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Lok Adalat Has No Jurisdiction To Decide A Matter On Merits : Supreme Court

Ashok KM
7 Oct 2021 12:06 PM GMT
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The Supreme Court observed that Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction at all to decide the matter on merits once it is found that compromise or settlement could not be arrived at between the parties.

The jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat would be to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute, the bench of Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna said. The court added that once the settlement / compromise fails, the Lok Adalat has to return the case to the Court from which the reference was received.

In this case, a writ petition filed before Madhya Pradesh High Court was referred to of the Lok Adalat held by the High Court. The Adalat entered into the merits of the writ petition and dismissed the same. The High Court later dismissed the the restoration application to restore the main writ petition contending that the order passed in the Lok Adalat is beyond the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat.

The issue raised before the Apex Court in appeal was whether in the Lok Adalat held by the High Court, was it open for the members of the Lok Adalat to enter into the merits of the writ petition and to dismiss the same on merits, in absence of any settlement arrived at between the parties?

To answer this, the bench referred to Section 19 and 20 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, and noted the following aspects:

  1. As per sub-section (5) of Section 19, a Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of (i) any case pending 6 before; or (ii) any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of, and is not brought before, any court for which the Lok Adalat is organised. As per sub-section (1) of Section 20 where in any case referred to in clause (i) of sub-section (5) of Section 19- (i) (a) the parties thereof agree; or (i) (b) one of the parties thereof makes an application to the court, for referring the case to the Lok Adalat for settlement and if such court is prima facie satisfied that there are chances of such settlement or (ii) the court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat, the court shall refer the case to the Lok Adalat. It further provides that no case shall be referred to the Lok Adalat under sub-clause (b) of clause (i) or clause (ii) by such court except after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the parties.
  2. As per sub-section (3) of Section 20 where any case is referred to a Lok Adalat under sub-section (1) or where a reference is made to it under sub-section (2), the Lok Adalat shall proceed to dispose of the case or matter and arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties. Sub-section (5) of Section 20 further provides that where no award is made by the Lok Adalat on the ground that no compromise or settlement could be arrived at between the parties, the record of the case shall be returned by it to the court, from which the reference has been received under sub-section (1) for disposal in accordance with law

Taking note of the above and the judgment in State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj (2006) 8 SCC 364, the court observed:

"7. Thus, a fair reading of the aforesaid provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 makes it clear that the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat would be to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute and once the aforesaid settlement / compromise fails and no compromise or settlement could be arrived at between the parties, the Lok Adalat has to return the case to the Court from which the reference has been received for disposal in accordance with law and in any case, the Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction at all to decide the matter on meris once it is found that compromise or settlement could not be arrived at between the parties."

The court also rejected the contention that once the matter was placed before the Lok Adalat with consent, thereafter the entire matter is at large before the Lok Adalat and, therefore, the Lok Adalat is justified in disposing the matter on merits.

"9...The consent to place the matter before the Lok Adalat was to arrive at a settlement and or a compromise between the parties and not for placing the matter before the Lok Adalat for deciding the matter on merits. Once there is no compromise and/or a settlement between the parties before the Lok Adalat, as provided in sub-section (5) of Section 20, the matter has to be returned to the Court from where the matter was referred to Lok Adalat for deciding the matter on merits by the concerned court.", the court said while setting aside the order passed by Lok Adalat.


Case name and citation: Estate Officer vs. Colonel H.V. Mankotia (Retired) LL 2021 SC 548

Case no. and Date: CA 6223 OF 2021 | 7 October 2021

Coram: Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna

Click here to Read/Download Judgment




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