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Lok Adalat is a system of alternative dispute resolution developed in India. It roughly means "People's court". India has had a long history of resolving disputes through the mediation of village elders. The system of Lok Adalats is based on the principles of the Panch Parmeshwar of Gram Panchayats which were also proposed by Mahatma Gandhi. The idea of Lok Adalat was mainly advocated by Justice P.N. Bhagwati, a former Chief Justice of India. Lok Adalat is a non-adversarial system, whereby mock courts (called Lok Adalats) are held by the State Authority, District Authority, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal Services Committee, or Taluk Legal Services Committee. They are held periodically for exercising such jurisdiction as they determine. These are usually presided over by retired judges, social activists, or other members of the legal profession. The Lok Adalats can deal with all Civil Cases, Matrimonial Disputes, Land Disputes, Partition/Property Disputes, Labour Disputes etc., and compoundable criminal Cases. The first Lok Adalat was held on March 14, 1982 in Gujarat.
The focus in Lok Adalats is on compromise. When no compromise is reached, the matter goes back to the court. However, if a compromise is reached, an award is made and is binding on the parties. The disputing parties plead their case themselves in Lok Adalats. No advocate or pleader is allowed, even witnesses are not examined. No court fees is levied. Speedy justice is given to the people of all classes of society. Award has same effect as of a Civil Court decree. It was the LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY ACT 1987, which gave statutory status to Lok Adalat.
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