The last national Lok Adalat of the year 2020 held settled 10,42,816 cases, out of which 5,60,310 were at the pre-litigation stage and 4,82,506 were pending in courts.
• Lok Adalat, conducted by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is an alternative method of dispute resolution. It is a forum where disputes pending in courts or at pre-litigation stage are settled or compromised amicably.
• Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
• Under the Act, the decision made by Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal lies against such an award before any court.
• National Lok Adalats are conducted quarterly for settlement of cases, both pre-litigation and post-litigation in all the courts from the Supreme Court to the taluk courts on a single day.
• If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat though there is no provision for an appeal against such an award, but they are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case after following the required procedure, in exercise of their right to litigate.
• The persons deciding the cases in the Lok Adalats are called the Members of the Lok Adalats, they have the role of statutory conciliators only and do not have any judicial role; therefore, they can only persuade the parties to come to a conclusion for settling the dispute outside the court in the Lok Adalat and shall not pressurize or coerce any of the parties to compromise or settle cases or matters either directly or indirectly.
• Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of matters relating to divorce or matters relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
• The other type of Lok Adalat is the Permanent Lok Adalat, organized under Section 22-B of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
• Permanent Lok Adalats have been set up as permanent bodies with a Chairman and two members for providing compulsory pre-litigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of cases relating to public utility services like transport, postal, telegraph etc.
• Here, even if the parties fail to reach to a settlement, the Permanent Lok Adalat gets jurisdiction to decide the dispute, provided, the dispute does not relate to any offence. Further, the Award of the Permanent Lok Adalat is final and binding on all the parties.
• The jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalats is up to Rs. Ten Lakhs.
• Composition of Lok Adalats at state level: Each bench comprising of a sitting or retired judge of the High Court or a sitting or retired judicial officer and any one or both of a member from the legal profession; a social worker engaged in the upliftment of the weaker sections and interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programmes.
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the senior most Hon'ble Judge of the Supreme Court is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
Public awareness, equal opportunity and deliverable justice are the cornerstones on which the edifice of NALSA is based. The principal objective of NALSA is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. Functions of NALSA include spreading legal literacy and awareness, undertaking social justice litigations etc.
It is crucial to strengthen the system of Lok Adalats and other Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms in order to provide for informal, quick, inexpensive and effective resolution of disputes and minimize the load of adjudication on the overburdened judiciary.
The High Court of Karnataka and the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) have created history in settlement of cases, with a record 2,61,882 cases being settled in a single day at the mega Lok Adalat held on December 19. This has resulted in a 12.17% reduction of cases pending before courts in taluks and districts, apart from the High Court.