SC directs Lok Adalat to handle cases of amicable settlement only

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New Delhi, Jan 29 (UNI)The Supreme Court has ruled that Lok Adalat is meant only for amicable settlement of the dispute with the consent of all the parties involved and cannot decide a dispute on merit.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices G P Mathur and R V Raveendran has also ruled the settlement done with the consent of the parties concerned, cannot be challenged under Article 227 of the Constitution in the High Court.

The apex court allowed the appeal of State of Punjab against the order of Lok Adalat, directing the State to pay an additional compensation of Rs 62,200 over and above the amount of Rs 1,44,000 awarded by the Tribunal to the family of one Amarjit Kaur who was killed in a road accident.

The order was passed by the Lok Adalat without the consent of the party. Punjab and Haryana High Court dimissed the appeal of the state government.

The apex court in its order has said ''it is true where a award is made by Lok Adalat, in terms of a settlement arrived at between the parties(which is duly signed by the parties and annexed to the award of the Lok Adalat), it becomes final and binding on the parties to the settlement and becomes executable as if it is a decree of a civil court and no appeal lies against it in any court.

But where no compromise or settlement is signed by the parties and the order of the Lok Adalat does not refer to any settlement, the question of challenging such an order in an petition under Article 227 does not arise . As already noticed, in such a situation, the High Court ought to have heard and disposed of on merit.'' The apex court also held that the Lok Adalat exercised a power /jurisdiction not vested in it and the High Court twice refused to exercise the jurisdiction vested in it, hereby denying justice to the appellant.

UNI AKS/SC RSA RP HS1822

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