Introduction Conflicts as well as disputes are inevitable, unavoidable and endemic in social, political, economic, religious and industrial society. It is hard to imagine a human society without a conflict of interest. Disputes must be resolved amicably and peacefully between the parties. In reality the court procedure is very complex and expensive. Alternative dispute resolution is an attempt to devise machinery which should be capable of providing an alternative to the conventional methods of resolving disputes.
Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms. Originating from Gandhian principles by Mahatma Gandhi, it has become a major helping hand to courts. It is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled or compromised amicably. Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Under the said act, the award made by the Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of civil courts and is final and binding on all parties.
Lok Adalat, as the name suggests, means ‘People’s Court’, Lok stands for people and Adalat stands for court. It has developed from the practice of the panchayat system where disputes were settled by the council which facilitated conversations between parties to allow them to negotiate an agreement.
Nature and Scope
Lok Adalat in stricter sense is not a court of law. It is neither a Bench Court nor a statutory tribunal meant to adjudicate or arbitrate. It appears to be a unique institution meant to take care of disputes as they arise between members of any section of society. The basic philosophy behind Lok Adalat is to bring about settlement of disputes between the parties through conciliatory and persuasive efforts. This method proves to be more effective, less time consuming and prominent method for dispute settlements.
The High Court of Andhra Pradesh held that, in Board of Trustee of the Visakhapatnam v Presiding Officer, Permanent, Lok Adalat’ The award is enforceable as a decree and it is final. The endeavors are only to see that the disputes are narrowed down and make the final settlement so that the parties are not again driven into further litigation or any dispute.
If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat though there is no provision for an appeal against such an award, but they are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case by following the required procedure, in exercise of their right to litigate. There is no court fee payable when a matter is files in