Overview of the Alternative dispute resolution: Lok Adalat

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What is the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)? Is it effective?

A process called alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is used to settle unresolved conflicts. beyond the courtroom. Here, techniques like mediation, arbitration, conciliation, or negotiation are employed. ADR procedures typically cost less money and offer quick trials to the general public.
The ADR strategy has been kept under wraps in both developed and developing nations over the past few decades. Reconciliation-focused, comprehensive, and adaptable ADR procedures are generally liked by various countries, according to a recent ADR study conducted in the United States and India.  
Recently, Lok Adalat’s resolution has been viewed as an affordable and efficient ADR remedy.  justice in its broadest sense of successful dispute resolution whether in legal proceedings or other methods of dispute resolution is a crucial component in making sure that fundamental rights recognized and protected by various constitutions from various countries can be defined as "aided" or "suitable" dispute resolution, to put it more precisely.
In other circumstances, ADR may even involve techniques that let parties resolve their differences amicably and independently of one another. ADR is a process that is different from judicial decision-making, and it simply entails an impartial individual helping parties who are in conflict to resolve the issue between themselves. Furthermore, it may be claimed that ADR offers a fast, cost-effective, relevant, fair, and fair method of addressing the issues at hand.

The combined effect of all the steps led to exceptional disposal numbers in 2021. A total of 
• 1,27,87,329 cases from all over the nation were resolved in four National Lok Adalat,
• including an enormous number of ongoing cases - 55,81,117
• and a record number of pre-litigation cases -72,06,212.

Types of Dispute resolution methods:
There are many types of dispute resolution methods. Each method has its pros and cons. Some are ordered by the court and do not require the presence of a lawyer. However, many parties still choose to have themselves represented by lawyers in the ADR procedures. Other dispute resolution mechanisms are binding, which means that parties cannot ignore the decision depending on whether they agree with the decision or not. Other types of dispute resolution are trial, the law of cooperation, divorce training, and private jurisdiction. To name a few: -
• Arbitration
• Conciliation 
• Mediation
• Lok Adalat 
• Negation

What is Lok Adalat?

Lok Adalat is held by NALSA national legal service authority and other Legal Services Institutions. One of the alternative dispute resolution processes is Lok Adalat, a forum for the amicable resolution of legal disputes and cases that are pending in court or the preliminary stages of litigation. The Legal Services Authorities Act, of 1987 conferred legal status on Lok Adalat.
The Lok Adalat is responsible for ensuring that the functioning of the legal system promotes justice based on equal opportunity. Its constitutive legal services authorities are responsible for providing free and competent legal services for poorer sections of society to ensure the opportunities for securing Justice are not denied to any citizen due to economic or other disabilities.
In 2002, the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 was amended by Parliament, which mandated the creation of a permanent Lok Adalat for the provision of public utility services.
Any party to a dispute involving a public utility service may approach a permanent Lok Adalat under the provisions of the Legal Services Authority Act of 1987.
According to the Act, the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court, is final and enforceable against all parties, and no legal recourse against such an award exists.
Even though there is no provision for an appeal against a Lok Adalat award, the parties are free to initiate litigation by going to the court with the appropriate jurisdiction, filing a case, and following the necessary steps, as long as they are exercising their right to litigate.

Dimensions of Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat is quite effective at resolving financial disputes. Other than that Matrimonial issues, damages claims, and partition suits are all easily resolved through Lok Adalat since these matters have a strong potential for compromise through a give-and-take strategy.
When Lok Adalat is to be approached? 
Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, According to section 18(1) of the Act, a Lok Adalat has the authority to decide and reach an agreement or settlement between the parties to a dispute regarding:
1) Any case that is currently pending; or
2) Any matter that is subject to the jurisdiction of a court for which the Lok Adalat is set up but is not brought before that court.
With the stipulation that the Lok Adalat lacks jurisdiction over divorce-related issues or issues involving crimes that are not punishable by a lawful punishment for repeat offenses.

Degrees and composition of Lok Adalat:

Section 19 of the Legal Services Authorities Act states, that the state, center, and District Legal Services Authority created are responsible for organizing Lok Adalat.
1. In terms of State Authority: Each bench of the Lok Adalat would be composed of a sitting or retired High Court judge, a sitting or retired judicial officer, and either one or both of the following: a member of the legal profession; a social worker interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programs. These individuals would be chosen by the Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority, which is organizing the Lok Adalat.

2. In the High Court - The Secretary of the High Court Legal Services Committee would establish benches of the Lok Adalat, each bench consisting of a High Court judge who is either currently serving on the bench or has retired, as well as one or both of the following: a member of the legal profession; a social worker interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programs.

3. On a district level - Each bench of the Lok Adalat would be composed of a sitting or retired judge, a member of the legal profession, or a social worker working to uplift the weaker sections of society, as determined by the Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority organizing the Lok Adalat.

4. On the Taluk level- A social worker involved in the uplift of the weaker sections who are interested in the implementation of legal services schemes or programs engaged in paralegal activities in the area, preferably a woman, would make up each bench of the Lok Adalat, which would be created by the secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee, which is organizing Adalat.

5. National Lok Adalat - On a single day, Lok Adalat is held in every court in the nation, from the Supreme Court to the Taluk Levels, where cases are decided. National Level Lok Adalat is held regularly. Since February 2015, National Lok Adalat is being held on a specific subject matter every month.

6. Permanent Lok Adalat- The Permanent Lok Adalat, established by Section 22-B of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, is the alternative type of Lok Adalat. To provide a mandatory pre-litigative mechanism for the conciliation and settlement of cases relating to Public Utility Services like transportation, postal service, telegraph, etc., Permanent Lok Adalat has been established as a permanent body with a chairman and two members. In this case, even if the parties are unable to agree, the Permanent Lok Adalat will have jurisdiction to resolve the conflict as long as it is unrelated to a criminal offense. The Permanent Lok Adalat's decision is also final and enforceable against all parties. The Permanent Lok Adalat has authority over amounts up to Rs. ten lakhs.

7. Mobile Lok Adalat- To facilitate the resolution of disputes through this mechanism, mobile Lok Adalat is also organized throughout the nation and moves from one location to another to resolve disputes. Since the country's founding, more than 15.14 lakh Lok Adalat has been held as of 30.09.2015. By using this mechanism, more than 8.25 crore cases have already been resolved.

Procedure at Lok Adalat:

A very simple procedure is followed at the Lok Adalat keeping in mind the quick and accessible judgment. 
1. Both parties to the dispute may apply, or the parties may even verbally bring the matter up in court during the hearing and request that it be referred to Lok Adalat.
2. Any one of the parties may also apply for the dispute to be referred to Lok Adalat, and the court may do so after hearing from all parties if it is initially convinced that a resolution is likely.
3. In deciding any case brought before it under the Legal Services Authority Act of 1987, Lok Adalat shall act expeditiously to reach a settlement or compromise between the parties and shall be guided by the principles of justice, equity, fair play, and other legal principles.
4. The case must be returned to the court that referred it if no compromise or settlement is reached. The case will then continue in court from the point just before the reference.

Additionally, neither party is required to pay a court fee. If the parties cannot afford to hire a legal counsel themselves for financial reasons, counsel may be hired by the parties to represent them.

Award of Lok Adalat:  

When a compromise or settlement is reached by a Lok Adalat in a case that has been referred to it under subsection (1) of section 20, the court-free fee that was paid in that case will be refunded in the manner specified under the Court Fees Act, 1870. Every award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court or, as the case may be, an order of any other court. The award is passed by the Conciliators after the arrangement is reached with the Party's consent. It is not necessary to refer the matter to the relevant Court for the Consent Decree.

Powers of Lok Adalat: 
Section 22 states the power vested in the hands of the Lok Adalat According to this section, every Lok Adalat proceeding shall be treated as a judicial proceeding for the following purposes:
• Evidence Acceptance
• Ordering of public records
• Summoning
• Summoning a witness, mandating his attendance, and having him undergo an oath-based examination;
• Finding and producing any document; receiving evidence based on affidavits;
• The request for copies of any public records or documents from any court or office; and any other matters that may be required.
• Every Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok Adalat shall have the necessary powers to specify its procedure for the resolution of any dispute brought before it, without affecting the generality of the powers contained in sub-section one

In the case of the Board of Trustees of the Port of Visakhapatnam v. Presiding Officer, the high court of Andhra Pradesh held that the judgment is final and enforceable as a decree. The goal is to ensure that the disputes are reduced in scope and that a final agreement is reached so that the parties won't be forced into additional litigation or disputes in the future. 
Despite not being the outcome of a merits-based dispute like a regular lawsuit by a court on a regular trial, the Lok Adalat award is nonetheless equal to and on par with a compromise decree and will have the same binding effect and conclusiveness as the compromise decree, which cannot be challenged in a regular appeal.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, National Lok Adalat will be held on November 12 across the nation to settle outstanding cases.