Distinction between reference made by civil Court and criminal Court

KEYWORDS : Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987—Section 21

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In K.N. Govindan Kutty Menon Versus C.D. Shaji [(2011) 13 SCALE 232]
 

14. A statutory support as evidenced in the statement of Objects and reasons of the Act would not only reduce the burden of arrears of work in regular courts, but would also take justice to the door steps of the poor and the needy and make justice quicker and less expensive. In the case on hand, the Courts below erred in holding that only if the matter was one which was referred by a civil court it could be a decree and if the matter was referred by a criminal court it will only be an order of the criminal court and not a decree under Section 21 of the Act. The Act does not make out any such distinction between the reference made by a civil court and criminal court. There is no restriction on the power of Lok Adalat to pass an award based on the compromise arrived at between the parties in a case referred by a criminal court under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, and by virtue of the deeming provision it has to be treated as a decree capable of execution by a civil court. In this regard, the view taken in Subhash Narasappa Mangrule (supra) and M/s Valarmathi Oil Industries (supra) supports this contention and we fully accept the same.

15. It is useful to refer the judgment of this Court in State of Punjab and Anr. v. Jalour Singh and Ors., (2008) 2 SCC 660. The ratio that decision was that the “award” of the Lok Adalat does not mean any independent verdict or opinion arrived at by any decision making process. The making of the award is merely an administrative act of incorporating the terms of settlement or compromise agreed by the parties in the presence of the Lok Adalat, in the form of an executable order under the signature and seal of the Lok Adalat. This judgment was followed in B.P. Moideen Sevamandir and Anr. v. A.M. Kutty Hassan, (2009) 2 SCC 198.

16. In P.T. Thomas v. Thomas Job (2005) 6 SCC 478, Lok Adalat, its benefits, Award and its finality has been extensively discussed.

17. From the above discussion, the following propositions emerge:

1. In view of the unambiguous language of Section 21 of the Act, every award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court and as such it is executable by that Court.

2. The Act does not make out any such distinction between the reference made by a civil court and criminal court.

3. There is no restriction on the power of the Lok Adalat to pass an award based on the compromise arrived at between the parties in respect of cases referred to by various Courts (both civil and criminal), Tribunals, Family court, Rent Control Court, Consumer Redressal Forum, Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal and other Forums of similar nature.

4. Even if a matter is referred by a criminal court under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and by virtue of the deeming provisions, the award passed by the Lok Adalat based on a compromise has to be treated as a decree capable of execution by a civil court.

18. In view of the above discussion and ultimate conclusion, we set aside the order dated 23.09.2009 passed by the Principal Munsiff Judge in an unnumbered execution petition of 2009 in CC No. 1216 of 2007 and the order of the High Court dated 24.11.2009 in Writ Petition (C) No. 33013 of 2009. Consequently, we direct the execution court to restore the execution petition and to proceed further in accordance with law.