- India’s legal machinery swung into action on February 10 to clear of over 12 lakh cases during a day-long session of Lok Adalats organised across the country.
- This is only a fraction of pending cases – over three crore at last count – but represents a significant step in clearing the massive backlog.
Around since the 80s:
- The little known alternative dispute resolution mechanism – Lok Adalat has been around since the 1980s, but never caught the imagination of the public who usually throng to courts to settle disputes.
- This is set to change. The National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) has been making efforts to make people aware of the benefits of Lok Adalats – that of an easy, fast and hassle free form of dispute resolution.
- Lok Adalats encourage parties to settle cases outside the formal court system. Generally, cases where parties can reach an amicable settlement, including bounced cheque and bank recovery cases, civil suits, motor accident claims, service matters, family matters and traffic challan cases are taken up by the Lok Adalats.
- A Lok Adalat functions like a well-oiled machine. Cases, which usually take years to come to their final outcome, are settled in a matter of minutes.
- A Lok Adalat usually has a bench of two people – a sitting judicial officer or retired judge and an advocate form a panel of legal service authority or people from the society.
- Lok Adalats are not held at a dais. T
- he judges sit next to the people.
- This is an effort to reach out to the public and make them feel familiar to the system.
No judicial role:
- Since the bench members do not have any judicial role, they can only persuade the parties to come to a conclusion for settling the dispute outside the court.
- The Lok Adalats do not decide the matter referred to it, instead cases are decided on the basis of the compromise or settlement between the parties.
- During the Lok Adalat organised at Patiala House Courts complex in Delhi, most litigants looked visibly happy over the outcome of their cases, but some were seen requesting that there cases be sent back to the courts.
- Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- Under the Act, the award reached by the Lok Adalat is deemed to be an order of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any court.
- The parties and their advocates who want their pending matters to be referred to a Lok Adalat may either make a request to the concerned court or, with consent of opposite party, approach the office of a legal services authority.
- There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat.
- If a matter pending in the court is referred to the Lok Adalat and is settled subsequently, the court fee originally paid in the court on the petition is also refunded back to the parties.
- If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the lok adalat they are free to initiate litigation by approaching the concerned court.