Lok Adalat; Sukhpali Devi Vs. Civil Judge [Allahabad High Court, 25-05-2016]

Lok Adalat – Award of – Once the suit is decided by Lok Adalat on settlement, then the plaintiff would be entitled for refund of Court Fee paid in suit. By the impugned order Court below has illegally carved out a distinction between the case where the parties voluntary moved an application for reference of dispute to Lok Adalat and where, on possibility of settlement, could referred the matter to Lok Adalat.


HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD

Hon’ble Ram Surat Ram (Maurya),J.

MATTERS UNDER ARTICLE 227 No. – 2880 of 2016

Petitioner :- Smt. Sukhpali Devi Respondent :- Civil Judge (S.D.) And 2 Others Counsel for Petitioner :- Ayub Khan Counsel for Respondent:- CSC

1. Heard Sri Ayub Khan, for the petitioner and Standing Counsel, for State of U.P.

2. This petition has been filed against the order of Civil Judge (S.D.) dated 14.03.2016, dismissing the application of the petitioner for refund of Court Fee paid in the suit and mandamus directing Civil Judge (S.D.) to pass order for refund of the Court Fee to the petitioner, paid in the suit.

3. The petitioner filed a suit (registered as O.S. No. 160 of 2014) for recovery of Rs. 19,99,920/- from respondents-2 and 3. According to the valuation, advolerum Court Fee of Rs. 1,50,600/- has been supplied on plaint. The defendants, on appearance before the Court, admitted their liability. The suit was referred to Lok Adalat, held on 12.09.2015. Where the parties filed a written compromise. Signatures of the parties on written compromise were identified by their counsel. Lok Adalat verified the compromise in presence of the parties and by its order dated 12.09.2015 decreed the suit in terms of compromise.

4. The petitioner filed an application dated 05.11.2015 (registered as Misc. Case No. 138 of 2015) for refund of Court Fee of Rs. 1,50,600/- supplied in the suit, under

Section 21 of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987

read with

Section 16 of Court Fee Act, 1870

The application was heard by Civil Judge (Senior Division), who by impugned order dated 14.03.2016 held that a perusal of compromise dated 12.09.2015 shows that parties compromised their dispute outside the Lok Adalat. Lok Adalat merely verified their compromise. As such suit was not decided by Lok Adalat. The applicant has not stated that compromise was filed due to persuasion of Lok Adalat nor suit was referred to Lok Adalat on request of the parties, informing about probability of compromise. The parties filed an application 27-C, stating therein that matter has been compromised between the parties and they wanted to refer the suit to Lok Adalat. In the facts of the case, the suit was not actually decided by Lok Adalat as such the plaintiff is not entitled for refund of the Court fee. On these findings the application was dismissed. Hence this petition has been filed.

5. I have considered the arguments of the counsel for the parties and examined the record. Article 39-A of the Constitution directs that the State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. With as view to achieve the aforesaid objects, Parliament enacted The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to constitute legal services authorities to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organise Lok Adalats to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity. Provisions of law, which are relevant for deciding controversy are quoted below:-

6. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987:-

Section 19. Organisation of Lok Adalats

(1) ………..

(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 —

(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:

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.

(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).