The concept of Lok Adalats stands as a unique contribution of the Indian legal system to world legal jurisprudence. It is an informal system of justice dispensation which has largely succeeded in providing a supplementary forum to litigants for determination and settlement of disputes. Originating from Gandhian principles by Mahatma Gandhi, it has become a major helping hand to courts and is prescribed in Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 as well.

The advent of Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 further gives a statutory status to these Lok Adalats, promoting the constitutional mandate of Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, which directs the state to organize Lok Adalats to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity. These Lok Adalats provide three-fold benefits involving speedy resolution of disputes coupled with reduced costs of litigation and avoiding further appeals, thereby making them the perfect instrument to resolve the heightened burdened on judiciary for disposing cases. In 2018 alone, about 47 lakh cases were disposed of in National Lok Adalats, which included about 21 lakh pending cases and 26 lakh pre-litigation cases. Therefore, their efficacy has been a linchpin in reducing excessive litigation.

Need for Lok Adalat

  1. Lok Adalat delivers viable, efficient, inexpensive justice to the common person by settling disputes.
  2. The number of courts and judges are inadequate.
  3. Increase inflow of cases at the courts.
  4. Delay in disposal of cases as high pendency level at courts.

Functioning of Lok Adalat

A Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction in respect of:

a) Any dispute pending before any court.

b) Any matter in the pre-litigation stage i.e. which is not yet brought before the court.

A case that is pending before any court can be made over to Lok Adalat if:

a) Parties agree to settle the matters at Lok Adalat.

b) Either party makes an application regarding it to the court.

c) The court is satisfied that the matter can be resolved through Lok Adalat.

Powers of Lok Adalat

  1. Lok Adalat will have the same power as that are conferred on a civil court under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, regarding summons, production of a document, reception of evidence and such other matters.
  2. In addition, a Lok Adalat has the necessary powers to establish its own dispute resolution process.
  3. Each Lok Adalat is considered a civil court under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  4. The award of a Lok Adalat is considered an order of a civil court or an order from another court.
  5. Any award given by a Lok Adalat is final and binding on all parties and cannot be appealed against.

Benefits of Lok Adalat

  1. No court fees.
  2. Speedy trial of disputes.
  3. No strict application of procedural laws.
  4. The award given by a Lok Adalat is binding and has the status of a decree of a civil court.
  5. The order is capable of execution through the legal process.
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