Lok Adalat means people’s court is based on Gandhian principles. It is a formal Indian judicial alternative dispute resolution forum that settles cases pending from the findings of a panchayat and serves as the pre-litigation stage in a court of law. Lok Adalat is a traditional Indian method to relieve the overburdened court system by providing relatively quick arbitration.
Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.National Lok Adalats are organized by DLSA at regular interval for amicable settlement. Civil cases, matrimonial cases, MACT cases and petty offence cases are mainly referred for lok adalat.The first Lok Adalat camp was organised in Gujarat in 1982 as a voluntary and conciliatory agency without any statutory backing for its decisions.
In view of its growing popularity over time, it was given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The Act makes the provisions relating to the organisation and functioning of the Lok Adalats.
The Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, with two other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker. It is revealed by experience that in Lok Adalats it is easier to settle money claims since in most such cases the quantum alone may be in dispute.
The State/District Legal Services Authority or the Supreme Court/High Court/Taluk Legal Services Committee may organise Lok Adalats at such intervals and places and for exercising such jurisdiction and for such areas as it thinks fit.
Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall consist of such number of serving or retired judicial officers and other persons of the area as may be specified by the agency organising.
A Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of:
Any case pending before any court, or
Any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of any court and is not brought before such court.
The Lok Adalat shall have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure (1908).
Further, a Lok Adalat shall have the requisite powers to specify its own procedure for the determination of any dispute coming before it.
All proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of the Indian Penal Code (1860) and every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for the purpose of the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973).
An award of a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court or an order of any other court.
Every award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute. No appeal shall lie to any court against the award of the Lok Adalat
There is no court fee and if court fee is already paid the amount will be refunded if the dispute is settled at Lok Adalat.
There is procedural flexibility and speedy trial of the disputes. There is no strict application of procedural laws while assessing the claim by Lok Adalat.
The parties to the dispute can directly interact with the judge through their counsel which is not possible in regular courts of law.
The award by the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties and it has the status of a decree of a civil court and it is non-appealable, which does not cause the delay in the settlement of disputes finally.