Lok Adalat Doesn’t Have Power To ‘Hear’ Parties To Adjudicate Cases As A Court Does: Chhattisgarh HC [Read Order]

Lok Adalat Doesn’t Have Power To ‘Hear’ Parties To Adjudicate Cases As A Court Does: Chhattisgarh HC [Read Order]

‘When the Legal Services Authorities Act refers to 'determination' by the Lok Adalat and 'award' by the Lok Adalat, the said Act does not contemplate nor require an adjudicatory judicial determination, but a non-adjudicatory determination based on a compromise or settlement, arrived at by the parties, with guidance and assistance from the Lok Adalat.’

The Chhattisgarh High Court, in KK Distributers vs. State of Chhattisgarh, has held that the Lok Adalat cannot adjudicate a lis on merit except by way of settlement.

In a case which was referred to Lok Adalat, the Lok Adalat Bench had passed the order on merit holding that the offence so sought to be compounded are non-compoundable and passed the orders on merits by dismissing the application for compounding. This was challenged before the high court.

Justice Goutam Bhaduri observed that the making of the award by the Lok Adalat is merely an administrative act of incorporating the terms of settlement or compromise agreed by parties in the presence of the Lok Adalat, in the form of an executable order under the signature and seal of the Lok Adalat.

The court observed that when the Lok Adalat is not able to arrive at a settlement or compromise, no award is made and the case record is returned to the court from which the reference was received, for disposal in accordance with law, and said: “No Lok Adalat has the power to "hear" parties to adjudicate cases as a court does. It discusses the subject matter with the parties and persuades them to arrive at a just settlement. In their conciliatory role, the Lok Adalats are guided by principles of justice, equity, fair play. When the Legal Services Authorities Act refers to 'determination' by the Lok Adalat and 'award' by the Lok Adalat, the said Act does not contemplate nor require an adjudicatory judicial determination, but a non-adjudicatory determination based on a compromise or settlement, arrived at by the parties, with guidance and assistance from the Lok Adalat.”

“The 'award' of the Lok Adalat does not mean any independent verdict or opinion arrived at by any decision making process. The making of the award is merely an administrative act of incorporating the terms of settlement or compromise agreed by parties in the presence of the Lok Adalat, in the form of an executable order under the signature and seal of the Lok Adalat,” the court added.

Setting aside the order finding that the Lok Adalat has exceeded its jurisdiction not vested in it by law by rendering dismissal and making an observation on merits, the high court directed the trial court to decide the matter on merits.

Read the Order Here