|If no settlement is arrived at: court|
NEW DELHI: Lok Adalats cannot pass orders in a dispute if no compromise or settlement is arrived at between the parties to amicably resolve the dispute, the Supreme Court has held.
A Bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta pointed out that the specific language used in Section 20 of the Legal Services Authorities Act was that one of the parties to the dispute must file an application before the Lok Adalat for settlement. The section further contemplated that where no award was made on the ground that no compromise or settlement could be arrived at, the Lok Adalat might advise the parties to seek remedy in a court.
The Bench said that settlement through Lok Adalat was an agreement reached between the parties by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims by reciprocal modification of demands. "The word `compromise' implies some element of accommodation on each side. A compromise is always bilateral and means mutual adjustment. Settlement is termination of legal proceedings by mutual consent. If no compromise or settlement is or could be arrived at, no order can be passed by the Lok Adalat."
In the instant case, respondent Ganpat Raj filed a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for a direction to the Punjab Government to pay 18 per cent interest on delayed payment of pension, arrears of pension and other retirement benefits. This petition was sent to the Lok Adalat.
Notwithstanding the claim contested by the State, the Lok Adalat directed payment of 12 per cent interest and the High Court confirmed the award by dismissing a petition from the State. The present appeal by the State of Punjab is directed against this order.
Allowing the appeal, the Bench said: "A simple matter has unnecessarily been complicated as a result of which there has been inordinate delay in disposing of the matter." Observing that the Lok Adalat could not have disposed of the matter, the Bench asked the High Court to dispose of the writ petition filed by Mr. Raj within three months.
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