At a Lok Adalat, the process followed is very basic and shorn from almost all legal formalism and rituals. A serving or retired judicial officer presides over the Lok Adalat as the chairman, with two other members, normally a lawyer and a social worker. Experience reveals that it is easier to settle money claims in Lok Adalats since the quantum alone can be in dispute in most such cases. Consequently, motor accident insurance lawsuits are brought before the Lok Adalat and a range of cases were dealt with in each Lok Adalat. One essential condition is that both parties to the conflict will consent and abide by their agreement to settle through Lok Adalat. A Lok Adalat has the authority to resolve all matters which may be pending before any court by way of agreement between the parties, as well as pre-litigative matters. Such matters may be of a civil or criminal nature, but the Lok Adalat cannot decide any matter relating to an offense which is not compoundable under any law, even if the parties concerned agree to settle the same. Lok Adalats that acknowledge matters involving not only those persons entitled to free legal services, but also all other persons, be they women, men, or children, and even institutions. Anyone or more of the parties to a dispute can lodge an application before the court where their case is pending, or even at a pre-litigative point, in the Lok Adalat Where the Lok Adalat Bench established for the purpose attempts to resolve the dispute by assisting the parties in reaching an amicable solution and once it succeeds in doing so, the award passed by the Lok Adalat Bench shall be final and shall have as much force as the decree obtained by the Civil Court after the contest has been due.
Lok Adalat finale award:
One question that always raises its head is the finality of the Lok Adalat prize. During the Adalat Lok, the parties agree to abide by the judge's decision in the Adalat Lok. It is often seen, however, that the same order is being challenged later on for several reasons. In one of the recent rulings, India's Supreme Court has once again put all those doubts to rest. The Court has held in unequivocal terms that the Lok Adalat 's award is as good as a court's decree. The Lok Adalat's award is fictionally considered to be judgments of the Court and therefore the courts have all the powers in relation to it, as it has in relation to a decree passed by itself. This includes the power to extend time where appropriate. The award granted by the Lok Adalat is the court's own decision because it has been reached through the simplified form of conciliation rather than the court's argument procedure.
Consent of Parties
The most important factor to consider when deciding the cases at the Lok Adalat is both parties' consent. It cannot be forced on any party to have the Lok Adalat decide on the matter. However, unless the parties agree that the Lok Adalat will decide the matter, no party can then depart from the Lok Adalat 's decision. The Supreme Court has held in many cases that if there is no agreement, the Lok Adalat award is not effective and even if the parties do not agree to settle the conflict through Lok Adalat, the normal litigation process remains open to the contesting parties.
The Supreme Court has also held that compromise on both sides implies some element of accommodation. The description of it as a total surrender is not appropriate. A compromise is always bilateral and means adjustment to one another. Settlement is termination by mutual consent of the legal proceedings. If no compromise or settlement is or could be reached, the Lok Adalat cannot pass an order.
Lok Adalat Pros
There are many benefits which litigants derive from the Lok Adalats.
- First, there is no court fee and even if the case has already been brought before the regular court, the fee paid will be reimbursed if the dispute is settled at the Adalat Lok.
- The procedural laws and the Evidence Act are not strictly applied whilst the Lok Adalat assesses the merits of the claim. Though represented by their lawyer, the parties to the disputes can engage directly with the judge of Lok Adalat and clarify their role in the dispute and hence the reasons which are not possible in a normal court of law.
- Can disputes be brought directly before the Lok Adalat, instead of going first to a regular court and then to the Adalat Lok? YES.
- The Lok Adalat 's decision is binding on the parties to the dispute, and its order can be executed by legal process. No appeal lies against the Lok Adalat 's order while there is always room in the regular law courts to appeal to the higher tribunal on the trial court's decision, which eventually causes delay in the resolution of the dispute. The explanation is that it is the court's decision in a normal court, but it is joint settlement in Lok Adalat and thus no appeal case will arise. Lok Adalat 's scheme is a boon to the litigant public in every respect, where they can get their disputes settled quickly and cost-free.