A Censorious Appraisal of Lok Adalat System In India

This blog is inscribed by Khyati Mudliyar.

Introduction

Lok Adalat is defined as a panel where deliberate work aimed at bringing about a settlement of conflicts between the parties is made through conciliatory and pervasive efforts. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 provides for setting up of Lok Adalat’s. Lok Adalat’s are thus an extended form of conciliation wherein the parties are assisted by the judges and are meant to sidestep the inordinate delays in the formal adjudication mechanisms and to remove the backlog of arrears of cases.

One of the lacunas in the present form of Lok Adalat’s is that a case can be taken to Lok Adalat’s only when the petitioner/ claimant want the same, thus it takes a form of friendly approach. Moreover, in the Lok Adalat, there is no compensation interlude. As mentioned above, conciliations are against the Constitutional mandate. In recent times the concept of Lok Adalat has got a trend. Prison Lok Adalat, Provident Found Lok Adalat, Labor Law Adalat, etc. are to settle the dispute, and naturally many may be strange to know what Lok Adalat is?

Lok Adalat translates into people’s court, in contrast to the regular law courts orthodox by the government. Most Indians people cannot effortlessly obtain justice through Indian’s formal court system. Lok Adalat’s are informal courts of primary opinion scatter throughout India, which provide alternative dispute resolution services designed to address this problem by bringing equity to the society.

People’s Court

Lok Adalat means “people’s courts”, one of the formal dialects of India. Whereas “Lok” stands for “people” and the term “Adalat” means court.  Lok Adalat’s provide the only point to access to the justice system of India for many citizens that operate in rural and remote regions. Lok Adalat’s are one of Indian’s principal means of providing alternative Conflict resolution mechanism to its residents.

Lok Adalat allows parties to succeed financial, organizational, and procedural barriers’ that would otherwise prevent them from accessing justice. As a result, the Lok Adalat systems currently discovered throughout India. The Lok Adalat system popular and has the potential to settle many more millions of disputes. Lok Adalat was originally established during the 1970s and 1980s as an informal and collaborative system. Over the last two decades, however, the system has become more adversarial, as judges and lawyers have increasingly been unable to work together. Currently, the Lok Adalat system requires necessary resources such as enough facilities and sufficient personnel. It is important, therefore, to consider how this alternative dispute resolution system can be improved and how it can better achieve its original goals.

 Lok Adalat’s in such a scenario has been a beacon of hope both for the litigants and the judges who are overwhelmed with alarming workloads and cases. In this method, over the years many petty cases along with other regular cases that can be referred to the Lok Adalat’s have been disposed of. This system also has some issues such as lack of infrastructure, unclear policies, inadequate administrative support, etc. which prove to be a hindrance to disposal of cases. The idea of Lok Adalat is unique and is very effective but much more can be achieved if certain changes are made in the system.

History of Lok Adalat

The ancient history of Lok Adalat can be defined by the struggle to provide legal aid in India. Lok- Adalat is a structure of replacement to resolve any conflict arising between any individuals which found its beginning in India and got established as a system with the pacing change in the society. The first Lok Adalat was organized in 1982, in a village called ―Una, in Junagarh district of Gujarat. India has the history of settling fights through thetranquillity, arbitration, and counselling by an upper or ruling class popularly known as the ”panch Parmeshwar”. This system though is effective was vulnerable to various maladies. Therefore renovating and augmenting it with a guided system was a great success in the legal history of India.

The idea of Lok-Adalat was proposed and administered by Justice P.N. Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India. Lok-Adalat helps the most suitable option or the mid pathway to fix the disputes so that both the parties are satisfied which aims to bring win-win outcome, whereby courts (called Lok-Adalat) are well regulated by the National Legal Services Authority, State Legal Services Authority, District Legal Services Authority, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal Services Committee, and Taluk Legal Services Committee, as the case may be. This Lok-Adalat’s are organized systematically on specified dates and have jurisdiction as per law to take up suitable matters for disposal. The Hon’ble Courts, Committees, and the respective State governments issue guidelines as and when necessary to regulate the Lok-Adalat and make them more effective.

Lok Adalat as an ADR

The organization of Lok Adalat was developed as one of the most important modes of alternative dispute resolution. A fairly modified model of the Lok Adalat system which continues till today traces its roots to Chennai, where first of such kind of modern Lok Adalat was organized in the year 1986. The institution has developed, modified, adapted, and advanced to provide fast and equitable justice at doorsteps in a very cost-effective manner. Ethics, integrity, and the principles of a free and fair trial are the high and lofty ideals upon which this institution of Lok Adalat is founded.

Lok Adalat has originated from an old form of Justice delivery system which was prevalent since Vedic times. In ancient India, the disputes were settled on the basis of principles of honesty, fair play, and moral character which is in the core structure of Indian culture and civilization. The said system was present in ancient India at the village level in name of People’s Court or Popular Court or Panchayats. The village Panchayats or People’s Court, as an important and indispensable part of the justice delivery system. The relevance and functioning of this system have been discussed in the texts of Yajnavalkya, Narad, Gautama, Kautilya Brihaspati, Manu, and Bhrigu. Generally, these People’s Court was of three kinds namely Puga, Sreni, and Kula.

Does Lok Adalat help in achieving Justice?

Although the Lok Adalat is considered to be the most relevant alternative to access justice just like the conventional or regular court it has its own integrity and dignity but it also suffers from some inadequacy as well. Lok Adalat may be so pleasant in terms of providing fast justice and reasonable in cost. But it may neglect the most crucial aspect of providing justice or may avoid the principle of natural justice. Even there is also a famous saying” justice hurried is a justice buried” which means in order to provide justice quickly there might be chances that one party may have to bear the loss, so keeping this fact in mind the superior courts have guided that there can be speedy trial or proceeding but it should not harm the rights of any of the party. Sometimes the lawyers may also ask their clients to pursue the regular court proceeding so that they can charge them huge amounts as their fees and sometimes the clients may force the lawyer to go for the strict proceedings. The High court[1]observed-“in the name of the speedy resolution of disputes, the fair interest of the parties cannot be waived, more importantly, when the petitioner involved are minors insane and disabled”. If the parties are not happy with the compromise then they may either returned to the court of law or parties may ask for the remedy in the court of law. This causes unnecessary delay in the relief of justice.   

Conclusion

In India there is still a number of cases which are pending in the courts which are rising the counting of files but remaining unfinished for more than decades, so the tool of Lok Adalat can be used to decrease the number of pending litigation which are at their prior stage so that both the parties can reach a satisfactory outcome which may bring win-win situation and can be proved to be a boon in the Indian judiciary system. Although in India there are so many people lives below the poverty line that they are unable to manage to meet the court charges and refuse to get justice but Lok Adalat provides them access to justice at a minimum charge and speedily. But still, there are many loopholes such as lack of guidance, proper education, and legal awareness among the people and sometimes in order to provide justice in a hurry there might be a loss to one of the parties or the justice may not duly be served. But after the overall study, we can draw a conclusion that the experiment of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) system seems to be appreciable and bring a remarkable change in the judiciary system which may help achieve constitutional objectives of providing justice with equity and social equality and safeguarding the rights of each and every individual which may help the citizen to keep their faith and beliefs alive in the Indian judiciary system.

REFERENCES:-

  1. https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2422&context=ilj
  2. https://doj.gov.in/sites/default/files/OJA.pdf

[1]Manju Gupte vs national insurance company, I (1994) ACC 242,1994 ACJ 1036.

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