VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh High Court has found fault with the Lok Adalat for faulty investigation and orders, thereby undermining the very objective for which the institution was set up. Recently, while dealing with a petition filed by Y Narasimha Rao of Atmakur village in Guntur district challenging the directions issued by Lok Adalat in a property dispute he is having with his wife, with whom he has a marital discord, a division bench comprising Justice C Praveen Kumar and Justice T Ravinath struck down the order of the Lok Adalat.
The petitioner said his wife without his knowledge entered into a sale agreement of a property given to her by him, following differences with him. Further, she has submitted wrong information to the Lok Adalat. Though the issue is pending with the civil court, the Lok Adalat, without hearing his side, issued orders in her favour. Expressing dissatisfaction over the functioning of the Lok Adalat, the bench struck down its order.
On the occasion, the High Court observed that the failure of the Lok Adalat in checking the veracity of the petition, signatures and other evidence produced by the petitioners before issuing orders is leading to the other parties approaching civil courts and the High Court under Article 26 seeking justice.
In its order, the High Court asked the members of Lok Adalats, particularly low-level officials, to verify the documents. They have to check the petition filed in civil court and verify if all the respondents were made parties in the petition filed before it. Before giving an award, it should collect photographs of all the parties involved with their signature, so that cheating by impersonation could be avoided. Most importantly, the Lok Adalat has to maintain the records of the cases it resolved along with applications, photos and evidence for at least three years.
In case of property disputes, Lok Adalat members are advised to check if any petitions were filed in court and if there were any orders issued. Those details should also be included in the final orders. In case of compromise, the details should be included in the orders. At the same time, Lok Adalat should verify if the compromise was only between select parties or between all those involved and its impact on the others. In case, any party in the civil dispute was not made party to petition before Lok Adalat, such people should be given an opportunity to put forth their argument.
Settlement of cases
The Lok Adalat mechanism is available through the Legal Services Authorities for amicable settlement of cases. They can deal with all civil cases, matrimonial disputes, land disputes, property & labour disputes and non-compoundable criminal cases.