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Lok Adalat cannot dispose case if it does not reaches to settlement, no jurisdiction to decide the matter on merits: SC

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Thursday, Supreme Court, the bench of Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna held that Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction to decide the matter on merit.

the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat would be to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties

in the order

The Matter

The appellant filed a writ petition before the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Year 2011, which the matter was placed before the Lok Adalat in year 2013. The Lok Adalat dismissed the said writ on the merits of the writ petition. Thereafter a restoration application was filed before the High Court to restore the main writ petition challenging the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat.

The learned ASG for the appellant referring the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, submitted that considering the case on merits is wholly impermissible in view of the relevant provisions of the said Act. He further relied upon State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj case.

The learned counsel for respondent submitted that the matter was placed before the Lok Adalat with the consent of the learned counsel for the appellant.

The Bench

The bench after the submissions of the learned counsel of the parties stated that, the question which is posed for consideration to the Court that whether the members of the Lok Adalat can look after the matter on merit.

“whether in the Lok Adalat held by the High Court, was it open for the members of the Lok Adalat to enter into the merits of the writ petition and to dismiss the same on merits, in absence of any settlement arrived at between the parties?”

The bench referred the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to answer the question before the Apex court for consideration. The bench noted the provisions under section 19 and 20 of the said Act.

As per sub-section (5) of Section 19, a Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of (i) any case pending before; or (ii) any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of, and is not brought before, any court for which the Lok Adalat is organised.

in the order

The bench further described the various sections of the act and stated that the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat would be to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute.

Thus, a fair reading of the aforesaid provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 makes it clear that the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat would be to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute and once the aforesaid settlement / compromise fails and no compromise or settlement could be arrived at between the parties, the Lok Adalat has to return the case to the Court from which the reference has been received for disposal in accordance with law and in any case, the Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction at all to decide the matter on meris once it is found that compromise or settlement could not be arrived at between the parties.

in the order

The bench also referred the State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj case according to which, Lok Adalat could not have disposed the case if it has not reached to compromise or settlement.

The case at hand did not involve compromise or settlement and could not have been disposed of by the Lok Adalat. If no compromise or settlement is or could be arrived at, no order can be passed by the Lok Adalat.

in the State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj

The bench then stated that the order of the Lok Adalat is unsustainable.

In view of the above, the impugned order passed by the Lok Adalat dismissing the writ petition on merits is unsustainable and deserves to be quashed and set asideā€¦the Lok Adalat is justified in disposing the matter on merits has no substance and the same is required to be rejected outright.

in the order

The bench set aside the impugned order passed by the Lok Adalat and reffered the matter to the High Court to decide.

“the impugned order passed by the Lok Adalat, Madhya Pradesh High Court dated XXXX in Writ Petition No.XXXX of 2011 is hereby quashed and set aside. The matter is remanded to the High Court to decide the Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011 on merits and in accordance with law.”

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