Permanent Lok Adalat

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In order to deal with matters involving public utility services, the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was revised in 2002 to include provisions for the establishment of Permanent Lok Adalat.

Reasons
The following are the justifications for the establishment of Permanent Lok Adalat:

  1. To ensure that opportunities for securing justice were not denied to any citizen due to economic or other disabilities, the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was passed. It established legal services authorities to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society. It also established Lok Adalat to ensure that the operation of the legal system promoted justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
  2. The Lok Adalat system, an innovative approach for out-of-court dispute resolution, has been successful in resolving conflicts in a conciliatory manner.
  3. However, the primary flaw in the current Lok Adalat organization plan under the aforementioned Act is that it relies heavily on compromise or agreement between the parties. If the parties are unable to reach a compromise or settlement, the case is either sent back to court or the parties are instructed to seek redress in court. The delivery of justice is unnecessarily delayed as a result. This issue can be greatly reduced if Lok Adalat are empowered to rule on matters on their merits when parties are unable to reach a compromise or settlement.
  4. In addition, cases involving public utility services, such as those involving Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, Delhi Vidyut Board, etc. must be resolved quickly to ensure that people receive justice promptly, even at the pre-litigation stage. As a result, the majority of petty cases that shouldn’t be handled by regular courts would be resolved at this stage alone, greatly reducing the workload of the regular courts.
  5. As a result, it is suggested that the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 be amended to create Permanent Lok Adalat as a required pre-litigation process for conciliation and resolution of matters involving public utility services.

Features
The following are the main characteristics of the new institution of Permanent Lok Adalat:

  1. A district judge or extra district judge who is or has held judicial office higher in rank than that of the district judge, as well as two other people with sufficient expertise in public utility services, must serve as the chairman of the Permanent Lok Adalat.
  2. The Permanent Lok Adalat has authority over one or more public utility services, such as transportation of people or goods by air, land, or water; postal, telegraph, or telephone services; provision of electricity, lighting, or water to the general public by any establishment; public conservation or sanitation; services in hospitals or dispensaries; and insurance services.
  3. The Permanent Lok Adalat financial jurisdiction is limited to rupees ten lakhs. However, the Central Government may occasionally broaden the aforementioned financial jurisdiction.
  4. The Permanent Lok Adalat lacks jurisdiction over any matter involving an offense that is not punishable by law.
  5. Any party to the dispute may apply to the Permanent Lok Adalat for resolution of the matter before it is brought before any court. No party to a dispute may seek the jurisdiction of any court in the same matter after making an application to the Permanent Lok Adalat.
  6. If the Permanent Lok Adalat believes that a settlement could contain elements that the parties would find acceptable, it should draft the terms of a potential settlement and present them to the parties for comment. If the parties are able to come to an agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalat should issue an award outlining the terms of the agreement. If the disputing parties are unable to come to an agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalat will decide the case on its merits.
  7. Every decision reached by the Permanent Lok Adalat must be approved by a majority of the individuals who make up the Permanent Lok Adalat in order to be final and binding on all parties involved.

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