New Delhi : The Minister of Law and Justice, Shri Kiren Rijiju in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today informed that the Lok Adalat is one of the important Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) Mechanism available to common people. It is a forum where the disputes/ cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably. Lok Adalat is primarily a “People’s Court” wherein decisions are arrived at between two or more disputing parties on mutually acceptable terms amicably. Under the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act, 1987, an award made by a Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal lies against thereto before any court. In order to reduce the pendency of cases in courts and also to settle the disputes at pre-litigation stage, Lok Adalats are organized by Legal Services Institutions at such intervals as it deems fit. Lok Adalat is not a permanent establishment. However, as per Section 19 of the LSA Act, 1987, Lok Adalats are organized by Legal Services Institutions as per requirement. National Lok Adalats are organized simultaneously in all Taluks, Districts and High Courts on a pre-fixed date.There are three types of Lok Adalats:-
- National Lok Adalats:
National Lok Adalats are held on a single day in all the Courts of the County, four times in a year. The dates of the National Lok Adalats are decided by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in the beginning of each calendar year and circulated to all the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs). During the COVID pandemic, the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) innovatively leveraged technology and introduced E-Lok Adalat, wherein affected parties could get this matter resolved without physically visiting the venue of the Adalat.
- State Lok Adalats:
State Lok Adalats are planned and organized by the State Legal Services Authorities within the State. It may be conducted on weekly, monthly, bimonthly or quarterly basis, as per their specific need.
- Permanent Lok Adalats:
Permanent Lok Adalats are conducted on daily basis or as per the number of sittings decided per week. Presently, 344 Permanent Lok Adalats are functioning in 37 States/UTs.
During the COVID pandemic, the Legal Services Authorities (LSAs) innovatively leveraged technology and introduced E-Lok Adalat, wherein affected parties couldget their matter resolved without physically visiting the venue of the Adalat. E-Lok Adalat is a process to settle disputes, combining technology and alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) mechanisms which offers a faster, transparent and accessible option. E-Lok Adalats have significantly improved access to justice for people who would otherwise be unable to participate in the Lok Adalats. With Lok Adalats being held virtually, it has become accessible to a large section of the population. E-Lok Adalats are also cost effective as it eliminates the need for organizational expenses. As people can effectively participate from their homes with the help of internet technology, it has reduced the cost of travel to access the forum. Besides, it also saves time as people do not have to take time off work.The following steps have been taken by most of the Legal Services Authorities to promote E-Lok Adalats:-
- Standard Operating Procedures have been formulated
- Technical training through System Officers has been provided to the Court Staff.
- Whatsapp Groups are formed for litigants, advocates and respondents for conveying them relevant information and the link for attending e-lokadalat
- Video Conferencing Link and Cause list are displayed on the website of the District Courts.
Lok Adalat is being organized in all courts and tribunals defined under section 2(aaa) of Legal Services Authorities Act,1987 on any holiday as prescribed by NALSA. In addition to conventional methods, use of technology is also promoted in almost all courts and tribunals which possesses necessary infrastructure for the same. So far, E-Lok Adalats have been organized in 28 States and UTs namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. In total, 259.92 lakh cases were taken up out of which around 53.38 lakh cases were disposed of. The data of the cases disposed of from June, 2020 to September, 2022 are as under:-
|Pre-Litigation Cases||Pending Cases in Courts||Total|
|Taken Up||Disposal||Taken Up||Disposal||Taken Up||Disposal|