Lok adalat

From Justice Definitions Project

What is Lok Adalat?

Lok Adalat is a method of alternative dispute resolution established by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) with other legal services institutions. The institution of Lok Adalat, as the name suggests, means ‘People’s Court’ (“Lok” means “people” and “Adalat” means court).

It is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or still at the pre-litigation stage (provided the dispute concern is a compoundable offence) are settled in an amicable manner.[1] It brings an end to a dispute definitively with its decision being final. The principles of mutual agreement and voluntary reconciliation, facilitated by counselors and conciliators is the actual foundation upon which conflicts are resolved by the Lok Adalat. It centers on the idea of making disputants aware of the fact that their welfare and interests genuinely lay in reaching an amiable, quick, consensual, and peaceful resolution of the problems.[2]

During the COVID pandemic the Legal Services Authorities introduced E-Lok Adalat, wherein they adopted a virtual format using technology. The affected parties could now resolve the matter virtually making the process even more cost-effective.[3]

Official Definition

Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under Chapter VI of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. An award given by a Lok Adalat is recognized to be a decree of a civil court under the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act of 1987. Decisions are final and cannot be appealed in court. Lok Adalat sessions are organized by various legal services authorities as and when they see fit to help people settle disputes outside of court, reducing court backlogs and resolving issues faster. It is not a permanent establishment. However, Lok Adalats are organized by Legal Services Institutions in accordance with requirements as per Section 19 of the LSA Act, 1987.[4]

Every Lok Adalat organized by any of these legal institutions, should have serving or retired judicial officers and some other persons of the area as may be specified by the Legal Services institutions. The experience and qualifications of ‘other persons’ should be in accordance with the qualifications prescribed by the Union Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India or prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.[5]  

Both parties must agree to settle their case through Lok Adalat. Alternatively, one party can send an application for it to the court or any legal services authority, and if the court is satisfied prima facie that there are chances of settlement, it may refer the case.[6]

Generally, Lok Adalat have the competence to deal with compoundable civil, revenue and criminal cases, motor accident cases, partition claims, matrimonial and family disputes, bonded labour disputes, land acquisition disputes, bank’s unpaid loan cases, arrears of retirement benefits cases, etc.[7]

Where no award has been made by the Lok Adalat on the ground that no compromise or settlement could be reached between the parties, that Lok Adalat shall advise the parties to seek remedy in a court.[8]

Types of Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat can be organized at the state level, at high court or district court level, and at the taluk level. There are three kinds of Lok Adalat -

  • National Lok Adalat
  • Permanent Lok Adalat
  • Mobile Lok Adalat

National Lok Adalat

This type of Lok Adalat is held at regular intervals, where on a single pre-fixed date (right from the Supreme Court till the Taluk levels) courts organize Lok Adalats under the guidance of the National Legal Services Authorities.[9] Since February 2015, National Lok Adalats have been held on a specific subject matter each month.

Permanent Lok Adalat

Permanent Lok Adalats are permanent bodies set up for compulsory pre-litigation, conciliation and settlement of disputes related to public utility services[10] (provided the matter relates to an compoundable offence). They are organized under Section 22-B of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987.[11] One of the unique features of Permanent Lok Adalat is that it is a hybrid mechanism of conciliation and adjudication. Where the parties fail to settle the dispute under the conciliation proceedings, the Permanent Lok Adalat has adjudication power,[12] unlike the Lok Adalats.[13] Permanent Lok Adalat has pecuniary jurisdiction to decide cases relating to public utility services up to the value of one crore rupees.

Every award made by the Permanent Lok Adalat is final and is executable by a civil court having local jurisdiction as if it were its own decree. However, it can be challenged by way of writ petition in a High Court.[14]

Mobile Lok Adalat

This type of Lok Adalat is organized in various parts of the country by NALSA along with other legal services institutions. It travels from one location to another to resolve disputes in order to facilitate the resolution of disputes.[15]

Appearance in official databases

Lok Adalats mostly appear in the official website of the National Legal Services Authority and the state-specific e-prosecution websites.

The National Legal Services Authority - Official website

The official website of the National Legal Services Authority[16] provides the rules and regulations related to Lok Adalat. Additionally, it offers annual reports where one can find statistics—such as the disposal of cases in each type of Lok Adalat, and number of Lok Adalat cases settled. The site also provides links to the State Legal Services Authorities in its homepage and general information on the types of Lok Adalats and number of Lok Adalats organised in the country. 

Screenshot of the data given on the official website of NALSA
Screenshot of the data given on the official website of NALSA

The Legal Aid Case Management System maintained by National Legal Services Authority and provides the visitors of the website with guides and videos as to how to file your case and redirects them to the official website of the National Legal Services Authorities for other services. Additionally, the website provides a section of frequently asked questions where basic questions with relation to the services have been answered.[17]

eCourts Services website

The availability and extent of Lok Adalat case information on the eCourts website may vary depending on the specific state or jurisdiction. Some states may have more comprehensive online systems than others. Users are advised to visit the official eCourts website of the relevant state or jurisdiction to access the specific features and search capabilities provided for Lok Adalat cases.

Websites of State Legal Authorities Services

The websites of the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) in India provide information and services related to legal aid and access to justice, including Lok Adalats.

Karnataka State Legal Services Authority publishes comprehensive statistics relating to disposal of cases in 3 formats: 1) disposal of pending cases; 2) disposal of pre-litigation cases, and; 3) district-wise settlements under National Lok Adalat.

STATEMENT SHOWING THE DISPOSAL OF PENDING CASES THROUGH VIRTUAL AND PHYSICAL MODE IN THE NATIONAL/MEGA LOK ADALAT HELD ON 12.03.2022 retrieved from https://kslsa.kar.nic.in/statistics.html
STATEMENT SHOWING THE DISPOSAL OF PRE­LITIGATION CASES THROUGH VIRTUAL AND PHYSICAL MODE IN THE NATIONAL/MEGA LOK ADALAT HELD ON 12.03.2022
STATEMENT SHOWING THE DISPOSAL OF PENDING CASES IN NATIONAL LOK­ ADALAT HELD ON 12.03.2022 retrieved from https://kslsa.kar.nic.in/statistics.html

Gujarat State Legal Services Authority publishes statistics relating to disposal of pre-litigation cases and pending cases as settled under National Lok Adalats.

Lok Adalat Disposal report as published by GUJARAT STATE LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY retrieved from https://gslsa.gujarat.gov.in/en/gslsalokadalat

Official Websites of Different High Courts

The availability of Lok Adalat cause lists on official High Court websites may vary. However, there are some High Courts in India that commonly provide cause lists for Lok Adalats on their official websites:

The official websites of the Allahabad High Court,[18] Calcutta High Court[19] and Delhi High Court,[20] often provide cause lists for Lok Adalats. These cause lists can be accessed under the "Cause List" or "Lok Adalat" sections of the website.

Cause list of the Allahabad HC

India Justice Report

Ranking States on Police, Judiciary, Prisons and Legal Aid:[21] The report gives an overview of the workload handled by Lok Adalats and the number of disputes resolved by it in different years. It is a statistical report that provides data showing the state-wise number of pre-litigation cases disposed of by the National Lok Adalats and State Legal Service Authorities.

The table shows the state-wise number of pre-litigation cases disposed by National Lok Adalats and those organised by State Legal Service Authorities. Retrieved from https://indiajusticereport.org/files/IJR%202022_Full_Report1.pdf

Research that engages with Lok Adalat[22]

A Round Table Justice Through Lok-Adalat (People’s Court) - A Vibrant ADR in India:[23]

This article discusses the concept and philosophy of alternative dispute resolution, particularly Lok Adalat, how it should be promoted and strengthened to enhance pluralistic democratic values, uphold the rule of law, and ensure equal access to justice.

ODR: The Future of Dispute Resolution in India (Vidhi):[24]

The paper explores the viability and feasibility of Lok Adalats, particularly in the context of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report provides insightful data on the number of disputes resolved by Lok Adalats in a given year. It also offers suggestions to enhance their functioning and addresses the challenges they face. Overall, the report offers valuable insights into Lok Adalats' role and their potential for efficient dispute resolution, especially during challenging times.

Conflict and Compromise, The Politics of Lok Adalats in Varanasi District’:[25]

In this article a third approach has been used which focuses on the political behavior of actors involved in the organization, administration, and staffing of  the Lok Adalat in India.

The functioning of Lok Adalats in India—A Critical Analysis:[26]

The article discusses the long term lack of success of Lok Adalats due to inefficiency and illegality of processes as well as a disproportionate emphasis on disposal of cases as opposed to rendering justice. It emphasises that the objective of providing access to justice has turned into an objective to provide access to court, regardless of justice being done.

An Analysis of the functioning of Lok Adalats in the Eastern Region of India: A Comparative Report:[27]

The report presents an in-depth analysis of Lok Adalats in the Eastern Region of India, with a primary focus on the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Bihar. Key aspects such as staff, infrastructure, policies, training, and case disposal are scrutinized in the report. The research endeavors to achieve four key objectives: assessing the current state of Lok Adalats in the Eastern Region, evaluating their performance through statistical parameters, identifying obstacles to their efficiency, and proposing strategic reforms to bolster their functionality. Through an exhaustive examination of disposal statistics, infrastructure, policies, and other pertinent factors in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Odisha, the study seeks to uncover best practices and offer recommendations for widespread improvements that can alleviate case backlog and enhance the effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

International Experiences

Several countries have established systems that are similar to Lok Adalats in India. Lok Adalat is an Alternative Disputes Resolution method. Most of the countries have institutions which aim to provide this with similar purposes. Here are some of the countries that have institutions similar to Lok Adalats:

Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a system called "Salish," which provides a forum for parties to settle their disputes through conciliation or mediation.[28]

Malaysia

Malaysia has a system known as "Pusat Mediasi Malaysia" (Malaysian Mediation Centre)[29]. It serves as a platform for alternative dispute resolution, offering parties an opportunity to settle their disputes in a non-adversarial manner.

Philippines

The Philippines has a system "Katarungang Pambarangay" (Barangay Justice System),[30] which operates at the grassroots level. Its aim is to settle disputes through mediation and conciliation in the local community.

Indonesia

It has a system called "Badan Arbitrase Nasional Indonesia" (Indonesian National Arbitration Board)[31] which provides arbitration services for the resolution of commercial disputes outside of the formal courts.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has the "Gramaraka Niladhari" system, which operates at the village level and focuses on resolving minor civil disputes within the local community.[32]

Data Challenges

Unlike traditional court cases, where case records are generally maintained in a centralized manner, Lok Adalats may face challenges in uniformly capturing and documenting case details.

While Lok Adalats strive to provide efficient and speedy resolution of disputes, their primary focus is on conciliation and settlement rather than maintaining extensive case records. As a result, comprehensive and standardized data collection practices may not always be in place for Lok Adalat cases.

This lack of centralized and easily accessible data on Lok Adalat cases can indeed pose challenges for those seeking to conduct research or analysis. The absence of comprehensive data hampers research efforts and makes it difficult to track trends, evaluate the impact of Lok Adalats, or compare their outcomes across different regions or time periods.

Way Forward

Efforts are being made to address this data challenge and improve data collection and management systems for Lok Adalat cases. However, it is important to note that the availability and accessibility of case and hearing data on Lok Adalat cases may vary. Thus, researchers may need to explore alternative sources or rely on specific studies or reports on Lok Adalat cases that have collected some systematic data.[33]

  1. National Legal Services Authorities Official Website: https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat
  2. Justice Jitendra N. Bhatt, A round table Justice through Lok-Adalat (Peoples' Court) - A vibrant - ADR - in India, (2002) 1 SCC (Jour) 11
  3. Press Information Bureau Official Website: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1882229
  4. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1882229
  5. Section 19, The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
  6. Provided that no case shall be referred to the Lok Adalat except after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the other party.
  7. https://ccsuniversity.ac.in/bridge-library/pdf/BALLB-VIII-SEM-ARBITRATION-CONCILIATIONN-&-ADR-Lecture-on-Lok-Adalat.pdf
  8. Section 21, The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
  9. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/more-than-97-64-lakh-cases-settled-in-first-national-lok-adalat-of-2023-nalsa/articleshow/97829554.cms?from=mdr
  10. Transport service for the carriage of passengers or goods by air, road or water; or postal, telegraph or telephone services; or supply of power, light, or water to the public by any establishment; or system of public conservancy or sanitation; or service in hospital or dispensary; or insurance service; etc.
  11. https://nalsa.gov.in/lok-adalat/permanent-lok-adalat#:~:text=The%20other%20type%20of%20Lok,Legal%20Services%20Authorities%20Act%2C%201987
  12. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2022/may/19/permanent-lok-adalats-have-adjudicatory-functions-empowered-to-decide-case-on-merits-sc-2455585.html
  13. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/rajasthan-high-court-adjudicatory-power-of-lok-adalat-compromise-settlement-between-parties-legal-services-authority-act-223753
  14. G.Gnana Suvarna Raju, Chairman, Permanent Lok Adalat for Public Utility Services, Srikakulam, ‘Access to justice through Permanent Lok Adalat for Public Utility Services, An OverView’, available at: https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/PLAPUS-overview.pdf
  15. https://www.mpslsa.gov.in/lok-adalat.php
  16. https://nalsa.gov.in/home
  17. https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs
  18. http://www.allahabadhighcourt.in/
  19. https://www.calcuttahighcourt.gov.in/
  20. http://delhihighcourt.nic.in/
  21. https://indiajusticereport.org/files/IJR%202022_Full_Report1.pdf
  22. It is to be noted that this does not provide an exhaustive list.
  23. Jitendra N. Bhatt, Judge, High Court of Gujarat, and Executive Chairman, Gujarat State Legal Services Authority, Ahmedabad, A Round Table Justice Through Lok-Adalat (People’s Court) - A Vibrant ADR in India, (2002) 1 SCC J-10
  24. https://vidhilegalpolicy.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/200727_The-future-of-dispute-resolution-in-India_Final-Version.pdf
  25. Moog, Robert S. “Conflict and Compromise: The Politics of Lok Adalats in Varanasi District.” Law & Society Review, vol. 25, no. 3, 1991, pp. 545–69. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/3053726 .
  26. https://nliulawreview.nliu.ac.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Volume-II-Issue-I-86-107.pdf
  27. https://cdnbbsr.s3waas.gov.in/s35d6646aad9bcc0be55b2c82f69750387/uploads/2021/11/2021112340.pdf
  28. Kamal Siddiqui, 'In Quest of Justice at the Grass Roots', Journal of Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Vol. 43, No.1, 1998; Fazlul Huq, Towards' a Local Justice System for the Poor, Dhaka, 1998.
  29. https://www.malaysianmediationcentre.org/
  30. https://www.gsdrc.org/docs/open/ssaj15.pdf
  31. https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/4-520-8413?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true
  32. https://www.sundaytimes.lk/130714/news/grama-niladhari-grassroots-go-between-state-and-common-man-52904.html
  33. https://www.insightsonindia.com/2021/04/12/insights-into-editorial-for-lok-adalats-speed-overrides-quality/
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