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Lok Adalat order illegal if passed without pact between parties: SC
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 16
In a dispute over settling of the pension claim of an employee of the Punjab Government handled initially by a lok adalat, the Supreme Court has ruled that any resolution by such a forum has to be by mutual consent between the parties, otherwise the decision would not attain legality.

“A lok adalat can dispose of a matter by way of compromise or settlement between the parties… it is an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims by reciprocal modification of demands,” a Bench of Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta ruled.

The court set aside a judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court awarding pension with arrears and enhanced interest at the rate of 18 per cent to employee Ganpat Raj, finding the decision contrary to the provisions of the Legal Services Authority Act, under which lok adalats were set up.

The lok adalat had settled the pension claim of Ganpat Raj with 12 per cent interest which was raised to 18 per cent by the high court in 2003 when the Punjab Government challenged the order before it.

Although the high court had accepted that the disposal of the case by the lok adalat was not the proper course for settling cases like pension disputes, yet it held that Ganpat Raj was entitled to a relief.

But the Supreme Court did not agree with its findings on the question of proper application of law, saying under Section 20 of the Legal Services Authority Act, it had been specifically made clear that two crucial terms “compromise and settlement” by mutual consent between parties were essential for resolution of disputes by lok adalats.

If there was no compromise and settlement with concessions between the parties, the case would have to go to the court for adjudication as the lok adalats would have no jurisdiction to decide it in that eventuality, the apex court ruled, allowing the appeal of the Punjab Government.

“The case in hand did not involve compromise or settlement and could not have been disposed of by the lok adalat, which ought not have passed any order,” the apex court said. A simple matter had been unnecessarily complicated thereby resulting in inordinate delay in disposing it of, it added.

In view of the wrong application of law, the high court was directed to hear the petition of Ganpat Raj afresh and dispose it of within three months.



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