2008(6) ALL MR 299
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY(NAGPUR BENCH)
A.V. MOHTA AND C.L. PANGARKAR, JJ.
Divisional Social Welfare Officer, Nagpur & Ors.Vs.Narayan Dinkar Gokhale
Writ Petition No.4615 of 2007
8th August, 2008
Petitioner Counsel: Mrs. B. H. DANGRE
Respondent Counsel: Ms. MANJUSHA AWACHAT,Mr. V. G. BHAMBURKAR
(A) Legal Services Authorities Act (1987), Ss.19, 20 - Lok Adalat - Jurisdiction and power of - Lok Adalat can dispose of matter only on settlement/compromise between parties - Any direction on objectionable/contested claim by Lok Adalat - Would be beyond scope, power and authority under Act. 2008 ALL SCR 692 - Rel. on. (Para 3)
(B) Legal Services Authorities Act (1987), Ss.19, 20 - Lok Adalat - Powers - Pension claim - Though opportunity was given, reply was not filed by Petitioner authority and therefore A.G.P. expressed his difficulty to make any submissions - No consensus or compromise or settlement would be recorded before passing order directing to workout entitlement of pension of respondent (applicant) - Under circumstances directions so issued with further directions to make payment within three months is impermissible and beyond scope of Lok Adalats. (Para 6)
(C) Constitution of India, Art.226 - Writ petition - Filed against order passed by Lok Adalat which was beyond its scope and power and without jurisdiction - Held, maintainable. Legal services Authorities Act (1987), Ss.19, 20. (Para 8)
State of Punjab Vs. Jalour Singh, 2008 ALL SCR 692 : (2008)2 S.C.C. 660 [Para 4]
State of Punjab Vs. Ganpat Raj, 2007(2) Mh.L.J. 93 (SC) [Para 5]
State of Punjab Vs. Phulan Rani, AIR 2004 SC 4105 : (2004)7 SCC 555 [Para 5]
ANOOP V. MOHTA, J.:- This is a writ petition filed principally by the State of Maharashtra and other concerned officers, as by an order dated 06.05.2006, the Hon'ble Pension Lok Adalat, High Court Legal Services Sub Committee, Nagpur Bench, Nagpur, in Pre Litigation No.45/2005 directed the petitioners to work out the entitlement of pension of the respondent and further to implement the order within a period of three months, though there was resistance/objections on merit as well as on the ground of limitation.
2. Admittedly, there was no compromise or settlement arrived at between the parties. Admittedly, they have not submitted any compromise or settlement before the Pension Lok Adalat. Admittedly, there was no compromise or conciliation arrived at between the parties before the passing the impugned order, therefore, the present petition as the impugned order is without jurisdiction and beyond the scope of the scheme and purposes of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (39 of 1987) (for short, "the Act"). The relevant provisions of the Act are Sections 19 and 20, which are as under :-
"Section 19:- Organisation of Lok Adalats.- (1) Every State Authority or District Authority or the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee or every High Court Legal Services Committee or, as the case may be, Taluka Legal Services Committee may organise Lok Adalats at such intervals and places and for exercising such jurisdiction and for such areas as it thinks fit.
(2) Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall consist of such number of-
(a) Serving or retired judicial officers; and
(b) other persons,
of the area as may be specified by the State Authority or the District Authority or the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee or the High Court Legal Services Committee, or as the case may be, the Taluka Legal Services Committee, organising such Lok Adalat.
(3) The experience and qualifications of other persons referred to clause (b) of sub-section (2) for Lok Adalats organised by the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
(4) The experience and qualifications of other persons referred to clause (b) of sub-section (2) for Lok Adalats other than referred to in sub-section (3) shall be such as may be prescribed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
(5) A Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of -
(i) any case pending before; or
(ii) any matter which is falling within the jurisdiction of, and is not brought before, any Court for which the Lok Adalat is organised:
Provided that the Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
Section 20:- Cognizance of cases by Lok Adalats.- (1) Where in any case referred to in clause (i) of sub-section (5) of section 19,-
(i)(a) the parties thereof agree; or
(b) one of the parties thereof makes an application to the Court, for referring the case to the Lok Adalat for settlement and if such Court is prima facie satisfied that there are chances of such settlement; or
(ii) the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat,
the Court shall refer the case to the Lok Adalat:
Provided that no case shall be referred to the Lok Adalat under sub-clause (b) of clause (i) or clause (ii) by such Court except after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the parties.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the Authority or Committee organising the Lok Adalat under sub-section (1) of section 19 may, on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to any matter referred to in clause (ii) of sub-section (5) of section 19 that such matter needs to be determined by a Lok Adalat, refer such matter to the Lok Adalat, for determination:
Provided that no matter shall be referred to the Lok Adalat except after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the other party.
(3) Where any case is referred to a Lok Adalat under sub-section (1) or where a reference has been made to it under sub-section (2), the Lok Adalat shall proceed to dispose of the case or matter and arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties.
(4) Every Lok Adalat shall, while determining any reference before it under this Act, act with utmost expedition to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties and shall be guided by the principles of justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles.
(5) Where no award is made by the Lok Adalat on the ground that no compromise or settlement could be arrived at between the parties, the record of the case shall be returned by it to the Court, from which the reference has been received under sub-section (1) for disposal in accordance with law.
(6) Where no award is made by the Lok Adalat on the ground that no compromise or settlement could be arrived at between the parties, in a matter referred to in sub-section (2), that Lok Adalat shall advice the parties to seek remedy in a Court.
(7) Where the record of the case is returned under sub-section (5) to the Court, such Court shall proceed to deal with such case from the stage which was reached before such reference under sub-section (1)]."
3. It is very clear from the above provisions that the Lok Adalats can definitely dispose of the matter but only on a compromise or settlement between the parties. In a case where there is opposition or objection to the claim so filed and there is no possibility of compromise or settlement as both the parties are not agreeing to the claim so determined, even though any direction, as noted above, by the Lok Adalats under the Act is impermissible and beyond the scope, power and authority under the Act.
4. The Apex Court in State of Punjab and another Vs. Jalour Singh and others; (2008)2 Supreme Court Cases 660 : [2008 ALL SCR 692], observed that the Lok Adalats have no adjudicatory or judicial functions. Their functions relate purely to the conciliation and must be based on the compromise or settlement between the parties. The Lok Adalats cannot enter into an adversarial adjudication akin to a court of law. Any award passed by the Lok Adalats, not based on a compromise or settlement, could be void and it is further observed that in case, no compromise or settlement can be arrived at, the case record must be returned to the Court from which it was received for disposal by the said Court, in accordance with law. The Apex Court in para 7 and 12 observed as under:-
"7. A reference to relevant provisions will be of some assistance, before examination of the issues involved. Section 19 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 ("the LSA Act", for short) provides for organisation of the Lok Adalats. Section 19(5)(i) of the LSA Act provides that a Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to a dispute in respect of any case pending before any court for which the Lok Adalat is organised. Section 20 relates to cognizance of cases by the Lok Adalats. Sub-section (1) refers to the Lok Adalats taking cognizance of cases referred to by courts and sub-section (2) refers to the Lok Adalats taking cognizance of matters at pre-litigation stage. The relevant portions of other sub-sections of Section 20, relating to cases referred by courts, are extracted below;
12. It is true that where an award is made by the Lok Adalat in terms of a settlement arrived at between the parties (which is duly signed by parties and annexed to the award of the Lok Adalat), it becomes final and binding on the parties to the settlement and becomes executable as if it is a decree of a civil court, and no appeal lies against it to any court. If any party wants to challenge such an award based on settlement, it can be done only by filing a petition under Article 226 and/or 227 of the Constitution, that too on very limited grounds. But where no compromise or settlement is signed by the parties and the order of Lok Adalat does not refer to any settlement, but directs the respondent to either make payment if it agrees to the order, or approach the High Court for disposal of appeal on merits, if it does not agree, is not an award of the Lok Adalat. The question of challenging such order in a petition under Article 227 does not arise. As already noticed, in such a situation, the High Court ought to have heard and disposed of the appeal on merits."
5. The Apex Court, while considering the provisions of Section 20(3)(5) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 in State of Punjab and others Vs. Ganpat Raj; 2007(2) Mh.L.J. 93 (SC) has observed in para 7 as under :-
"7. The specific language used in sub-section (3) of section 20 makes it clear that the Lok Adalat can dispose of a matter by way of a compromise or settlement between the parties. Two crucial terms in sub-sections (3) and (5) of section 20 are "compromise" and "settlement". The former expression means settlement of differences by mutual concessions. It is an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims by reciprocal modification of demands. As per Termes de la Ley, "compromise is a mutual promise of two or more parties that are at controversy". As per Bouvier it is "an agreement between two or more persons, who, to avoid a law suit, amicably settle their differences, on such terms as they can agree upon". The word "compromise" implies some element of accommodation on each side. It is not apt to describe total surrender. [See NFU Development Trust Ltd., Re, (1973)1 All ER 135 (Ch D)]. A compromise is always bilateral and means mutual adjustment. "Settlement" is termination of legal proceedings by mutual consent. The case at hand did not involve compromise or settlement and could not have been disposed of by the Lok Adalat. If no compromise or settlement is or could be arrived at, no order can be passed by the Lok Adalat. Therefore, the disposal of Civil Writ Petition No.943 of 2000 filed by the respondent is clearly impermissible".
[See also; State of Punjab and others Vs. Phulan Rani and another; AIR 2004 SC 4105 : (2004)7 SCC 555].
6. In the present matter also, the respondent has filed this application before the Pension Lok Adalat. The respondent/applicant appeared in person. The petitioners were represented by the A.G.P. To the claim of pension, though opportunity was given, reply was not filed and, therefore, the A.G.P. expressed his difficulty to make any submissions. It means, there was no consensus or settlement or compromise could be recorded before passing of the impugned order. Therefore, even based on the decision given by the High Court, for want of reply and as respondents were unable to file reply for want of instructions and, therefore, unable to make any submission, the directions so issued against the petitioners/respondents to work out the entitlement of the respondent/applicant and further to make payment within three months, is still impermissible and not within the scope of power of the Lok Adalats.
7. The another facet is that a proper Lok Adalat award is final and binding and becomes executable like Civil Court decree and no appeal lies against such an order. Therefore, by present order, the Lok Adalat, based upon the earlier order passed by the High Court, directed to work out the pension benefits. The proper Lok Adalat award, even if not implemented, then further remedy is to get it executed as a decree of Civil Court.
8. The present petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India is maintainable as the order passed by the Lok Adalat, an Authority constituted under the Act, is beyond its scope and power and without jurisdiction. (State of Punjab; supra).
9. In view of above, we are of the view that the Lok Adalat in the present facts and circumstances of the case, exercised power/jurisdiction not vested in it. We, therefore, quash and set aside the order dated 06.05.2006 passed in Pre Litigation No.45/2005 by the Pension Lok Adalat. We are making it clear that we are quashing the impugned order on the ground of jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat and without observing anything on merits. The application, as filed by the respondent/applicant in the fact and circumstances of the present case, is rejected. However, the petitioners/respondents are at liberty to take steps in accordance with law, if any.
The writ petition is allowed. No order as to costs.