The Supreme Court has observed that FIR cannot be lodged in respect of a dispute settled in Lok Adalat.
After noting that the electricity meter was not recording correct reading in the house of Saleem Ahmed, BSES made assessment in relation to the consumption of the electricity and sent a bill for theft for Rs. 97,786 to him. Later the matter was referred to Lok Adalat where, though the original demand was for Rs.97,786, the dispute was settled at Rs.83,120 in full and final satisfaction of the claim made by the BSES. Even after settlement of the case and receiving the payment, the BSES filed FIR against Saleem under Section 135 of the Electricity Act. The High Court dismissed Saleem's petition seeking to quash FIR.
In appeal, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice R. Subhash Reddy observed that, once the dispute in relation to recovery of outstanding amount was finally settled between the parties amicably in Lok Adalat resulting in passing of the award in full and final satisfaction of the entire claim, there was neither any occasion and nor any basis to file FIR by the BSES in respect of the cause which was subject matter of an award. It said:
The remedy of the parties in such a case was only to challenge the award in appropriate forum in case they felt aggrieved by the award. .. In our opinion, the effect of passing of an award was that dispute in relation to the demand raised by the BSES was settled amicably between the parties leaving no dispute surviving.
The court also noted that the conditions set out in the award, in clear terms, record that the dispute has been settled in full and final satisfaction of the demand in question.
In our view, if the BSES was so keen to file FIR against the appellant under the Electricity Act then either they should not have settled the matter through Lok Adalat or while settling should have put a condition in the award reserving therein their right to file FIR notwithstanding settlement of the dispute in question. This was, however, not done
Quashing the FIR, the bench held that the the filing of FIR after passing of the award by the Lok Adalat was wholly unjust and illegal and the same was not permissible being against the terms of the award and also for want of any subsisting cause of action arising out of demand.
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