Permanent Lok Adalat: How it works?

Purpose of PLA

Permanent Lok Adalat (PLA) is a judicial body consisting of one judicial officer and two technical officers.

Its purpose is to consider and decide the disputes relating to public utility services such as transport, Post and telegraph, sanitation and public conveyance, conservancy, hospital, dispensary service and insurance.

Conciliation is the mode of settlement

The proceedings of the PLA will be decided primarily based on conciliation, but on merit if the parties to the dispute agree to do so based on written agreements

PLA is established under Section 22B of Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 (LSAA). It is not bound by the Codes of judicial practice but the principles of natural justice objectivity, fair play and equity must be followed by the PLA.

Procedure for filing an application

Any party can make an application to the PLA for the settlement of a dispute.

When an application is made, PLA shall direct each party to the application to file before it a Written Statement stating the facts, nature of dispute, points of issues in such dispute and the grounds relied on in support of or in opposition to it.

Along with the Written Statement, the party can file any document and other evidence in proof of such facts or grounds. A copy of such statement, together with the copy of such documents and other evidence, shall be sent to each of the parties to the application.

PLA can ask the parties to file additional statement at any stage of the conciliation proceedings. The PLA has to communicate any document received by it to the other party.

Then the PLA will conduct conciliation proceedings between the parties to the application and assist the parties to arrive at a settlement.

In the conciliation, if there exists some elements of settlement and parties reach a settlement, then the parties have to sign an agreement and the the PLA shall pass an order of settlement. The parties have to complain with the direction of PLA in producing evidence and other documents.

Legal technicalities have no importance

Legal technicalities have no much importance in the proceedings of PLA. The PLA has same powers as are vested in a civil court while conducting a trial in the matters that come before it by law.

The powers include summoning the witnesses, enforcing their attendance, examining the oath, discovering and production of any document, reception of evidence on affidavit, requisition of any public records, or documents from any court office.

PLA cannot make orders on merit unless consented

PLA cannot pass independent order except based on bilateral compromise or settlement. Every award of the PLA on settlement or on merit shall be final and binding on the parties and the parties claiming under it.

The PLA can transmit any award to a civil court in its jurisdiction and the court shall have to execute it as a degree of the court.

No appeal, but can be challenged in HC

No appeal shall lie against an award of PLA, but an award of PLA can be questioned in the High Court under its supervisory or extra ordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 or 227 of the Constitution.

Additional reading

  1. Legal Services Authority Act, 1987
  2. The National Legal Services Authority Rules, 1995