Lok adalats have no adjudicatory or judicial functions — their functions relate purely to conciliation and must be based on compromise or settlement between the parties

In  State of Punjab & Another Vs Jalour Singh & Others [AIR 2008 SC 1209] Apex Court


Lok Adalats have no adjudicatory or judicial functions. Their functions relate purely to
conciliation. A Lok Adalat determines a reference on the basis of a compromise or settlement between the parties at its instance, and puts its seal of confirmation by making an award in  terms of the compromise or settlement. When the Lok Adalat is not able to arrive at a settlement or compromise, no award is made and the case record is returned to the court from which the reference was received, for disposal in accordance with law. No Lok Adalat has the power to “hear” parties to adjudicate cases as a court does. It discusses the subject-matter with the parties and persuades them to arrive at a just settlement. In their conciliatory role, the Lok Adalats are guided by the principles of justice, equity and fair play. When the LSA Act refers to “determination” by the Lok Adalat and “award” by the Lok Adalat, the said Act does not contemplate nor require an
adjudicatory judicial determination, but a non-adjudicatory determination based on a compromise or settlement, arrived at by the parties, with guidance and assistance from the Lok Adalat. 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 parties in the presence of the Lok Adalat, in the form of an executable order under the signature and seal of the Lok Adalat. (Para 8)

Many sitting or retired Judges, while participating in the Lok Adalats as members, tend to conduct the Lok Adalats like courts, by hearing parties, and imposing their views as to what is just and equitable, on the parties. Sometimes they get carried away and proceed to pass orders on merits, as in this case, even though there is no consensus or settlement. Such acts; instead of fostering alternative dispute resolution through the Lok Adalats, wiH drive the litigants away from the Lok Adalats. The Lok Adalats should resist their temptation to play the part of judges and constantly strive to function as conciliators. The endeavour and effort of the Lok Adalats should be to guide and persuade the parties, with reference to principles of justice, equity and fair play to compromise and settle the dispute by explaining the pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages of their respective claims. (Para 9 )

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