(Permanent Lok Adalats for Public Utility Services-Needs to Create Awareness)
Introduction: At present disputes are inevitable, there is an urgent need to find a quick and easy method of resolution. These disputes or conflicts hinders the development and disturbs the physical strength and mental peace of human life. To lead a passionate life, the human being should be without conflicts. For resolution of disputes there is a legal system in every human society. So every injured person is supposed to go to the court for his redress, because of nobody shall have to take law into his own hands. But the courts have overcrowded with litigants. Obviously, in courts litigants have to face so much loss of time and money that at long last when a relief is obtained, it may not be worth the cost. Disputes must be resolved at minimum possible cost both in terms of money and time. Hence, there is an urgent need to find out quick and easy methods to resolve the disputes. Therefore, settlement of disputes outside the scope of the formal legal system is to be developed, it may be called as alternative means of settlement of disputes.
Settlement of Disputes Outside of the Court: The movement towards Alternative Disputes Resolution has received Parliamentary recognition and support. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 brought about the establishment of Lok Adalat System for settlement of disputes cheaply and expeditiously and also in the spirit of compromise by give and take formula. Further, the Code of Civil Procedure Amendment Act, 1999 inserted Section 89, which is designed to enable the courts to bring about a settlement of disputes outside the court. Section 89 of C.P.C. based on the recommendations made by Law Commission of India and Malimath Committee Report. Section 89 of C.P.C. came into force from July 1st 2002. Section 89 makes it obligatory for the court to refer the dispute, after issues are framed, for settlement either by way arbitration, conciliation, mediation or judicial settlement through Lok Adalat. If the parties are fail to get their disputes settled through any of the ADRM, and then only the court will proceed the suit further. It seems the special provision has been introduced in order to help the litigant to settle his dispute outside the court instead of going through the elaborate process in the court trail. The decision alternative rendered by the forums’ shall have the same binding effect as if made by a civil court after an elaborate trail. Hence, Order X of C.P.C. also amended.
Permanent Lok Adalat: In order to get over the major drawback in the existing scheme of organization of Lok Adalat under Chapter VI of L.S.A Act, 1987, in which if the parties do not arrive at any compromise or settlement, the unsettled case is either returned back to the court of law or the parties are advise to seek remedy in a court of law, which causes unnecessary delay in dispensation of justice, Chapter VI-A was introduced in the LSA Amendment Act, 2002, providing for a Permanent Lok Adalat to deal with pre-litigation, conciliation and settlement of disputes relating to Public Utility Services, as defined u/s 22-A of the LSA Act, 1987, at pre-litigation stage itself, which would result in reducing the work load of the regular courts to a great extent.
A.P. State Legal Services Authority is the first in India to establish in Six Permanent Lok Adalats for Public Utility Services (PLAPUS) in the year of 2006. Now the PLAPUS are increased after 2012. Now, PLAPUS are existed in Hyderabad, Karimnagar, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, Chittor, Kadapa, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Warangal, Ranga Reddy, Anatapur, Rajamahendravaram, Machilipatnam, Ongole and Srikakulam, totally 15 districts in Combined Andhra Pradesh.
Composition of Permanent Lok Adalat: Permanent Lok Adalat should consist of a Chairman and two other members having adequate experience in the Public Utility Services, as notified by the State Government on the recommendations of the A.P.State Legal Services Authority.
Jurisdiction: The territorial jurisdiction of PLAPUS is the respective districts and the pecuniary jurisdiction is over Public Utility Service matters the value of property does not exceed one Crore rupees. The PLAPUS also got jurisdiction in respect of matters relating to an offence compoundable under any law. The limitation period to file application before PLAPUS as per the provisions of the Limitation Act, 1986.
Procedure of PLAPUS: A party to a dispute can make an application before PLAPUS in Form No.III, in person or by a recognized agent or by an advocate or by a duly registered clerk of the advocate between 10.30 am to 5.00 pm on any working day but each application should be accompanied by supporting documents and copies to be furnished to the Opposite Parties, only before the dispute is brought before in any Court or Statutory Forum, which is a pre-requisite to approach the PLAPUS. Appearance of the parties in person is indispensable at the time of conducting conciliation proceedings between the parties but they may not be required to appear at the time of filing of application in Form-III. However, if the parties are fail to reach an agreement, they will be permitted to engage a Councel or Advocate to assist them at the time of arguments to decide on merit. Even though, the PLAPUS is not bound by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but while conducting conciliation proceedings or deciding a dispute on merit, it shall be guided by the Principles of Natural Justice, objectivity, fair-play, equity and other principles of justice as per Sec 22-D of the LSA Act, 1987.
Every application shall be adjudicated as expeditiously as possible and every endeavour should be made to decide a dispute within a period of 60 days from date of posting of the matter for appearance of the respondent/s and for filing statement by both parties.
Award: Every Award made by the PLAPUS will be transmitted to a Civil Court having local jurisdiction and such Civil Court shall execute the order as if it were a decree made by the Court. Every Award made by the PLAPUS under LSA Act, made either on merit or in terms of a settlement agreement, shall be final and binding on all the partied thereto and on persons claiming under them shall not be called in question in any original suit, application or execution proceeding of the LSA Act.
Difference between Lok Adalat and PLAPUS: The main difference is in Lok Adalats, if the parties do not arrive at any compromise or settlement, the unsettled case is either returned back to the court of law or the parties are advise to seek remedy in a court of law, but in the PLAPUS even if one of the parties fail to reach an agreement during conciliation proceedings, it may decide the dispute on merits and such a decision shall be final and binding on all the parties thereto and on person claiming under them and shall not be called in question in any original suit, application or execution proceeding.
Conclusion: To achieve the inner peace of mind, the parties should attempt to settle the matter in an amicable manner which leads to strong harmony and leads to efficacious results. Thus, a cleaver person solves a problem, a wise person avoids it.
Dr. Sailaja. Petikam