Canara Bank vs G S Jayarama Case

Canara Bank vs G S Jayarama Case

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
Civil Appeal No. 3872 of 2022
Canara Bank ...Appellant
Versus
G S Jayarama ...Respondent
2
J U D G M E N T
Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J
This judgment has been divided into sections to facilitate analysis. They are:
A Introduction...................................................................................................... 3
B Submissions of Counsel.................................................................................. 6
C Analysis ........................................................................................................... 8
C.1 Legislative Framework of Legal Services Act 1987 .................................. 8
C.2 Mandatory nature of conciliation proceedings ........................................ 22
C.3 Whether Permanent Lok Adalat has adjudicatory functions ................... 25
D Conclusion..................................................................................................... 29
PART A
3
A Introduction
1 This appeal arises from a judgment dated 6 March 2021 of a Division Bench
of the High Court of Karnataka. The Single Judge by a judgment dated 3 July 2019
allowed the writ petition1
instituted by the respondent, and set aside an award of the
Permanent Lok Adalat dated 19 November 2014. The Division Bench dismissed the
writ appeal2
by the appellant and upheld the judgment of the Single Judge.
2 The dispute arises from an application3
filed by the Syndicate Bank4
on 31
December 2012 before the Permanent Lok Adalat at Mangalore under Section 22-
C(1) of the Legal Services Authorities Act 19875
. The application had been filed
against the respondent and his guarantor, in regard to credit facilities in the value of
Rs 2,40,583 availed by the respondent from the appellant. The appellant alleged
that the amount of Rs 2,40,583 along with interest had become due on 1 October
2012, but the respondent had not repaid it, in spite of multiple notices and requests.
Hence, the appellant prayed for the recovery of Rs 2,40,583 with interest at the rate
of 15.75 per cent and costs from the respondent and his guarantor.
3 Notice was issued by the Permanent Lok Adalat to the respondent on 10
January 2013, which was allegedly not claimed by the respondent. Hence, on 12
March 2013, the Permanent Lok Adalat held the service to be complete in respect of

1 Writ Petition No 27778 of 2019 (GM-RES)
2 Writ Appeal No 514 of 2020 (GM-RES)
3
PLD No 69 of 2013
4 With effect from 1 April 2020, it has since been merged with the appellant through a notification dated 4 March 2020
issued by the Central Government in consultation with Reserve Bank of India in exercise of its powers under Section
9 of Banking Companies (Acquisition & Transfer of Undertakings) Act 1970. Hence, it is also referred to as
―appellant‖ in this judgment.
5
―LSA Act‖
PART A
4
the respondent and adjourned the case to 6 June 2013 for reporting of settlement.
Thereafter, allegedly on 22 August 2013, a counsel filed a memo of appearance on
behalf of the respondent and matter was adjourned to allow filing of vakalatnama
and objections on behalf of the respondent. On 6 February 2014, another counsel is
alleged to have filed a vakalatnama on behalf of the respondent, and the case was
adjourned once again.
4 Since no one thereafter participated in the proceedings on behalf of the
respondent, the appellant filed its final affidavit on 17 November 2014, when the
Permanent Lok Adalat reserved the matter for its award. In its award dated 19
November 2014, the Permanent Lok Adalat noted that the respondent ―appeared
through an advocate, but did not participate in the proceedings‖ while his guarantor
―though served with notices…did not participate in the proceedings‖. Further, it also
noted that no conciliation was reported. Hence, the Permanent Lok Adalat allowed
the application filed by the appellant based on the documentary evidence adduced
by them and directed the respondent and his guarantor to pay the appellant an
amount of Rs 2,40,583 with interest at the rate of 9 per cent till the date of
realization. The appellant filed a petition6
for execution of the award of the
Permanent Lok Adalat before the Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate First Class,
Sullia, Dakshina Kannada.
5 While the appellant’s execution petition was pending and upon the issuance
of an arrest notice, the respondent filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the

6
Ex No 9 of 2019
PART A
5
Constitution before the Karnataka High Court on 1 July 2019, for challenging the
award of the Permanent Lok Adalat dated 19 November 2014. The Single Judge
allowed the writ petition by a judgment dated 3 July 2019, without issuing notice to
the appellant. While setting aside award dated 19 November 2014, the Single Judge
held:
―6. In view of the fact that the Lok Adalath (sic) has no
adjudicatory function as per the [Legal Services Authorities
Act, 1987], the impugned order dated 19.11.2014 is hereby
quashed and set aside.
7. Accordingly, the writ petition is disposed of with a liberty to
the respondent to take recourse to such remedy as may be
available to them under the law.‖
6 Relying upon the judgment of the Single Judge of Karnataka High Court dated
3 July 2019, the appellant’s execution petition was dismissed on 22 July 2019. The
appellant alleges that this is when they became aware of the Single Judge’s
judgment, and thereafter filed a writ appeal.
7 By its impugned judgment dated 6 March 2021, the Division Bench of the
Karnataka High Court dismissed the writ appeal. While dismissing the writ appeal,
the Division Bench held:
―9. The aforesaid provisions make it clear that in case the
parties reach at an agreement on the settlement of the
dispute they shall sign the settlement agreement and the
Permanent Lok Adalat shall pass an award in terms thereof
and furnish a copy of the same to each of the parties
concerned at the first instance and it is only after where the
parties fail to reach at an agreement under sub-Section (7),
the Permanent Lok Adalat can pass an award keeping in view
the facts and circumstances of the case. In the present case,
PART B
6
no such procedure was followed at all. There was no
conciliation proceedings between the parties. As they did not
appear, the question of signing the agreement does not arise.
The Lok Adalat could not have acted as a regular civil Court
in adjudicating the proceedings. Therefore, the learned Single
Judge was justified in allowing the writ petition. This Court
finds no reason to interfere with the order passed by the
learned Single Judge.‖
Thus, the Division Bench dismissed the writ appeal on two grounds: first, that the
procedure for conciliation under Section 22-C of the LSA Act was not followed, and
hence, the award under Section 22-C(8) was a nullity; and second, the Permanent
Lok Adalat could not have acted as a regular civil court in adjudicating the
proceedings.
B Submissions of Counsel
8 Mr Rajesh Kumar Gautam, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
appellant has made the following submissions:
(i) The impugned judgement is contrary to the provisions contained in Chapter –
VI-A of the LSA Act and the decision of this Court in Bar Council of India v.
Union of India7
in as much as the High Court held that Permanent Lok
Adalats have no adjudicatory function;
(ii) Sufficient opportunity was given to the respondent to participate in the
conciliation proceedings;

7
(2012) 8 SCC 243 (―Bar Council of India‖)
PART B
7
(iii)If the parties fail to participate in the conciliation proceedings, the Permanent
Lok Adalat has no option but to proceed to decide the dispute and pass an
award under Section 22-C of the LSA Act;
(iv)Under Section 22-E of the LSA Act, an award passed by the Permanent Lok
Adalat is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and such award is final and
cannot be called into question in any original suit, application or execution
proceedings;
(v) The object and purpose behind introducing Chapter VI-A to the LSA Act
would be frustrated if the Permanent Lok Adalat is denied the power of
adjudicating a dispute if a party deliberately avoids appearing and
participating in the conciliation proceedings, even after receipt of notice from
the Permanent Lok Adalat and after having appeared through an advocate on
a previous occasion; and
(vi)The conclusion of the conciliation proceedings is not a condition precedent to
the exercise of Permanent Lok Adalat’s adjudicatory function if a party fails to
appear for the conciliation proceedings.
9 Notice was served upon the respondent by the usual mode of service as well
as Dasti. While an AD card duly signed by the respondent was received by the
Supreme Court’s Registry, no one entered an appearance on behalf of the
respondent.
PART C
8
C Analysis
10 Two issues arise in the present appeal:
(i) Whether under Section 22-C of the LSA Act conciliation proceedings are
mandatory; and
(ii) Whether the Permanent Lok Adalats have adjudicatory functions under the
LSA Act.
C.1 Legislative Framework of Legal Services Act 1987
11 To address these issues, it is important to understand the statutory framework
of the LSA Act. Chapter VI of the LSA Act is titled ―Lok Adalats‖. Section 198

8
―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, Taluk 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 Taluk Legal Services
Committee, organising such Lok Adalat.
(3) The experience and qualifications of other persons referred to in 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 in 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
PART C
9
provides the framework on the basis of which Lok Adalats are to be organised.
Specifically, Section 19(5) provides that Lok Adalats shall have the jurisdiction to
arrive at a compromise and settlement between the parties in respect of a matter: (i)
pending before a court for which the Lok Adalat is organised; or (ii) not pending
before a court for which the Lok Adalat is organised but falling within its jurisdiction.
The proviso notes that the Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction in respect of a matter
relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
12 Section 209
outlines the type of cases whose cognisance can be taken by the
Lok Adalats. Section 20(1) provides that when a case is pending before a court (in

(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.‖
9
―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 if 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.
PART C
10
accordance with Section 19(5)(i)), the court can refer the case to a Lok Adalat for
settlement if: (i) the parties agree; (ii) one party makes an application; or (iii) the
court is satisfied that the matter is appropriate for a Lok Adalat. The proviso
stipulates that in scenario (ii) and (iii), the court shall only make its decision after
giving the parties a reasonable opportunity of being heard. Section 20(2) provides
that when an Authority or a Committee organising a Lok Adalat receives an
application (in accordance with Section 19(5)(ii)), it shall determine whether to refer
it to the Lok Adalat. The proviso stipulates that it shall only make its determination
after giving parties a reasonable opportunity of being heard. Section 20(3) indicates
that when a case is referred to a Lok Adalat under Section 20(1) and (2), it shall
proceed to dispose of the case and arrive at a compromise or settlement between
the parties. Section 20(4) provides that in disposing of a case, the Lok Adalat shall
be guided by the principles of justice, equity, fair play and other legal principles. In
case the Lok Adalat is unable to reach a settlement between the parties and no
award is made, it shall: (i) return the case to the court if it was received under
Section 20(1) (in accordance with Section 20(5)), which shall resume hearing it from
the stage where it was referred to the Lok Adalat (in accordance with Section 20(7));

(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 advise 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).‖
PART C
11
or (ii) advise the parties to approach the court if it was received under Section 20(2)
(in accordance with Section 20(6)).
13 Section 2110 stipulates that the awards of Lok Adalats shall be deemed to be
a decree of a civil court or, as the case may be, an order of any other court. These
awards shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute, and no appeal
shall lie to any court against the award. Further, when a settlement is arrived at by a
Lok Adalat in a case referred to it under Section 20(1), the parties shall be refunded
their court fee.
14 Section 22 outlines the powers of the Lok Adalats and Permanent Lok
Adalats. Section 22 is extracted below:
―22. Powers of Lok Adalats.—(1) The Lok Adalat or
Permanent Lok Adalat shall, for the purposes of holding any
determination under this Act, have the same powers as are
vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
(5 of 1908) while trying a suit in respect of the following
matters, namely:—
(a) the summoning and enforcing the attendance of any
witness and examining him on oath;
(b) the discovery and production of any document;
(c) the reception of evidence on affidavits;
(d) the requisitioning of any public record or document or
copy of such record or document from any court or office; and
(e) such other matters as may be prescribed.

10 ―21. Award of Lok Adalat.—(1) Every award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court or,
as the case may be, an order of any other court and where a compromise or settlement has been arrived at, by a Lok
Adalat in a case referred to it under sub-section (1) of Section 20, the court-fee paid in such case shall be refunded in
the manner provided under the Court Fees Act, 1870 (7 of 1870).
(2) Every award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute, and no appeal shall
lie to any court against the award.‖
PART C
12
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers
contained in sub-section (1), every Lok Adalat or Permanent
Lok Adalat shall have the requisite powers to specify its own
procedure for the determination of any dispute coming before
it.
(3) All proceedings before the Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok
Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the
meaning of Sections, 193, 219 and 228 of the Indian Penal
Code (45 of 1860) and every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to
be a civil court for the purpose of Section 195 and Chapter
XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974).‖
Sub-Section (1) of Section 22 stipulates that Lok Adalats and Permanent Lok
Adalats shall have the same power as civil courts under the Civil Procedure Code
190811 for making their determination under the LSA Act. Sub-Section (2), without
prejudice to sub-Section (1), provides the Lok Adalats and Permanent Lok Adalats
with the power to specify their own procedure. Sub-Section (3) states that
proceedings before the Lok Adalats and Permanent Lok Adalats shall be deemed to
be judicial proceedings.
15 These provisions demonstrate that the power of the Lok Adalat is limited,
even though it may have some powers of the civil courts and the proceedings before
it have some trappings of a judicial proceeding. A Lok Adalat shall only attempt to
reach a compromise or settlement between the parties whose case is before it. If a
compromise or settlement is reached, the Lok Adalat shall issue it as its award, and
the statute deems it to be equivalent to the decree of a court, against which no
appeal shall lie. On the other hand, if it fails to reach a compromise or settlement,

11 ―CPC‖
PART C
13
the Lok Adalat shall return the case to the court or advise the parties to approach
the court.
16 On the other hand, Permanent Lok Adalats are constituted under Chapter VIA of the LSA Act titled ―Pre-Litigation Conciliation and Settlement‖. The chapter was
added to the LSA Act by The Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act 200212
. It
is necessary to analyse the rationale for introducing such an institutional mechanism
for resolving disputes when Lok Adalats constituted under Section 19 of the LSA Act
were already in existence. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the LSA
Amendment Act reads as follows:
―(1) The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was enacted to
constitute legal services authorities for providing (sic) and
competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society
to ensure that opportunities for securing justice were not
denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other
disabilities and to organise Lok Adalats to ensure that the
operation of the legal system promoted justice on a basis of
equal opportunity. The system of Lok Adalat, which is an
innovative mechanism for alternate dispute resolution, has
proved effective for resolving disputes in a spirit of conciliation
outside the courts.
(2) However, the major drawback in the existing scheme
of organisation of the Lok Adalats under Chapter VI of
the said Act is that the system of Lok Adalats is mainly
based on compromise or settlement between the parties.
If the parties do not arrive at any compromise or
settlement, the case is either returned to the court of law
or the parties are advised to seek remedy in a court of
law. This causes unnecessary delay in the dispensation
of justice. If Lok Adalats are given power to decide the
cases on merits in case parties fail to arrive at any
compromise or settlement, this problem can be tackled
to a great extent. Further, the cases which arise in relation to
public utility services such as Mahanagar Telephone Nigam

12 Act 37 of 2002 (―LSA Amendment Act‖)
PART C
14
Limited, Delhi Vidyut Board, etc. need to be settled urgently
so that people get justice without delay even at pre-litigation
stage and thus most of the petty cases which ought not to go
in the regular courts would be settled at the pre-litigation
stage itself which would result in reducing the workload of the
regular courts to a great extent. It is, therefore, proposed to
amend the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to set up
Permanent Lok Adalats for providing compulsory prelitigative mechanism for conciliation and settlement of
cases relating to public utility services.‖
(emphasis supplied)
The Statement of Objects and Reasons indicates that Chapter VI-A was introduced
to the LSA Act to primarily create alternative dispute resolution bodies, in the form of
Permanent Lok Adalats, to decide disputes on merits if the parties fail to arrive at a
compromise or settlement.
17 Section 22-B of the LSA Act provides for the establishment of Permanent Lok
Adalats. Section 22-B stipulates thus:
―22-B. Establishment of Permanent Lok Adalats.—(1)
Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 19, the Central
Authority or, as the case may be, every State Authority shall,
by notification, establish Permanent Lok Adalats at such
places and for exercising such jurisdiction in respect of one or
more public utility services and for such areas as may be
specified in the notification.
(2) Every Permanent Lok Adalat established for an area
notified under sub-section (1) shall consist of—
(a) a person who is, or has been, a district Judge or additional
district Judge or has held judicial office higher in rank than
that of a district Judge, shall be the Chairman of the
Permanent Lok Adalat; and
(b) two other persons having adequate experience in public
utility service to be nominated by the Central Government or,
as the case may be, the State Government on the
PART C
15
recommendation of the Central Authority or, as the case may
be, the State Authority,
appointed by the Central Authority or, as the case may be,
the State Authority, establishing such Permanent Lok Adalat
and the other terms and conditions of the appointment of the
Chairman and other persons referred to in clause (b) shall be
such as may be prescribed by the Central Government.‖
Sub-Section (1) of Section 22-B stipulates that the Central or State Authority under
the LSA Act shall establish Permanent Lok Adalats in respect of one or more public
utility services (defined under Section 22-A(b)13) and for specific areas. Sub-Section
(2) provides the membership of the Permanent Lok Adalat to be appointed by the
Central or State Authority, which shall include: (i) its Chairperson, who is a person
who is, or has been, a District Judge or an Additional District Judge or has held
judicial office higher in rank than that of a District Judge; and (ii) two other persons
who have adequate experience in the public utility services, to be nominated by
Central or State Government on the recommendation of Central or State Authority,
as the case maybe.

13 ―22-A. Definitions.—In this Chapter and for the purposes of Sections 22 and 23, unless the context otherwise
requires,—
[…]
(b) ―public utility service‖ means any—
(i) transport service for the carriage of passengers or goods by air, road or water; or
(ii) postal, telegraph or telephone service; or
(iii) supply of power, light or water to the public by any establishment; or
(iv) system of public conservancy or sanitation; or
(v) service in hospital or dispensary; or
(vi) insurance service,
and includes any service which the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, may, in the
public interest, by notification, declare to be a public utility service for the purposes of this Chapter.‖
PART C
16
18 Section 22-C of the LSA Act stipulates the instances in which Permanent Lok
Adalats can take cognisance of cases. Section 22-C provides as follows:
―22-C. Cognizance of cases by Permanent Lok Adalat.—
(1) Any party to a dispute may, before the dispute is brought
before any court, make an application to the Permanent Lok
Adalat for the settlement of dispute:
Provided that the Permanent Lok Adalat shall not have
jurisdiction in respect of any matter relating to an offence not
compoundable under any law:
Provided further that the Permanent Lok Adalat shall also not
have jurisdiction in the matter where the value of the property
in dispute exceeds ten lakh rupees:
Provided also that the Central Government, may, by
notification, increase the limit of ten lakh rupees specified in
the second proviso in consultation with the Central Authority.
(2) After an application is made under sub-section (1) to the
Permanent Lok Adalat, no party to that application shall
invoke jurisdiction of any court in the same dispute.
(3) Where an application is made to a Permanent Lok Adalat
under sub-section (1), it—
(a) shall direct each party to the application to file before it a
written statement, stating therein the facts and nature of
dispute under the application, points or issues in such dispute
and grounds relied in support of, or in opposition to, such
points or issues, as the case may be, and such party may
supplement such statement with any document and other
evidence which such party deems appropriate in proof of
such facts and grounds and shall send a copy of such
statement together with a copy of such document and other
evidence, if any, to each of the parties to the application;
(b) may require any party to the application to file additional
statement before it at any stage of the conciliation
proceedings;
(c) shall communicate any document or statement received
by it from any party to the application to the other party, to
enable such other party to present reply thereto.
(4) When statement, additional statement and reply, if any,
PART C
17
have been filed under sub-section (3), to the satisfaction of
the Permanent Lok Adalat, it shall conduct conciliation
proceedings between the parties to the application in such
manner as it thinks appropriate taking into account the
circumstances of the dispute.
(5) The Permanent Lok Adalat shall, during conduct of
conciliation proceedings under sub-section (4), assist the
parties in their attempt to reach an amicable settlement of the
dispute in an independent and impartial manner.
(6) It shall be the duty of every party to the application to
cooperate in good faith with the Permanent Lok Adalat in
conciliation of the dispute relating to the application and to
comply with the direction of the Permanent Lok Adalat to
produce evidence and other related documents before it.
(7) When a Permanent Lok Adalat, in the aforesaid
conciliation proceedings, is of opinion that there exist
elements of settlement in such proceedings which may be
acceptable to the parties, it may formulate the terms of a
possible settlement of the dispute and give to the parties
concerned for their observations and in case the parties reach
at an agreement on the settlement of the dispute, they shall
sign the settlement agreement and the Permanent Lok Adalat
shall pass an award in terms thereof and furnish a copy of the
same to each of the parties concerned.
(8) Where the parties fail to reach at an agreement under
sub-section (7), the Permanent Lok Adalat shall, if the dispute
does not relate to any offence, decide the dispute.‖
Sub-Section (1) of Section 22-C provides that any party to a dispute (covered under
the jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalat in accordance with Section 22-B) can
approach the Permanent Lok Adalat before approaching a court. The proviso notes
two exceptions to this: (i) the dispute shall not be in respect of any matter relating to
an offence not compoundable under any law; and (ii) the value of the property in
dispute shall not exceed Rs 10 lakhs. However, the third proviso stipulates that the
Central Government may, in consultation with the Central Authority, increase this
PART C
18
amount through a notification. Indeed, by a notification dated 20 March 201514 this
amount has been since raised to Rs 1 crore. Under sub-Section (2), once an
application is made to the Permanent Lok Adalat under sub-Section (1) in respect of
a dispute, no court shall have jurisdiction over it. In accordance with sub-Section (3),
once the Permanent Lok Adalat receives an application under sub-Section (1), it can
direct both parties to file detailed submission outlining their factual submissions,
issues raised and arguments advanced. To support their submissions, the parties
will be permitted to attach documentary evidence. Further, the Permanent Lok
Adalat can direct the parties to file additional submissions. It shall also communicate
any submissions or documents received by one party to the other, in order to enable
them to respond. Once the procedure under sub-Section (3) is completed, the
Permanent Lok Adalat, in accordance with sub-Section (4), shall conduct conciliation
proceedings between parties in a manner it sees fit keeping in mind the nature of the
dispute. During the conciliation proceedings under sub-Section (4), sub-Section (5)
imposes a duty on the Permanent Lok Adalat to assist the parties in reaching an
amicable resolution to their dispute in an independent and impartial manner. On the
other hand, sub-Section (6) imposes a duty on the parties to cooperate with the
Permanent Lok Adalat in good faith and produce any evidence/documents required
for the resolution of the dispute. Sub-Section (7) empowers the Permanent Lok
Adalat, when it is of the opinion that a settlement exists between the parties, to

14 ―Noti. No. S.O. 803(E), dated March 20, 2015.—In exercise of the powers conferred by the third proviso to subsection (1) of Section 22-C of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (39 of 1987) and in supersession of the
Government of India, Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs), Notification Number S.O. 2083(E),
dated the 15th September, 2011, published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part II, Section 3, sub-section (ii),
dated the 15th September, 2011, the Central Government, in consultation with the Central Authority, hereby
increases the limit of the value of the property in dispute for the purpose of determining the jurisdiction of Permanent
Lok Adalat to ―one crore rupees‖ with effect from the date of publication of this notification in the Official Gazette.‖
PART C
19
formulate the terms of such settlement and present it to the parties. If the parties are
agreeable to the terms of the settlement, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall pass an
award incorporating those terms and provide a copy to each party. Finally, if the
parties fail to reach an agreement under sub-Section (7), the Permanent Lok Adalat
can decide the dispute on merits under sub-Section (8), if the dispute does not relate
to any offence.
19 Section 22-D
15 stipulates that while conducting conciliation proceedings or
deciding the dispute on its merits, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall ―be guided by the
principles of natural justice, objectivity, fair play, equity and other principles of
justice‖ and shall not be bound by the CPC and the Indian Evidence Act 1872.
20 Section 22-E relates to the award of the Permanent Lok Adalat, and provides
that:
―22-E. Award of Permanent Lok Adalat to be final.—(1)
Every award of the Permanent Lok Adalat under this Act
made either on merit or in terms of a settlement agreement
shall be final and binding on all the parties thereto and on
persons claiming under them.
(2) Every award of the Permanent Lok Adalat under this Act
shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court.
(3) The award made by the Permanent Lok Adalat under this
Act shall be by a majority of the persons constituting the
Permanent Lok Adalat.
(4) Every award made by the Permanent Lok Adalat under
this Act shall be final and shall not be called in question in any
original suit, application or execution proceeding.

15 ―22-D. Procedure of Permanent Lok Adalat.—The Permanent Lok Adalat shall, while conducting conciliation
proceedings or deciding a dispute on merit under this Act, be guided by the principles of natural justice, objectivity,
fair play, equity and other principles of justice, and shall not be bound by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of
1908) and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872).‖
PART C
20
(5) The Permanent Lok Adalat may transmit any award made
by it to a civil court having local jurisdiction and such civil
court shall execute the order as if it were a decree made by
that court.‖
Sub-Section (1) of Section 22-E stipulates that the award of the Permanent Lok
Adalat, whether arising out of a settlement agreement or after deciding the merits of
the dispute, shall be final and binding on all parties and any persons claiming under
them. Sub-Section (2) provides that the award of the Permanent Lok Adalat shall be
deemed to be a decree of a civil court. Sub-Section (3) provides that every award of
the Permanent Lok Adalat shall be decided by a majority of its constituent members.
Sub-Section (4) reiterates that the award shall be final and shall not be called in
question in any original suit, application or execution proceeding. Finally, subSection (5) stipulates that the Permanent Lok Adalat may transmit an award made
by it to a civil court having local jurisdiction, and such civil court shall execute the
order as if it were a decree made by that court.
21 The above survey of the provisions of the LSA Act indicates that there are
similarities between Lok Adalats and Permanent Lok Adalats: (i) they can both
attempt conciliation proceedings with the parties before them, and can pass awards
recording the terms of settlement agreed upon by the parties (Section 20(3) and 22-
C(7)); (ii) in doing do, they are both bound by principles of justice, equity, fair play
and other legal principles (Section 20(4) and 22-D); and (iii) their awards, deemed to
be decrees of courts, will be final and cannot be challenged in an appeal (Section 21
PART C
21
and 22-E). Yet, despite these similarities, there are crucial differences under the
statute.
22 While the jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalat is limited to disputes
regarding public utility services, crucially, its powers are wider than the Lok Adalat in
many respects:
(i) Parties can approach Permanent Lok Adalats directly under Section 22-C(1),
while Lok Adalats are sent their cases by courts where the dispute is pending
(under Section 20(1)) or by the Authority or Committee organising the Lok
Adalat under Section 19(1) after they receive it from the parties (under
Section 20(2)). Indeed, an application made to the Permanent Lok Adalat
ousts the jurisdiction of a civil court (under Section 22-C(2));
(ii) Permanent Lok Adalats can direct the parties to submit written submissions,
replies, evidence and documents (Section 22-C(3));
(iii)Other then attempting conciliation with parties, the Permanent Lok Adalats
can also decide a dispute on its merits if the settlement fails (Section-C(7));
and
(iv)Permanent Lok Adalats can transmit an award made to a civil court having
local jurisdiction, and such civil court shall execute the order as if it were a
decree made by that court (Section 22-E(5)).
The entrustment of wider powers to the Permanent Lok Adalat is supported by its
membership, comprising of a District Judge or Additional District Judge or someone
PART C
22
who has held judicial office higher in rank than that of a District Judge (as compared
to only judicial officers in Lok Adalats).
C.2 Mandatory nature of conciliation proceedings
23 We must now address the first issue, i.e., whether the conciliation
proceedings before the Permanent Lok Adalats are mandatory before it can decide
a dispute on its merits.
24 This issue is clearly resolved from a bare reading of Section 22-C. Section 22-
C provides a step-by-step scheme on how a matter is to proceed before the
Permanent Lok Adalat. The first step is the filing of the application which ousts the
jurisdiction of other civil courts, in accordance with sub-Sections (1) and (2). The
second step is the parties filing requisite submissions and documents before the
Permanent Lok Adalat, in accordance with sub-Section (3). On the completion of the
third step to its satisfaction, the Permanent Lok Adalat can move to the fourth step of
attempting conciliation between the parties, in accordance with sub-Sections (4), (5)
and (6). Subsequently, in the fifth step in accordance with sub-Section (7), the
Permanent Lok Adalat has to draw up terms of settlement on the basis of the
conciliation proceedings, and propose them to the parties. If the parties agree, the
Permanent Lok Adalat has to pass an award on the basis of the agreed upon terms
of settlement. Only if the parties fail to reach an agreement on the fifth step, can the
Permanent Lok Adalat proceed to the final step and decide the dispute on its merits.
PART C
23
25 Such an interpretation is also supported by the decision of a two-Judge Bench
of this Court in Bar Council of India (supra), where the constitutionality of Chapter
VI-A of the LSA Act was upheld. Speaking for the Bench, Justice R M Lodha
highlighted that the Permanent Lok Adalats would proceed to adjudication of a
dispute on its merits only after attempting and failing to generate a settlement
between the parties:
―22. Chapter VI-A inserted by the 2002 Amendment Act in the
1987 Act, as its title suggests, provides for pre-litigation
conciliation and settlement procedure…The disputes in
relation to public utility service need urgent attention
with focus on their resolution at the threshold by
conciliation and settlement and if for any reason such effort
fails, then to have such disputes adjudicated through an
appropriate mechanism as early as may be possible…
23. The Statement of Objects and Reasons itself spells out
the salient features of Chapter VI-A. By bringing in this law,
the litigation concerning public utility service is sought
to be nipped in the bud by first affording the parties to
such dispute an opportunity to settle their dispute
through the endeavours of the Permanent Lok Adalat and
if such effort fails then to have the dispute between the
parties adjudicated through the decision of the Permanent
Lok Adalat…
[…]
26. It is necessary to bear in mind that the disputes
relating to public utility services have been entrusted to
Permanent Lok Adalats only if the process of conciliation
and settlement fails. The emphasis is on settlement in
respect of disputes concerning public utility services
through the medium of Permanent Lok Adalat. It is for this
reason that sub-section (1) of Section 22-C states in no
unambiguous terms that any party to a dispute may before
the dispute is brought before any court make an application to
the Permanent Lok Adalat for settlement of dispute. Thus,
settlement of dispute between the parties in matters of
public utility services is the main theme. However, where
despite the endeavours and efforts of the Permanent Lok
PART C
24
Adalat the settlement between the parties is not through and
the parties are required to have their dispute determined and
adjudicated, to avoid delay in adjudication of disputes relating
to public utility services, Parliament has intervened and
conferred power of adjudication upon the Permanent Lok
Adalat.‖
(emphasis supplied)
26 The appellant’s argument, however, is that if the opposite party does not
appear before the Permanent Lok Adalat, it can dispense with the conciliation
proceedings and straightaway adjudicate the dispute under Section 22-C(8). We are
unable to accept this submission. Even if the opposite party does not appear, the
Permanent Lok Adalat is still bound to follow the step-by-step procedure laid down
by Section 22-C. Under Section 22-C(3), it would require the party before it to file
their submissions and documents, and make the best efforts to communicate them
to the opposite party for their response. If it is satisfied that no response is
forthcoming from the absent opposite party, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall still
attempt to settle the dispute through settlement under Section 22-C(4). It is
important to remember that Section 22-C(5) imposes a duty upon the Permanent
Lok Adalat to be independent and impartial in attempting to amicably settle the
dispute, while Section 22-C(6) imposes a duty upon the party present before the
Permanent Lok Adalat to cooperate in good faith and assist the Permanent Lok
Adalat. Thereafter, the Permanent Lok Adalat, based on the materials before it, shall
propose terms of settlement and communicate them to both parties, regardless of
whether they participated in the proceedings. If the party present before the
Permanent Lok Adalat does not agree or if the absent party does not respond in a
PART C
25
sufficient period of time, only then can the Permanent Lok Adalat adjudicate the
dispute on its merits under Section 22-C(8). Keeping in mind the principles
enshrined in Section 22-D, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall once again notify the
absent party of its decision to adjudicate the dispute on its merits, in case it wishes
to join the proceedings at that stage.
27 Section 22-C(8) is amply clear that it only comes into effect once an
agreement under Section 22-C(7) has failed. The corollary of this is that the
proposed terms of settlement under Section 22-C(7), and the conciliation
proceedings preceding it, are mandatory. If Permanent Lok Adalats are allowed to
bypass this step just because a party is absent, it would be tantamount to deciding
disputes on their merit ex parte and issuing awards which will be final, binding and
will be deemed to be decrees of civil courts. This was simply not the intention of the
Parliament when it introduced the LSA Amendment Act. Its main goal was still the
conciliation and settlement of disputes in relation to public utilities, with a decision on
merits always being the last resort. Therefore, we hold that conciliation proceedings
under Section 22-C of the LSA Act are mandatory in nature.
C.3 Whether Permanent Lok Adalat has adjudicatory functions
28 The second issue which is in contention before this Court is whether the
Permanent Lok Adalat has any adjudicatory function. As highlighted in the Objects
and Reasons accompanying the LSA Amendment Act, its introduction led to the
PART C
26
creation of two different types of Lok Adalats. The first is a Lok Adalat constituted
under Section 19 of the LSA Act, having no adjudicatory power, which can only
conduct conciliatory proceedings. The second is a Permanent Lok Adalat,
established under Section 22-B(1) of the LSA Act in respect of public utility services,
which can carry out both conciliatory and adjudicatory functions, subject to the
procedure to be followed under Section 22-C of the LSA Act. The scheme of the
LSA Act makes clear the distinction between the two types of Lok Adalats. Section
20 of the LSA Act provides that the Lok Adalat shall aim to arrive at a compromise or
settlement between the parties. If no such compromise or settlement is arrived at,
then the record of the case is returned to the court from which the Lok Adalat had
received the reference. The court would then proceed to adjudicate the dispute. On
the other hand, Section 22-C of the LSA Act provides that a party to a dispute, prior
to bringing a dispute before the court, i.e., at the pre-litigation stage, can make an
application to a Permanent Lok Adalat for the settlement of a dispute. The
Permanent Lok Adalat would first conduct conciliation proceedings and attempt to
reach an amicable settlement of the dispute. However, if the parties fail to reach an
agreement, it shall decide the dispute, as long as the dispute does not relate to an
offence. Section 22-D further indicates that the Permanent Lok Adalat is empowered
to decide the dispute between the parties on merits.
29 In United India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Ajay Sinha & Ors.16, this Court held
that the Permanent Lok Adalat performs an adjudicatory role if the conciliation

16 (2008) 7 SCC 454
PART C
27
between the parties fails. Elucidating on the power of the Permanent Lok Adalat, this
Court observed as follows:
―25. Chapter VI-A stands independently. Whereas the
heading of the Chapter talks of pre-litigation, conciliation and
settlement, Section 22-C(8) of the Act speaks of
determination. It creates another adjudicatory authority, the
decision of which by a legal fiction would be a decision of a
civil court. It has the right to decide a case. The term ―decide‖
means to determine; to form a definite opinion; to render
judgment. (See Advanced Law Lexicon, 3rd Edn., 2005 at p.
1253.) Any award made by the Permanent Lok Adalat is
executable as a decree. No appeal thereagainst shall lie. The
decision of the Permanent Lok Adalat is final and binding on
the parties. Whereas on the one hand, keeping in view the
parliamentary intent, settlement of all disputes through
negotiation, conciliation, mediation, Lok Adalat and judicial
settlement are required to be encouraged, it is equally well
settled that where the jurisdiction of a court is sought to be
taken away, the statutory provisions deserve strict
construction. A balance is thus required to be struck. A court
of law can be created under a statute. It must have the
requisite infrastructure therefor. Independence and
impartiality of Tribunal being a part of human right is required
to be taken into consideration for construction of such a
provision. When a court is created, the incumbents must be
eligible to determine the lis.
[…]
…the Permanent Lok Adalat does not simply adopt the role of
an arbitrator whose award could be the subject-matter of
challenge but also the role of an adjudicator. Parliament has
given the authority to the Permanent Lok Adalat to decide the
matter. It has an adjudicating role to play.‖
Likewise, in Inter Globe Aviation v. N Satchidanand17, this Court observed that the
Permanent Lok Adalat’s role mutates from that of a conciliatory body to an

17 (2011) 7 SCC 463, paragraph 27
PART C
28
adjudicatory body, if the parties fail to reach an agreement, where it can decide the
dispute between the parties.
30 In Bar Council of India (supra), this Court held that the power of the
Permanent Lok Adalat to adjudicate disputes at a pre-litigation stage in terms of
Section 22-C(8) is constitutional. This Court observed thus:
―26. It is necessary to bear in mind that the disputes relating
to public utility services have been entrusted to Permanent
Lok Adalats only if the process of conciliation and settlement
fails. The emphasis is on settlement in respect of disputes
concerning public utility services through the medium of
Permanent Lok Adalat. It is for this reason that sub-section
(1) of Section 22-C states in no unambiguous terms that any
party to a dispute may before the dispute is brought before
any court make an application to the Permanent Lok Adalat
for settlement of dispute. Thus, settlement of dispute between
the parties in matters of public utility services is the main
theme. However, where despite the endeavours and
efforts of the Permanent Lok Adalat the settlement
between the parties is not through and the parties are
required to have their dispute determined and
adjudicated, to avoid delay in adjudication of disputes
relating to public utility services, Parliament has
intervened and conferred power of adjudication upon the
Permanent Lok Adalat.
27. Can the power conferred on Permanent Lok Adalats
to adjudicate the disputes between the parties
concerning public utility service up to a specific
pecuniary limit, if they do not relate to any offence, as
provided under Section 22-C(8), be said to be
unconstitutional and irrational? We think not. It is settled
law that an authority empowered to adjudicate the
disputes between the parties and act as a tribunal may
not necessarily have all the trappings of the court. What
is essential is that it must be a creature of statute and
should adjudicate the dispute between the parties before
it after giving reasonable opportunity to them consistent
with the principles of fair play and natural justice. It is not
a constitutional right of any person to have the dispute
adjudicated by means of a court only. Chapter VI-A has
PART D
29
been enacted to provide for an institutional mechanism,
through the establishment of Permanent Lok Adalats for
settlement of disputes concerning public utility service before
the matter is brought to the court and in the event of failure to
reach any settlement, empowering the Permanent Lok Adalat
to adjudicate such dispute if it does not relate to any offence.‖
(emphasis supplied)
31 We reiterate that the powers of the Lok Adalat constituted under Section 19 of
the LSA Act are to be distinguished from the nature of powers granted to a
Permanent Lok Adalat established under Section 22-B of the LSA Act. It is in the
context of interpreting the jurisdiction of Lok Adalats constituted under Section 19 of
the LSA Act, that this Court has held that the Lok Adalat cannot perform any
adjudicatory function in terms of Section 20 of the LSA Act18
.
D Conclusion
32 The Single Judge of the Karnataka High Court in the order dated 3 July 2019
observed that the Permanent Lok Adalat has no adjudicatory function. This finding of
the Single Judge was upheld by the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court in
its impugned judgement dated 6 March 2021 where it observed that the Permanent
Lok Adalat cannot act as a regular civil court in adjudicating the dispute between the
parties. Based on our analysis of the LSA Act and precedents of this Court, such an

18 Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Suresh Kumar (2011) 7 SCC 491; State of Punjab v. Jalour Singh &
Ors. (2008) 2 SCC 660; Estate Officer v. Colonel HV Mankotia (2021) SCC OnLine SC 898; and New Okhla
Industrial Development Authority v. Yunus and Ors. (2022) SCC OnLine SC 138
PART D
30
understanding is clearly incorrect. Therefore, we hold that these observations of the
Single Judge and Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court were incorrect.
33 At the same time, the Division Bench in its impugned judgement also noted
that the Permanent Lok Adalat failed to follow the mandatory conciliation
proceedings in the present case. This observation is correct since the award of the
Permanent Lok Adalat does not indicate any attempt made by it to propose terms of
settlement to the parties and their rejection. It states that once the respondent and
his guarantor did not appear, it adjudicated the dispute on merits in favour of the
respondent. For the reasons mentioned earlier in this judgment, the Permanent Lok
Adalat could not have done so. Therefore, on this point only, we uphold the final
judgment of the Division Bench setting aside the award dated 19 November 2014 of
the Permanent Lok Adalat.
34 Consequently, we hold that the observations of the Division Bench in the
impugned judgment in respect of the adjudicatory powers of the Permanent Lok
Adalats were incorrect, while upholding its ultimate conclusion since the Permanent
Lok Adalat failed to follow the mandatory conciliation proceedings in the present
case. We make it clear that we have not made any observations on the merits of the
dispute between the parties, and all rights and contentions of the parties are kept
open.
PART D
31
35 In the circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.
36 Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.
..…………...…...….......………………........J.
 [Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud]
…...…..…....…........……………….…........J.
 [Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha]
New Delhi;
May 19, 2022

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