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LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE
Dr. Vijaykumar Shrikrushna Chowbe1
Miss Priya S. Dhanokar2
Abstract : Lok-Adalat has symbolized a human sensitive forum to provide
amicable, speedy, cheap justice by adopting informal procedure and avoiding technicalities. Present article has attempted the history and development of Lok-Adalat in India. An analysis has been made on potential utility of Lok-Adalat as one of the ADR tools. An exploration has been made about the validity of the award of Lok-Adalat and grounds that keep it open to challenge for its judicial review. At the end, SWAT analysis of Lok-Adalat has been made and its probable solution in the form of Permanent Lok-Adalat has been discussed.
Present article, thus provide a deep insight of Lok-Adalat and its potential utility to the existing legal system which has been overburdened with pending litigations. Concluding remarks are self-explanatory demanding the adaptations of concept of Lok-Adalat to suit the changing need of poor and needy people. The suitable recommendations have been made to that effect.
"[It] is of fundamental importance that, justice should not only
be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done".3
LORD HEWERT CJ
The administration of justice is the primary task of judiciary being one of the essential organs of the state. India has a unified judicial system with hierarchy of Courts in a pyramidal structure, in which the Supreme Court
1 Associate Professor & Head, Post Graduate Teaching Department of Law, Sant Gadge Baba
Amravati University, Amravati. Suggestion, if any, may be addressed at firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Researcher & Student LL.M. IInd Year, Post Graduate Teaching Department of Law, Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University, Amravati.
3 R v Sussex Justices Ex parte McCarthy (1924) KBD. Lord Hewart CJ had delivered the judgement on behalf of majority, Justice Lush J & Sankey J agreed]. Quoted from A.K.Bansal., Arbitration and Alternate Dispute Resolution, Universal Law Publishing Co.Pvt.Ltd, New Delhi,2005, p. 31. Available at, en.wikipedia.org/.../R_v_Sussex_Justices,_ex_parte_McCarthy visited on 22.01.2011
stands like a sentinel on the qui vive at the apex, below which are High Courts and below High Courts, there is a vast network of Subordinate Courts. The Courts in India have emerged as a vital institution in interpreting the Constitution of India and thereby assuring justice to the common man. The principle of Equal and Social Justice, which is duly enshrined in the Constitution of India and in particular, in the Directive Principles of State Policy aim at removing social and economic anomalies from our social set-up and the credit for upholding this principle as well as rights of common man must be given to the judiciary.
However, in recent time, the community world over have become more and more conscious about their rights. They frequently resort to redressesthrough Courts of law by way of litigation, when their rights are infringed. Due to the complexities of modern lifestyle, disputants want a decision as quick as possible. This has resulted in "Litigation Explosion" across various Courts in the country. Particularly, civil litigation in India is well known for pending cases flooded by adjournments, revision, appeals, cross-appeals etc. Due to this, litigants have to wait for a long time to seek justice from the Courts. Thus, traditional Courts in India have become infamous for delays and its rigid procedural rules and expensiveness of litigation processes.
The problem of delays and expensive litigation has engaged the attention and consideration of several legal luminaries, those connected with the management of the judicial system of the country. Thereby various Committees were appointed. Law Commission of India also in its various reports,4 have considered this problem in all its facets and have suggested some remedial measures.5 Accordingly, a few procedural amendments were carried out,6 a piece of substantial law emerged7 and other improvements in
4 See for e.g., Law Commission Reports No. 14 on Reforms of the judicial administration. Report
No. 123 on Decentralisation of administration of justice: Disputes involving centres of Higher Education; Report No. 124 on The High court arrears-a fresh look; Report No. 129 on Urban legislation mediation as alternative to adjudication; 213th Report on Fast Track Magisterial Courts for Dishonoured Cheque Cases; 176th Report of Law Commission on the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996; 188th report on proposals for constitution of hi-tech fast-track Commercial Divisions in High Courts; Report No. 221st Report Need for Speedy Justice Some Suggestions ; Report No. 222nd on Need for Justice-dispensation through ADR etc.
5 For e.g. Public Interest Litigation to make Justice dispensing system more human sensitive and friendly. Similarly, Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 is also one of the piece of legislation for resolving dispute out of court by way of Arbitration mode.
6 S. 89 of Civil Procedural Code, 1908 has been amended which mandate to opt any ADRs system before initiation of litigation in the court.
LOK ADALAT A STRATEGIC FORUM FOR SPEEDY AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE
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the working of the system have also been introduced. Many tribunals, forums have been created to reduce workload in Courts. Besides, many mechanisms for amicable settlement of disputes such as negotiation, conciliation, mediation, arbitration, Nyaya-Panchayat and institution like Ombudsman, Lok Adalat have been set up to provide rapid, effective and cheap remedies that can be made available to the people along with Traditional Legal System and to ensure guarantee of equal access to justice. More promising among all is LOK ADALAT!
What is Lok Adalat ? :
Lok Adalat is neither a Bench Court nor a statutory tribunal meant to adjudicate or arbitrate. At the first instance, it is meant to act as conciliator. It appears to be a unique institution meant to take care of disputes as they arise between members of any section of society. Thus, Lok Adalats are the enterpore Courts created as per the requirement of people of a particular area. The camps of Lok Adalats are settled as a part of strategy to relieve heavy burden on the courts having pending cases and to give speedy relief to the litigants, who are in queue to get justice. Though initially, Lok Adalat camps were started at Junagarh District in Gujrat by 1982, the first Lok Adalat was held in Chennai in 1986. Soon this programme was adopted by several other states, such as Bihar, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra etc. and now gained popularity throughout the country.8 The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 implemented in its true spirit has created popularity for and utility of Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of disputes.9
It is believed that the "Lok Adalat" is an old form of adjudicating system which had been prevailing in ancient India and it's validity has not been taken away even in the modern days too. The word 'Lok Adalat' means 'Peoples Court'. This system is based on Gandhian Principles. It is one of the components of ADR system. As the Indian Courts are over burdened with the backlog of cases and the regular Courts are to decide the cases involve a lengthy, expensive and tedious procedure. The Court takes years together to
7 For e. g., the Legal Services Authorities Act,1987., the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 for
resolving the disputes by ADR and without litigation. 8 http://email@example.com/msg.html, Visited on
14/01/11.9 See, Law Commission Report No. 222 on Need for Justice-dispensation through ADR etc. pg. 14
settle even petty cases. Lok Adalat, therefore provides alternative resolution or devise for expeditious and inexpensive justice.10
In Lok Adalat proceedings there are no victors and vanquished and, thus, no rancour. Experiment of 'Lok Adalat' as an alternate mode of dispute settlement has come to be accepted in India, as a viable, economic, efficient and informal one. LOK ADALAT is another alternative to JUDICIAL JUSTICE. This is a recent strategy for delivering informal, cheap and expeditious justice to the common man by way of settling disputes by mutual compromise and settlement, which are pending in Courts and also those, which have not yet reached Courts by negotiation, conciliation and by adopting persuasive, common sense and human approach to the problems of the disputants, with the assistance of specially trained and experienced Members of a Team of Conciliators.11 In the light of above, the Lok Adalat and Permanent Lok-Adalat are considered to be need of the day. Even the Law Commission also recommended that where there is a huge pendency of cases, the only panacea is establishment of more and more permanent Lok Adalats where the expertise of the judicial officers both in service and retired could be effectively utilized in resolution of matters by conciliation.12 The philosophy behind setting up of permanent and continuous Lok Adalats is that in our country, the litigant public has not so far been provided any statutory forum for counseling and as such, these Lok Adalats may take upon themselves the role of counsellors as well as conciliators. Experiment of Lok Adalat as an ADR mode has come to be accepted in India as a viable, econ