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Lok adalats as a unique ADR measure in India

 Lok adalats as a unique ADR measure in India


Conflict is a fact of life. It is not good or bad. However, what is important is how we manage or
handle it. Negotiation techniques are often central to resolving conflict and as a basic technique these have been around for many thousands of years. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to a variety of streamlined resolution techniques designed to resolve issues in controversy more efficiently when the normal negotiation process fails. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an alternative to the Formal Legal System. It is an alternative to litigation. It was being thought of in view of the fact that the Courts are over burdened with cases. The said system emanates from dissatisfaction of many people with the way in which disputes are traditionally resolved resulting in criticism of the Courts.

Overview of ADR

Alternative dispute resolution encompasses a range of means to resolve conflicts short of formal litigation. The modern ADR movement originated in the United States in the 1970s, spurred by a desire to avoid the cost, delay, and adversarial nature of litigation. ADR today falls into two broad categories: court-annexed options and community-based dispute
resolution mechanisms. ADR is often designed to be independent of a formal court system that may be biased, expensive, distant, or otherwise inaccessible to a population. New initiatives
sometimes build on traditional models of popular justice that relied on elders, religious leaders,
or other community figures to help resolve conflict. India embraced lok adalat village-level
people’s courts in the 1980s, where trained mediators sought to resolve common problems that in uan earlier period may have gone to the panchayat, a council of village .

 Various kinds of ADR mechanisms

1. Arbitration:

 Arbitration, in the law, is a form of alternative dispute resolution — specifically, a legal alternative to litigation whereby the parties to a dispute agree to submit their respective positions (through agreement or hearing) to a neutral third party (the arbitrator(s) or arbiter(s)) for resolution.

2. Mediation:

 Mediation is a process of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party, the mediator, assists two or more parties in order to help them negotiate an agreement, with concrete effects, on a matter of common interest; lato sensu is any activity in which an agreement on whatever matter is researched by an impartial third party, usually a professional, in
the common interest of the parties.

3. Conciliation: 

Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution process whereby the parties to a dispute (including future interest disputes) agree to utilize the services of a conciliator, who
then meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences. Conciliation
differs from arbitration in that the conciliation process, in and of itself, has no legal standing, and the conciliator usually has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, usually writes no decision, and makes no award. 

4. Negotiation: 

 Negotiation is the process whereby interested parties resolve disputes, agree upon courses of action, bargain for individual or collective advantage, and/or attempt to craft outcomes which serve their mutual interests. It is usually regarded as a form of alternative dispute resolution.Given this definition, one can see negotiation occurring in almost all walks of
life, from parenting to the courtroom.

5.Lok Adalat:

Lok Adalat is based on the principles by Mahatma Gandhi generally known as Gandhian Principles. Lok Adalat has been there in India since its ancient times. Popularly it was called panchayat and in legal nomenclature, it is called arbitration. Lok Adalat is one of the forms of Alternate Dispute Resolution.

Lok adalats as a unique ADR measure in India

The emergence of alternative dispute resolution has been one of the most significant movements
as a part of conflict management and judicial reform, and it has become a global necessity.
Resolution of disputes is an essential characteristic for societal peace, amity, comity and harmony and easy access to justice. It is evident from the history that the function of resolving dispute has fallen upon the shoulders of the powerful ones. With the evolution of modern States and sophisticated legal mechanisms, the courts run on very formal processes and are presided over by trained adjudicators entrusted with the responsibilities of resolution of disputes on the
part of the State.

As such, ADR has been, a vital, and vociferous, vocal and vibrant part of our historical past.
Undoubtedly, Lok Adalat (Peoples' Court) concept and philosophy is an innovative Indian
contribution to the world jurisprudence. It has very deep and long roots not only in the recorded history but even in prehistorical era. It has been proved to be a very effective alternative to litigation. Lok Adalat is one of the fine and familiar fora which has been playing an important role in settlement of disputes. The system has received laurels from the parties involved in particular and the public and the legal functionaries, in general. 

Lok Adalat (people’s courts), established by the government settles dispute through
conciliation and compromise. The First Lok Adalat was held in Gujarat in 1982. Lok Adalat accepts the cases which could be settled by conciliation and compromise, and pending in the regular courts within their jurisdiction. The Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, with two other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker. There is no court fee. If the case is already filed in the regular court, the fee paid will be refunded if the dispute is settled at the Lok Adalat. The procedural laws, and the Evidence Act are
not strictly followed while assessing the merits of the claim by the Lok Adalat.

Main condition of the Lok Adalat is that both parties in dispute should agree for
settlement. The decision of the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties to the dispute and its order is capable of execution through legal process. No appeal lies against the order of the Lok Adalat. Lok Adalat is very effective in settlement of money claims. Disputes like partition suits, damages and matrimonial cases can also be easily settled before Lok Adalat, as the scope for compromise through an approach of give and take is high in these cases. Lok Adalat is a boon to the litigant public, where they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost. 

Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, and one of the aims for the enactment of this Act was to organize Lok Adalat to secure that the operation of legal system promotes justice on the basis of an equal opportunity. The Act gives statutory recognition to the resolution of disputes by compromise and settlement by the Lok Adalats. According to Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act 1994 effective from 09- 11-1995 has since been passed, Lok Adalat settlement is no longer a voluntary concept. By this Act Lok Adalat has got statutory character and has been legally recognized.

Certain salient features of the Act are enumerated below:-

Section 19

1. Central, State, District and Taluk Legal Services Authority has been created
who are responsible for organizing Lok Adalats at such intervals and place.
2. Conciliators for Lok Adalat comprise the following: -
A. A sitting or retired judicial officer.
B. other persons of repute as may be prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court.

Section 20: Reference of Cases

Cases can be referred for consideration of Lok Adalat as under:-
1. By consent of both the parties to the disputes.
2. One of the parties makes an application for reference.
3. Where the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken
cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
4. Compromise settlement shall be guided by the principles of justice, equity,
fair play and other legal principles.
5. Where no compromise has been arrived at through conciliation, the matter
shall be returned to the concerned court for disposal in accordance with Law.

Section 21

After the agreement is arrived by the consent of the parties, award is passed by the
conciliators. The matter need not be referred to the concerned Court for consent
The Act provisions envisages as under:
1. Every award of Lok Adalat shall be deemed as decree of Civil Court.
2. Every award the dispute.
3. No appeal shall made by the Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the
parties to lie from the award of the Lok Adalat.

Section 22

Every proceedings of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings for
the purpose of :-
1. Summoning of Witnesses.
2. Discovery of documents.
3. Reception of evidences.
4. Requisitioning of Public record.


Abraham Lincoln has observed:
"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise wherever you can.
Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser - in fees, expenses,
and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being
a good man. There will still be business enough."
The concept of Lok Adalat was pushed back into oblivion in last few centuries
before independence and particularly during the British regime. This concept is, now, again very popular and is gaining historical momentum. Experience has shown that it is one of the very efficient and important ADRs and most suited to the Indian environment, culture and societal interests