Lok Adalat’s Award can be challenged only under Art.226/227 of the Indian Constitution
Adarsh Pharasi, BA LL.B, Amity University
The Supreme Court, upholding the rejection of a plain has held that the award of Lok Adalat can be challenged only through writ petition under Art.226, Art.227 of the Constitution of India. The suit in question was regarding setting aside of Lok Adalat award passed in an earlier suit for the specific performance of the agreement of sale.
The parties were under dispute in district court. Further, the parties under dispute referred the case to Lok Adalat by signing a joint compromise petition. Award declared by Lok Adalat under Sec.21 of the Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987 has the same effect as of a decree of a court which could be challenged. The other party on the basis of averments that the award was obtained by misrepresentation and fraud upon them filed a suit in trial court to declare the same not legal award and hence, not binding upon the plaintiff. Relying on the dictum laid down in State of Punjab v. Jalour Singh and others, (2008) 2 SCC 660, the only remedy to challenge the award of Lok Adalat was writ petition under Article 226, Article 227 of the constitution of India, suit was rejected by invoking powers under Order 7 Rule 11(D) of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 which enables the trial court to reject any suit if it seems to be barred by any “law”. However the High Court rejected the order of the trial Court and restored the proceeding of the suit. The defendants felt aggrieved by the order, approached honourable Supreme Court by the way of special leave against the order of High Court.
Order 7 Rule 11(d) of CPC, 1908 states that “Rejection of plaint.- The plaint shall be rejected in the following cases:—(d) where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law.” The petitioner contended that the precedents are not “law” within the meaning of Order 7 Rule 11(D), thus, the precedent of State of Punjab v. Jalour Singh and others, (2008) 2 SCC 660 cannot be invoked as “law” within the meaning of Order 7 Rule 11(D) to hold the suit as barred. The Supreme Court in agreement with the judgements of Allahabad, Bombay, Gujarat and Jharkhand High Courts regarding the question whether the expression “law” in clause (d) of Rule11 of Order 7 of the Code includes “judicial decisions of the apex court” held that “Law includes not only legislative enactments but also judicial precedent.” The High Court was wrong to reject the precedent of State of Punjab v. Jalour Singh and others and consequently reject the order of trial court as they are binding on all the Courts in the Country by virtue of Article 141 of the Constitution of India. Further, the said precedent was made by larger bench(Quorum: 3judges), so it was binding upon the suit in question. Further, the respondent in the apex court didn’t even tried to challenge the reliability of the said precedent.
By virtue of Sec.19 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, every state authority, district authority, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee or High Court Legal Services Committee or the Thaluk Legal Service Committee may organise Lok Adalats for settlement of cases pending in courts. Lok Adalat which is also called people’s court has been constituted to resolve petty civil cases with minimum legal procedures to suite the speedy procedure which suites the parties under dispute as it is a compromise between them. Sec. 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 provides for Alternative Dispute Resolution which covers Lok Adalat. It reduces the work load of courts. Further, as it is meant for compromise among the partied under dispute, the disputed parties are ought to be contended with the compromise to which they accede.
But, when a case like the one here in which the suit is compromised by Lok Adalat, though appealing against the award of Lok Adalat means that the aggrieved party is not agree with the award to which it acceded earlier, the sole aim of Lok Adalat that is to compromise the conflict to help in reducing the burden of number of cases in Indian courts is defeated. The situation becomes more complicated and new suits arises in apex court of India to determine the procedure when High Court is not vigilant enough to rightly implement the precedents established by the Supreme Court of India, thereby, increasing the unnecessary burden of the supreme court due to the frivolous acts of High Courts. The judicial system is there to facilitate the citizens of India to effectively resolve their disputes. But on the contrary, such frivolous act of High Court, moreover such careless and deliberate act of advocates where they approach the court by wrong procedure on behalf of their client defeats the aim of judicial system and extra monetary and mental pressure is incurred by the aggrieved party.