E-Lok Adalats in India

The basic concept of Lok Adalat in India is a contribution to the legal justice system of India to the world legal jurisprudence. Lok Adalat is an informal justice delivery system that aims in providing supplementary forums to the litigants for settlement in disputes. It has been originated from the Gandhian Principles by Mahatma Gandhi and in today’s era, Lok Adalat has become a helping hand for the courts in India. Section 89 of the civil procedure code, 1908 prescribes the Lok Adalat in India. Sections 19 to 22 of the Legal Services Authority act, 1987 mention the process of Lok Adalat in India. 

Introduction

The court in India be it any court like the district court of any state or the Supreme Court of India is suffering from the problem of pending cases which further creates a blockage in the justice delivery system of India. From this, we can say that the litigation gets stretched from one generation to another which ultimately makes a useless situation even for the winning party. Thus, India is in a quagmire of cases that creates a pendency in the justice system.

Though to decrease the number of cases that are before the courts, fast track courts were constituted in India. They were put under the obligation to decide the number of judgments related to session cases in a month irrespective of the quality of the judgment so delivered. But to focus on the problem with this is the appeal of criminal cases which in various high courts remain in the position where it was initially. So, to deal with such issues the system of Justice delivery which is fast and cheap that is Lok Adalat has been opted by the country.

Being cheap and indigenous, Lok Adalat placed itself in the hierarchy of Alternative Dispute Settlement in India. From the time of its existence, the same proved to be a very effective alternative mechanism and received laurels from both and public parties.

Constitutional Mandate of Lok Adalat  

The “equality before the law” has been ingrained in the Indian Constitution. According to article 14 of the constitution of India, “the state shall not deny any person the equal protection of the law within the territory of India.”[1] Therefore, our constitution is committed to cherishing the goal of equality and creating the opportunity for all irrespective of their caste, creed, or their sex.   

To achieve the goal of equality one country must achieve equal justice to all the citizens and this can only happen by extending the legal aid through the system of Lok Adalat.

Organization of Lok Adalat

According to section 19(1) of the Legal Service Authority Act, 1987 the Supreme Court legal service Authority or the District Authority shall organize Lok Adalat at every interval and under the jurisdiction, they may feel fit for.  

Every Lok Adalat shall consist of: –

  1. A sitting or retired Judicial officer
  2. Any person reputed and prescribed by state authority of either District or Supreme Court legal services committee.

The qualifications included in section 19(3) may be prescribed by the central government in consultation with CJI.

Rule 13 of the act provides that a person shall not be qualified to be a member of Lok Adalat unless: –

  1. He is a member of any legal profession.
  2. A person who is reputed in handling the implementation of Legal Services
  3. Any social worker who works for the implementation of laws on the weaker section.

In the case of Dr. Smt. Prateek v. Charam Singh Verma[2] the supreme court held that section 19(5)[3] provides that Lok Adalat shall have the jurisdiction to arrive at a settlement for the parties. The dispute may be in respect of any case which is pending in front of courts and such cases which have jurisdiction for Lok Adalat as well. It is worth mentioning that Lok Adalat Shall not have any jurisdiction with any case not related to the compoundable offenses under any law. Thus, it should be made clear only the cases whose jurisdiction falls within the ambit of Lok Adalat should be heard other cases should not be presented anyhow before this settlement mechanism. In the present case, it was held that Lok Adalat should deal with the matters arising before it is involving two parties whose cases are not pending before any court of law. 

In Union Bank of India v. M/S Narendra Plastics[4] in the present case, it was said that the particular mechanism confers powers to deal with the cases even at the pre-litigation stage and so it is not necessary to confer power on such mechanism that the dispute must be first filed before any court.

In the case of Union of India v. Ananto (Dead) and Anr[5]. it was held that Lok Adalat can help in the settlement of disputes between the part either through the way of compromise or settlement. A ‘compromise’ is always a bilateral decision based on means of mutual adjustment, on the other hand ‘settlement’ is based on the termination of legal proceedings by the same of mutual consent.

Establishment of Permanent Lok Adalat (Section 22b)

 Section 22B of LSAA, 1987 provides that every Permanent Lok Adalat that is established for an area should consist of

  1. Any person who is or has been a district judge or any judicial officer higher rank than any district judge.
  2. Two individuals who have adequate experience in public arenas that is to be nominated by the central government or appointed by the central authority.

Powers

According to Section 22 of the Act, the powers of the Lok Adalat, as well as Permanent Lok Adalat states that both enjoy the powers in respect to the following matters, namely-

  • Summoning the attendance of any witness.
  •  The production of any documents related to the case.
  • Receipt of evidence on an affidavit
  • And other matters which are prescribed by the court of law

For Section 195 and chapter XXVI of CrPC, 1973 the same shall be deemed to be Civil Court. 

In the case, Abdul Hasan v. Delhi Vidyut Board[6] the court while dealing with the case held that there is so much need of Permanent Lok Adalat in India because of the huge pendency of cases that are already piled up before the court. The situation is even worse when we talk about the compilations of supporting staff and equipment to be dealt with in a matter. Thus, the need for a permanent system that is also cheap, and best is required to instill the principle of equality under Article 14 of the Indian constitution.  

First E-Lok Adalat In the Country

In the purview of the financial crisis and restricted judicial services during this Novel Coronavirus Era, the Indian government resorted to having an E-Justice delivery system throughout the country that through a mechanism that is cheap and best and thus conducted through video conferencing. On 22nd August 2020 Rajasthan Legal Service Authority organized its first E-Lok Adalat via video and audio conferencing.

Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Indarjeet Mahantee, Chief Justice of India, Rajasthan High court judge including patron in chief of RLSA came upon a single platform for the inaugural of the auspicious occasion of the first E-Lok Adalat.

According to Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana, the concept of online Lok Adalat that is going to be prevalent in all the states of India especially during this Covid-19 situation contains the potential to transform a justice delivery into a fruitful one. according to him, this online forum opens the opportunity for everyone who cannot afford such an expense of traveling. He further added that this is not only an online platform but a platform wherein such a negative situation all the citizens are getting equal protection of the law in the ambit of ‘people’s Lok Adalat’.

His fruitful remarks throw the light upon the fact that such an online system should be stretched throughout the country that no man should sleep with the thought of the failure of justice even when he is, she is innocent.    

According to the present census, 47,656 cases came up on the online portal wherein 33,476 were settled on a happy note for both the parties[7].

During this purview of the online era, the state of Chhattisgarh in the year 2020 organized its first E-Lok Adalat inaugurated by Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra who is also the chairman of Chhattisgarh Legal Service Authority. The inauguration was made keeping in mind the present consequences for the justice prevailing systems and used for monetary compensation in the state among the parties.

A creative approach coupled with patience is the key element behind such an online portal of ADR. The transformation from alternative dispute remedies to online dispute remedies was an enriching experience for both lawyers and parties involved in the cases. Further, it brought the biggest disadvantage for the people who cannot afford PCs or laptops for the same matter. People lacking with such resources lack the speedy justice delivery system which is also economically beneficial for them.

Conclusion 

Over the years Lok Adalat has become an integral part of the Indian Legal System but as everything comes within a drawback there are certain areas of Lok Adalat which need to be look over by the government. In Delhi, the DSLSA looks over such mechanisms and conducts programs every month likewise.

On concluding remarks one can say that to be held as a justice one must add more value towards the system of Lok Adalats in any state it is situated. 

FAQs

Question 1.  State the Main Problems Faced by Lok Adalat?

Answer.  Though it is said that “Justice delayed is denied” on the other hand while focusing on the functions and time of resolving disputes in Lok Adalat one can easily state that “A Hurried justice can be a Buried justice”

Being a speedy justice delivery system sometimes parties present are impaired with their rights. Moreover, judges are forced to refer to the settlement of disputes to Lok Adalat. And thus, antagonism creates between judges and lawyers which is a major problem in Lok Adalat.

Question 2. Define the Legal Basis of Lok Adalat?

Answer. It is a statutory status given under the Legal Services Authority Act,1987. The act provides free legal services to the people of the weaker section of the society and the same is mentioned under article 39A of the Indian Constitution.

In the amendment of 2002, the act made Lok Adalat a permanent body to settle disputes that are related to public services.

Question 3. How Many Types of Lok Adalat Are There?

Answer. There are 3 types of Lok Adalat namely

  • NATIONAL LOK ADALAT

Held regularly throughout the nation in every court through the districts.

From Supreme Court to Taluk levels the cases are disposed of in Lok Adalat.

  • PERMANENT LOK ADALAT

Established under Section 22B of LSAA,1987.

The jurisdiction of the same is up to 10 lakhs and the award rendered is last and official bonded to the parties.

  • PORTABLE LOK ADALAT

Set up in different parts of the country and aims to resolve the conflict between the parties. Which ultimately make the judiciary a less burdened.

References

  1. Dr. N.V. Paranjpe, Law Relating to Arbitration and Conciliation in India, 4th edn., Central Law Agency.
  2. Justice R.S. Bachawat’s ‘Law of Arbitration and Conciliation’ 5th edn.
  3. https://www.iasexpress.net/lok-adalat/#What_are_the_types_of_Lok_Adalat

[1] Article 14 of Constitution of India

[2] AIR 2009 All 109

[3] Legal Service Authority Act

[4] AIR 1991 Guj, 67

[5] AIR 2007 SC 1561

[6] AIR 1999 Del 88

[7] Supreme Court Report of ADR

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