The Lok Adalat is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. These are set up with an aim of providing cheaper and speedier justice flowing out of compromise between the parties. These are set up by following the provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
Lok Adalats are organized at regular intervals and places. Within its Jurisdiction, it can deal with cases related to:Any case pending before or Any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of and is not brought before any court for which the Lok Adalat was organized
Lok Adalat will not have jurisdiction on any case or matter related to an offense not compoundable under law. Lok Adalat gives an Award. It is equal to a Decree as given by a civil court.
An Award by a Lok Adalat can be challenged only by filing a Writ Petition and not by way of separate suit - Supreme Court Etymologically, Lok Adalat means "people's court". India has had a long history of resolving disputes through the mediation of village elders. The current system of Lok Adalats is an improvement on that and is based on Gandhian principles. This is a non-adversarial system, whereby mock courts (called Lok Adalats) are held by the State Authority, District Authority, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal Services Committee, or Taluk Legal Services Committee, periodically for exercising such jurisdiction as they think fit. These are usually presided by a retired judge, social activists, or members of the legal profession. It does not have jurisdiction on matters related to non-compoundable offences.
While in regular suits, the plaintiff is required to pay the prescribed court fee, in Lok Adalat, there is no court fee and no rigid procedural requirement (i.e. no need to follow the process given by [Indian] Civil Procedure Code or Indian Evidence Act), which makes the process very fast. Parties can directly interact with the judge, which is not possible in regular courts.
Cases that are pending in regular courts can be transferred to a Lok Adalat if both the parties agree. A case can also be transferred to a Lok Adalat if one party applies to the court and the court sees some chance of settlement after giving an opportunity of being heard to the other party.
The focus in Lok Adalats is on compromise. When no compromise is reached, the matter goes back to the court. However, if a compromise is reached, an award is made and is binding on the parties. It is enforced as a decree of a civil court. An important aspect is that the award is final and cannot be appealed, not even under Article 226 of the Constitution of India [which empowers the litigants to file Writ Petition before High Courts] because it is a judgement by consent.All proceedings of a Lok Adalat are deemed to be judicial proceedings and every Lok Adalat is deemed to be a Civil Court.