Lok Adalat means 'People's Court'. On the recommendation of Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Lok Adalats were given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The Act defined the provisions relating to the organisation and functioning of the Lok Adalats. It acts as a legal forum to provide legal aid and quick justice to those who are not in a position to hire lawyers or bear the expenses of legal proceedings.

Lok Adalat is a form of adjudicating system that has been present in India since ancient times. Surprisingly, the validity of this judicial institution is still not lost in modern times of the present. It is one of the components of the Alternative Dispute Redressal Mechanism System ( ADR ). The system delivers informal, cheap, and expeditious justice to the common people. The First Lok Adalat was held at Junagarh in Gujarat on March 14, 1982. Lok Adalats may prove to be a game-changer in improving the efficiency of adjudication.

The State or the district authorities or the Supreme Court or the High Court or in some cases the Legal Services Committee organise Lok Adalats from time to time. Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall consist of retired judicial officers and other persons of the area as may be specified by the agency. Generally, a Lok Adalat consists of a judicial officer as the chairman and a lawyer along with a social worker as the constituting member.

The National Legal Services Authority ( NALSA ) which was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987, along with other Legal Services Institutions conducts Lok Adalats. NALSA came into force in 1995 to establish a nation-wide network for providing free and competent legal service to the weaker sections of the society. Lok Adalats are formed to fulfill the promise as mentioned in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution to ensure justice to the citizens in the country in social, economic, and political arenas. Lok Adalats also complement the constitutional responsibility as mentioned in Article 39A of the Indian Constitution which enunciates 'justice and free legal aid to all'. It also guarantees 'equality before the law' as inserted in Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The Lok Adalats are based on Gandhian principles.

It acts as a forum for the settlement of disputes which are either pending in a court of law or are at a pre-litigation stage. Such cases are settled or compromised in Lok Adalats amicably. Either the cases pending in any court or cases which have not been brought before any court of law, are likely to be filed before the Lok Adalats. The State Legal Services Authorities have been organising Lok Adalats on a routine basis. Judges, law graduates, public workers or social workers inform the litigants about their rights and duties. The judges of the Lok Adalats are actually counselors. These Adalats are assisted by Legal Aid Committees and Social Action Groups which advise the people about legal matters and help them to solve the cases through mutual participation.

The motor accident claims, disputes related to public utility services, cases related to the dishonour of cheques, land, and labour, and matrimonial disputes ( except divorce ) all fall within the purview of the jurisdiction of Lok Adalats. The system of Lok Adalats has now become so popular that various government departments like the Telephone, Electricity, and Postal Departments have begun to hold Lok Adalats to solve hundreds of cases in a single day. Voluntary organisations organise such courts in places like factories, farms, commercial complexes, and neighbourhood of the litigants to settle disputes in a spirit of harmony and compromise. Cases are settled informally and cordially with the involvement of conflicting parties. It shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an offence that falls outside the legal purview of Lok Adalats.

Verdicts of the Lok Adalats are binding on the parties involved in the dispute. They are non-appealable and thus avoiding the delay of justice. All decisions of the Lok Adalats shall be deemed to be decrees of a Civil Court. It will have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure ( 1908 ). All proceedings of a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of the Indian Penal Code ( 1860 ). The Lok Adalats have the required powers to specify it's own procedural norms for the settlement of a dispute before it.

The Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987 was amended in 2002 to provide for the establishment of 'Permanent Lok Adalats'. The Permanent Lok Adalats are established to deal with cases pertaining to public utility services. They have already been set up in Delhi to settle disputes relating to development and corporation authority. The decisions made by the Permanent Lok Adalats shall be final and binding on the parties involved in the dispute.

With the advent of the pandemic, the legal landscape has transformed entirely with the introduction of E-Lok Adalats. They were organised at both national and state levels. In the E-Lok Adalat, an online Link would be sent by SAMA ( an Online Dispute Resolution Platform ) recognized by the Department of Justice for resolving disputes through video conferencing to the concerned parties and a judge would preside over the mediation process. Following the settlement, an OTP would be sent to them and on the confirmation, the dispute would be settled.

Lok Adalats play an important role in the settlement of family feuds, disputes between the neighbours, and minor cases of assault and injury by settling the disputes through compromise. Since the Lok Adalats work in the spirit of compromise and understanding, hence the parties involved feel satisfied. They deliver fast and inexpensive justice. It relieves the courts of the heavy backlog of cases thus reducing the workload of other courts enabling them to deal with serious matters. This reduced delays in higher courts. Lok Adalats work to promote social justice by providing legal aid to weaker sections of society. There is no court fee for lodging a case in Lok Adalat. In the case where the court fee is already paid, the amount will be refunded if the dispute is settled at the Lok Adalat. With no strict application of procedural laws, there is procedural flexibility in these courts, Lok Adalats contribute to the speedy trial of dispute avoiding delays and high costs.

The Indian judicial system is often castigated, perhaps justifiable, for it's erratic delays and excessive backlogs leading to delay of justice. Often it is heard that 'Justice delayed is Justice denied.' The expansion and the frequent organisation of Lok Adalats is the need of the hour. Lok Adalats ensures accessible affordable and speedy justice for all. Undoubtedly, Lok Adalats act as the mirrors of democracy. 

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