In a good move, the Government on 16th February included “Housing and Real Estate services” in the ambit of “Public utility services” which can be covered by the Lok Adalats across Country.
At a time when more than 70% of the under construction projects are delayed by over 2-3 years, developer leaves no stone unturned in exploiting the homebuyers further. Most of the Developers deny compensation for the delays in handing over of possession and sum up the delay in Force Majeure.
Going to Consumer Forums or Civil courts for redressal of grievances can be expensive for a lone buyer. In such situation approaching the National Lok Adalats can be beneficial for homebuyers.
What is Lok Adalat?
Lok Adalats are Adalats setup under Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Lok Adalats are organised at district, state and national level to settle disputes. There are permanent Lok Adalats to settle cases related to traffic challans and power bills. Recently the government have brought real estate services under the purview of Lok Adalats. The Legal Services Authority Act was enacted to constitute legal services authorities to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to organise Lok Adalats to ensure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity.
Lok Adalat Benches consisting of Judicial Officers, Advocates and social workers deal with cases referred to them and help the parties in arriving at a settlement.
What matters can be brought to the Lok Adalats
The Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of:-
a) Any case pending before any Court:
In respect of cases pending before Courts, such cases can be referred to Lok Adalat if the parties thereof agree or one of the parties thereof makes an application to the Court or the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
b) any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of any Court and is not brought before such Court that is pre-litigation.
That means the Lok Adalats can deal with the cases pending before any Court and referred to the Lok Adalat. Lok Adalats can also deal with the disputes at pre-litigation stage. Homebuyer can directly file an application with Lok Adalat/ Legal Services Authority if they have not filed the case in any other court.
Benefits of Lok Adalat
For smaller issues, Lok Adalats can be beneficial for homebuyers in many ways.
- There is no court fee even if the case is already filed in the regular court, the fee paid will be refunded if the dispute is settled at the Lok Adalat.
- There is no strict application of the procedural laws and the Evidence Act while assessing the merits of the claim by the Lok Adalat. The parties to the disputes though represented by their advocate can interact with the Lok Adalat judge directly and explain their stand in the dispute and the reasons, therefore, which is not possible in a regular court of law.
- Disputes can be brought before the Lok Adalat directly instead of going to a regular court first and then to the Lok Adalat?
- The decision of the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties to the dispute and its order is capable of execution through a legal process. No appeal lies against the order of the Lok Adalat whereas in the regular law courts there is always a scope to appeal to the higher forum on the decision of the trial court, which causes the delay in the settlement of the dispute finally. The reason being that in a regular court, a decision is that of the court but in Lok Adalat it is the mutual settlement and hence no case for appeal will arise. In every respect, the scheme of Lok Adalat is a boon to the litigant public, where they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost.
Jurisdiction and Awards by Lok Adalats
The Award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of Civil Court or as the case may be an order of any other Court. Every Award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute. No Appeal shall lie to any Court against the Award of the Lok Adalat. The significant feature of the Lok Adalat is that the legal experts holding Lok Adalat Bench, guide the parties in arriving at a compromise or settlement in a friendly and harmonious atmosphere.
Process of filing a complaint with Lok Adalat
a) Case pending before the court:
- If the parties agree to settle the dispute in Lok Adalat or
- One of the parties makes an application to the court or
- The court is satisfied that that the matter is an appropriate one for settlement in Lok Adalat
b) Any dispute at pre-litigation stage
The State Legal Services Authority or District Legal Services Authority as the case may be on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to any pre-litigation stage matter refer such matter to the Lok Adalat for amicable settlement
To file a case, you can contact the District Legal Services Authority at the following address.
Consent of Parties
The most important factor to be considered while deciding the cases at the Lok Adalat is the consent of both the parties. It can not be forced on any party that the matter has to be decided by the Lok Adalat. However, once the parties agree that the matter has to be decided by the Lok Adalat, then any party cannot walk away from the decision of the Lok Adalat. In several instances, the Supreme Court has held that if there was no consent the award of the Lok Adalat is not executable and also if the parties fail to agree to get the dispute resolved through Lok Adalat, the regular litigation process remains open for the contesting parties.
It always makes sense to approach Lok Adalat if you can not afford the services of a regular lawyer and want faster disposal of the case. It would be interesting to see if the Developers agrees to the settlement of cases in Lok Adalats.
Dispute Resolution Cell
In case you don’t want to approach Lok Adalats, our Dispute Resolution Cell can help you resolve the issue.