The High Court of Greater Kashmir on 26th March 2018 (Monday) ruled that the functions of Lok Adalats can’t be adjudicatory or judicial but relate purely to conciliation.While Justice M K Hanjura was allowing a petition by Chief Engineer R&B Kashmir and other officers against two orders of Chief Judicial Magistrate Handwara as Chairman Tehsil Legal Services Committee, he mentioned that the Lok Adalats happen to determine a particular reference based on the settlement and compromise between the parties and then puts its seal of confirmation by making an award in terms of the settlement and the compromise.
The petitioners confirmed that the Chairman without seeking any consent from them referred the case to Lok Adalat saying that he was bound to do it under Section 19 of the J&K Legal Services Authorities Act 1997.
In the instant case, the court informed that no reference had been made for placing the matter before the Lok Adalat nor had any Award been passed.
The court said that in the instant petition, the two orders that were challenged had been passed after hearing the parties for the adjudication of the case and that the act did not contemplate or require any adjudicatory judicial determination but rather non-adjudicatory determination based on compromise and settlement arrived by the parties.
The court observed that the application was filed by the respondents for the settlement of the case at the pre-litigation stage in the petition before the Chairman Legal Services Authority. The court then said that it was the duty of the Chairman to seek the consent of both the parties before the matter could be referred to the Lok Adalat. The court said that the Chairman of the Lok Adalat failed to record any order to the state that the matter was to be referred to the Lok Adalat and no opportunity was given to the petitioners and that the petitioners have conspired under Section 19 of the Act.
The court said that the views that were imposed by the CJM in the order were done without there being any settlement or compromise between the two parties. The court also added that when the first order was being framed the Chairman had taken refuge under the documents that were produced before him by the respondents without recording any settlement or compromise. He had recorded the order in such a way and manner as if he had to pass final judgment in a case.
The court ruled that the respondent’s claim shall be revived for its consideration in accordance with the law while setting aside the orders of CJM.
Orders passed by the CJM Handwara on 29/03/2017 and 25/05/2017 were challenged by the petitioners since Chairman Tehsil Legal Services Committee Handwara on the grounds that despite the parties did not arrive at any settlement, the Chairman without any jurisdiction determined the issue by assuming unto himself the powers of the Civil Court.
They submitted, that the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat is limited just to the extent of seeking a settlement or compromise between the parties and not determine any issue on the evidence of merit, in terms of section 18(4) of the J&K Legal Services Authorities Act 1997.
The petitioners pleaded that the Chairman should refrain himself, to the mandate of the Act and that he shouldn’t have considered or concluded the case simply based on the documents that had allegedly indicated that the amount of the Rs. 33 lakh was due to the applicants and directed for its release.