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Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat: Understanding Under the Legal Service Authority Act

Updated: Feb 24


Lok Adalat in India

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Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat in India

The preamble of the Legal Services Authorities Act eloquently sets the stage for the establishment and functioning of Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat in India. The Act's objective is to ensure that justice is accessible to all, especially the weaker sections of society, irrespective of economic or other disabilities. This article delves into the significance of Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat, considering the preamble and the legislative provisions of the Act.


Key Features of Lok Adalats


Accessibility and Justice for All

The Lok Adalat system, as outlined in Section 19 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, is a pioneering initiative that aligns with the Act's preamble. It is designed to provide a platform for accessible justice, offering an alternative to the conventional judicial system, which can be expensive and time-consuming.


The organization of Lok Adalats by various legal services authorities at state, district, and taluk levels reflects a commitment to decentralizing legal aid and making it readily available to those in need.


Inclusivity and Diversity in Composition

The composition of Lok Adalats, as per Section 19(2), includes serving or retired judicial officers and other qualified persons. This diversity ensures a blend of legal expertise and real-world experience, contributing to more empathetic and grounded resolutions.


The appointment criteria, under Sections 19(3) and (4), ensure that non-judicial members are adequately qualified, bringing credibility and depth to the Lok Adalat system.


Efficient and Equitable Dispute Resolution

The jurisdictional framework of Lok Adalats, under Section 19(5), empowers them to handle a wide range of disputes, including those pending in courts or within their jurisdiction but not yet brought before a court.


This provision helps in reducing the backlog of cases in the regular courts and provides a quicker, more affordable dispute resolution mechanism. Importantly, Lok Adalats are barred from handling non-compoundable offences, ensuring that their jurisdiction is appropriately limited.


Finality and Binding Nature of Awards

Section 21 of the Act vests Lok Adalat awards with the same status as a decree of a civil court. This finality and binding nature underscore the effectiveness of Lok Adalats in dispute resolution. The non-appealable nature of these awards further contributes to reducing litigation time and costs.


The Role of Permanent Lok Adalat

Permanent Lok Adalats, governed by Section 22, represent an evolution of the Lok Adalat system. They have similar powers to a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, which enables them to handle cases more effectively.


Unlike the ad-hoc nature of Lok Adalats, Permanent Lok Adalats are a standing body, thereby providing a continuous mechanism for dispute resolution.


Procedural Flexibility and Judicial Proceedings

Permanent Lok Adalats have the autonomy to determine their procedural rules, as stated in Section 22(2). This flexibility allows them to adapt procedures to the specific needs of the cases before them.


Both Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat proceedings are deemed to be judicial proceedings, lending them the gravity and seriousness of formal legal processes.


The establishment of Lok Adalats and Permanent Lok Adalats under the Legal Services Authorities Act is a significant stride towards realizing the vision set out in its preamble. These bodies not only provide a mechanism for accessible, efficient, and equitable justice, particularly for the weaker sections of society, but also play a crucial role in easing the burden on the regular judicial system.


The Act, through these institutions, ensures that the pursuit of justice is not a privilege of the few but a fundamental right accessible to all, thereby upholding the principles of equality and fairness in the legal system of India.

Lok Adalat (Legal Provisions)


  1. Organisation and Jurisdiction (Section 19):

  • Organized by State Authorities, District Authorities, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal Services Committees, or Taluk Legal Services Committees (Section 19(1)).

  • Set up at various intervals, locations, and have jurisdiction as deemed fit by the organizing committee (Section 19(1)).

  1. Composition (Section 19(2)):

  • Comprises serving or retired judicial officers and other specified persons (Section 19(2)(a)-(b)).

  • Qualifications and experience for non-judicial members prescribed by Central or State Governments in consultation with respective Chief Justices (Section 19(3)-(4)).

  1. Jurisdictional Limits (Section 19(5)):

  • Can adjudicate and settle disputes for cases pending or within their jurisdiction but not yet brought before any court (Section 19(5)(i)-(ii)).

  • No jurisdiction over non-compoundable offences (Section 19(5) proviso).

  1. Cognizance of Cases (Section 20(1)-(2)):

  • Cases referred if parties agree or upon application by one party, and the court is satisfied there are chances of settlement (Section 20(1)(i)-(ii)).

  • Can take cognizance of matters directly if deemed appropriate (Section 20(2)).

  1. Procedure and Settlement:

  • Aim for quick resolutions based on justice, equity, fair play, and other legal principles (Section 20(3)-(4)).

  • If no settlement is reached, the case is returned to the referring court (Section 20(5)-(7)).

  1. Award and Finality (Section 21(1)-(2)):

  • Awards are equivalent to a decree of a civil court and are final and binding. No appeal lies against their award (Section 21(1)-(2)).

Permanent Lok Adalat(Legal Provisions)


  1. Powers (Section 22(1)):

  • Have the same powers as a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, including summoning witnesses, document discovery, etc. (Section 22(1)(a)-(e)).

  1. Procedure (Section 22(2)):

  • Authority to specify their own procedure for dispute resolution (Section 22(2)).

  1. Legal Status (Section 22(3)):

  • Proceedings are deemed judicial proceedings, and the Permanent Lok Adalat is considered a civil court for specific legal purposes (Section 22(3)).


Difference between Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok Adalat

Basis of Difference

Lok Adalat

Permanent Lok Adalat

Nature

Ad-hoc and temporary

Permanent establishment

Organisation

Organized at various intervals and locations

A standing body established under the law

Jurisdiction

Handles cases pending or falling within their jurisdiction but not yet brought before any court. Does not handle non-compoundable offences.

Similar to Lok Adalat but typically handles cases from a pre-litigation stage.

Composition

Consists of serving or retired judicial officers and other persons as specified by the organizing authority.

Composition is more structured and is a permanent setup.

Qualification of Members

Qualifications for non-judicial members are prescribed by the Central or State Government in consultation with respective Chief Justices.

Often includes members with expertise in specific areas relevant to the disputes they handle.

Legal Proceedings

Proceedings are deemed to be judicial proceedings.

Also considered judicial proceedings and deemed a civil court for specific legal purposes.

Powers

Similar to a civil court for the purpose of dispute resolution.

Has the same powers as a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and can specify its own procedures.

Settlement and Awards

Focuses on compromise or settlement; awards are final and binding, equivalent to a civil court decree. No appeal is allowed.

Similar to Lok Adalat in terms of settlement and awards; however, it operates continuously and handles a specific category of cases.

Referral of Cases

Cases are referred by courts or agreed upon by the parties.

Deals with cases from the pre-litigation stage and can accept matters directly.



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