The Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction at all to decide the matter on meris once it is found that compromise or settlement could not be arrived at between the parties as upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court through the bench lead by Justice M.R Shah in the case of Estate Officer v. Colonel H.V. Mankotia (Retired) (CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6223 OF 2021).
The brief facts of the case are that the appellant herein filed a writ petition before the High Court being Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011. The matter was listed on 30.11.2013 before the Lok Adalat. By the impugned order, the members of the Lok Adalat held by the High Court entered into the merits of the writ petition and dismissed the same on merits, which is the subject matter of the present appeal.
Shri Vikramjit Banerjee, learned ASG appearing on behalf of the appellant has vehemently submitted by relying on the case of State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj (2006) 8 SCC 364 that the impugned order has been passed in the Lok Adalat, Madhya Pradesh High Court and it has considered the case on merits and dismissed the same on merits, which is wholly impermissible in view of the relevant provisions of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Shri Banerjee, has heavily relied upon Section 19(5), Section 20(3) and Section 20(5) of the Act, 1987 in support of his submission that a Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute and has no jurisdiction to enter into the merits of the case.
Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent while opposing the present appeal has submitted that the matter was placed before the Lok Adalat with the consent of the learned counsel for the appellant. Therefore, entire matter would be at large before the Lok Adalat and having found no substance in the petition, the members of the Lok Adalat have rightly dismissed the writ petition.
The question which was posed for consideration of this Court is it open for the members of the Lok Adalat to enter into the merits of the writ petition and to dismiss the same on merits, in absence of any settlement arrived at between the parties?
After a fair reading of Article 19 and 20 of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and considering the case of State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj, the Hon’ble Court held that “The submission made by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent that once the matter was placed before the Lok Adalat with consent, thereafter the entire matter is at large before the Lok Adalat and, therefore, the Lok Adalat is justified in disposing the matter on merits has no substance and the same is required to be rejected outright. The impugned order passed by the Lok Adalat, Madhya Pradesh High Court dated 30.11.2013 in Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011 is hereby quashed and set aside. The matter is remanded to the High Court to decide the Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011 on merits and in accordance with law.”
Judgment reviewed by Vandana Ragwani