PANDEY S. N. Vs. UNION OF INDIA
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Pandey S. N.
UNION OF INDIA
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(1.)We have heard the learned counsel for the petitioner. The challenge is to the validity of the Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act, 2002 (in short "the Act") whereby a new Chapter VI - A has been inserted relating to prelitigation conciliation and settlement. It is quite apparent that this Chapter has been enacted as being complementary to S.89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (in short "the Code") which is a new provision enacted and implemented with effect from 1-7-2002.
(2.)We have gone through the provisions of the said Chapter which contemplate the setting up of Permanent Lok Adalats for deciding disputes in which public utility services is one of the matters involved. It is quite obvious that the effort of the Legislature is to decrease the workload in the courts by resorting to alternative dispute resolution. Lok Adalat is a mode of dispute resolution which has been in vogue since over two decades. Hundreds of thousands of cases have been settled through this mechanism and is undisputedly a fast means of dispensation of justice. The litigation is brought to a quick end with no further appeals or anguish to the litigants. The constitution of the Permanent Lok Adalat mechanism contemplates the judicial officer or a retired judicial officer being there along with other persons having adequate experience in the public utility services.
We do not find any constitutional infirmity in the said legislation. The Act ensures that justice will be available to the litigant speedily and impartially. We do emphasise that the persons who are appointed on the Permanent Lok Adalats should be persons of integrity and adequate experience. Appropriate rules, inter alia in this regard, no doubt will have to be framed, if not already in place.
(3.)We uphold the validity of the said Act and hope that the Permanent Lok Adalats will be set up at an early date. The Lok Adalats are enacted to primarily bring about settlement amongst the parties. The parties are normally required to be present in person and since the impugned provisions are in the interest of the litigating public, the Lok Adalats shall perform their duties and will function, even if members of the Bar choose not to appear.
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