Permanent Lok Adalat under Section 22-B(1) and Lok Adalat under section 19 of the LSA act, by drawing a distinction between the Permanent Lok Adalat, Continuous Lok Adalat and Lok Adalat.
According to the judgment Lok Adalats only have conciliatory powers whereas the Permanent Lok Adalat has both conciliatory as well adjudicatory powers. Therefore, the Lok Adalats of permanent nature constituted under section 19 of the LSA Act would be referred to as “Continuous Lok Adalats”. This observation of the court clarified the judgment given in the LIC V. Suresh Kumar. 
National Lok Adalat
National Level Lok Adalats, held at regular intervals on a single day Lok Adalats throughout the country, in all the courts right from the Supreme Court till the Taluk Levels. Here the cases often belonging to multi-national corporations are disposed of in huge numbers.
Permanent Lok Adalat
Permanent Lok Adalats are organized under Section 22-B of LSA Act, 1987. Permanent Lok Adalats have been set up as permanent bodies. It has a Chairman and two members for providing compulsory conciliation on public Utility Services like transport, postal, telegraph etc.
Here, even if the parties fail to reach a settlement, the Permanent Lok Adalat gets jurisdiction to decide the dispute, provided, the dispute does not relate to any offence. The jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalats is up to Rs. Ten Lakhs.
Benefits of Lok Adalat
- There is no court fee and the amount will be refunded if the dispute is settled at Lok Adalat.
- Procedural flexibility and speedy trial of disputes
- No strict applicability of law as CPC or Indian Evidence act.
The award is binding and has the status of a decree of a civil court.
Contributed by- Avishikta Chattopadhyay
 B.P Moideen Sevamandir v. A.M. Kutty Hassan,(2009) 2 SCC 198.
 P.T. Thomas V. Thomas Job, (2005) 6 SCC 478.
 State of Punjab v. Jalour Singh,(2008) 2 SCC 660.
 Bar Council of India V. Union of India,(2012) 8 SCC 243.
 Interglobe Aviation Limited V. N Satchidanand,(2011) 7 SCC 463.
 LIC V. Suresh Kumar, (2011) 7 SCC 491.
 supra note 2.