Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 – Section 19 & 22 – Lok Adalats – Jurisdiction of – Compromise or Settlement – Pre-prepared Award – Held, Lok Adalats shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law- Where there is no compromise or settlement, the case cannot be disposed of by Lok Adalats – In no case, the Lok Adalat can dispose of any matter by affixing and signing a pre- prepared award stamp – An award by a Lok Adalat is nothing but assimilation of terms of settlement or compromise arrived at between the parties in the form of enforceable order – The terms of settlement or compromise cannot be the same in all the cases – the Lok Adalats cannot anticipate or predict the likelihood of the temrs of settlement between the parties in a particular case – Hence, there is no scope for disposing of a matter by the Lok Adalat by affixing a pre-prepared award stamp.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT PATNA
CORAM: HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE ASHWANI KUMAR SINGH
Date : 12-07-2016
Criminal Writ Jurisdiction Case No.1105 of 2015
Arising Out of P.S.Case No. – 38 Year- 2002 Thana -Amdabad District- KATIHAR
Urmila Masomat Wife of Late Narayan Choudhary, r/o Village- Gopalpur, P.S. Amdabad, District Katihar …. …. Petitioner Versus 1. The State of Bihar through Superintendent of Police, Katihar, District-Katihar. 2. Kalu Mandal Son of Late Jyotish Mandal 3. Laddoo Mandal Son of Bhola Mandal 4. Ribol Mandal Son of Late Jyotish Mandal All R/o Village Gopalpur, P.S. Amadabad, District Katihar …. …. Respondents
Appearance : For the Petitioner/s : Mr. Bimal Kumar, Advocate For the State : Mr. A. B. Sinha, SC-19 For the Respondent/s : Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Singh, Advocate
In this writ petition, the petitioner has challenged the order/award dated 18th December, 2011 passed by the Presiding Officer, Mega Lok Adalat, Katihar, whereby Amdabad P. S. Case No. 38 of 2002 dated 12th June, 2002 registered under
Section 302/34 of the Indian Penal Code
(for short „IPC‟) has been disposed of.
2. The issues which fell for consideration in this writ petition are as under :-
(i) Whether a Lok Adalat constituted under Section 19 or 22 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (for short „the Act‟) shall have jurisdiction in respect of any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law.
(ii) Whether a Lok Adalat constituted under Section 19 of the Act can pass an award without having any compromise or settlement arrived at between the parties.
(iii) Whether a member or the Presiding Officer of the Lok Adalat can dispose of any matter by affixing a pre-prepared award stamp.”
3. I have heard Mr. Bimal Kumar, learned advocate appearing on behalf of the petitioner, Mr. A. B. Sinha, learned Standing Counsel appearing on behalf of the State and Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Singh, learned advocate appearing on behalf of respondents no. 2 to 4.
4. It is submitted by the learned advocate for the petitioner that the first information report (for short „FIR‟) of aforesaid Amdabad P. S. Case No. 38 of 2002 was registered under Section 302/34 of the IPC on the basis of oral statement of the petitioner recorded by the officer-in-charge of Amdabad police station against three accused persons, namely, Kalu Mandal, Laddu Mandal and Ribol Mandal. It has been alleged in the FIR that the named accused persons had poisoned the brother of the petitioner to death.
5. It is further submitted that during investigation of the case, while conducting the post-mortem examination on the body of the deceased, though the doctor had preserved viscera of the deceased for its chemical examination, the police, in collusion with the accused persons, submitted final report vide Final Report No. 81 of 2006 dated 28th October, 2006 on 18th December, 2006 in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Katihar even without collecting the chemical examination report from the Forensic Science Laboratory. After receipt of the final report, no notice was ever served upon the petitioner and the case was being adjourned from one date to another since December, 2006 awaiting the service report. Lastly, the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate adjourned the case to 28th May, 2009. Thereafter, the matter was never taken up in the court and on 18th December, 2011, the case was disposed of by the Presiding Officer of the Mega Lok Adalat, Katihar.
6. It is also urged by the learned advocate appearing on behalf of the petitioner that it would be apparent from the record that the aforesaid case has been disposed of by the Presiding Officer of Mega Lok Adalat even without serving any notice to the petitioner and in absence of the parties, without there being any settlement or compromise on record.
7. Learned advocate appearing on behalf of the State and learned advocate appearing on behalf of the respondents have conceded that the order passed by the Mega Lok Adalat is without jurisdiction.
8. Being shocked and surprised by the statements made by the respective advocates for the parties, in order to satisfy myself, vide order dated 15th March, 2016, I had summoned the lower court record of the Amdabad P. S. Case No. 38 of 2002 from the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Katihar. From perusal of the lower court record, it transpires that the final report submitted under Section 173(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short „CrPC‟) was received in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate on 18th December, 2006 and on the same day, a direction was made by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate to issue notice to the informant fixing 19th February, 2007, as the next date. Since then, the case was adjourned from one date to another directing the office to comply with the order dated 18th December, 2006 and awaiting the service report in the following manner :-
(i) 19.02.2007 to 08.05.2007
(ii) 08.05.2007 to 07.07.2007
(iii) 07.07.2007 to 12.10.2007
(iv) 12.10.2007 to 11.04.2008
(v) 11.04.2008 to 26.06.2008
(vi) 26.06.2008 to 18.10.2008
(vii) 18.10.2008 to 17.02.2009
(viii) 17.02.2009 to 28.05.2009
(ix) 28.05.2009 to 31.10.2009.
9. On 31st October, 2009, the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Katihar adjourned the case to 14th January, 2010 awaiting the service report of the notice ordered to be sent to the petitioner. It would be evident from the record that after 31st October, 2009, the case was never ever taken up by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate in his court and on 18th December, 2011, the case was disposed of by the Presiding Officer of Mega Lok Adalat, Katihar. On inquiry from the registry, I was informed that the then Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate posted at Katihar was the Presiding Officer who had disposed of the aforesaid case.
10. It is pertinent to mention here that it would be evident from perusal of the proceedings of the lower court record that the initial order of issuance of notice to the informant passed on 18th December, 2006 was never complied with by the office. I have noticed several disturbing aspects on examination of the proceedings of the case, which are as under :-
(a) There is no justification for mechanical adjournments of the case from one date to another without looking into the fact that the initial order of issuance of notice upon the informant itself was not complied with by the office;
(b) There is no reason why the matter was not taken up by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate in the court on the date fixed i.e., on 31st October, 2009;
(c) There is no reason why the matter was not taken up by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate for over two years since 28th May, 2009;
(d) It is not revealed by whom and how the matter was referred to Mega Lok Adalat on 18th December, 2011;
(e) Since the Act does not confer any power to Lok Adalat to entertain any case in respect of an offence not compoundable under any law why did the Mega Lok Adalat take up the matter and disposed it off.
(f) There is no justification for disposing of a case by the Mega Lok Adalat not only in absence of the parties but also without any settlement and without issuing any notice to them in utter haste.
11. Furthermore, another disturbing aspect which is of great importance is that the Presiding Officer of the Mega Lok Adalat has disposed of the case by affixing and signing a pre- prepared order/award stamp, which reads as under :-
“The Case Record Put up today for disposal in Mega Lok Adalat. The Case is disposed in Mega Lok Adalat. Office is directed to deposit the Case Record in RR.
12. Having noticed the aforesaid acts of omission and commission, vide order dated 10th May, 2016, this Court had sought for an explanation from the then Chief Judicial Magistrate, Katihar and the Presiding Officer of the Mega Lok Adalat, Katihar.
13. The then Chief Judicial Magistrate has stated in his explanation dated 8th June, 2016 that the record of Amdabad P. S. Case No. 38 of 2002 was put up before him only once on 31 st October, 2009. He has tried to justify his action by stating that he could not get track of the record of the aforesaid case due to heavy rush of work, pressure of urgent works, pendency of charge-sheet cognizance and other important matters. He has further stated that he had never referred the aforesaid case to Mega Lok Adalat for its disposal, but the concerned Presiding Officer of the bench of Mega Lok Adalat had orally called for records and concerned clerk might have handed over the records to him and in this process the record may have been sent to the Mega Lok Adalat.
14. The then Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate who had disposed of the aforesaid criminal case has submitted in his explanation dated 18th June, 2016 that on 18th December, 2011 a Mega Lok Adalat was organized at Katihar in which he was presiding a bench which was assigned the job to dispose of cases received from the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate and Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate. There was an atmosphere of enthusiasm and competition to dispose of the maximum number of cases in the Mega Lok Adalat. From all these courts, a large number of cases were received wherein final report was submitted by the police and all such cases were disposed of in the Mega Lok Adalat. He has submitted that the judicial officers, including him were under immense pressure to dispose of the highest number of cases in the Mega Lok Adalat and possibly that was the reason the aforesaid Amdabad P. S. Case No. 38 of 2002 was also disposed of on that date. He has also submitted that more than thousand of cases were disposed of by the benches of Mega Lok Adalat on 18th December, 2011 in Katihar judgeship and the manner of disposal was the same, i.e., by affixing a pre- prepared award stamp and signing over it by the Presiding Officers of different benches.
15. I am constrained to record that the explanations submitted by them are far from satisfaction. They have conducted themselves in a manner which is against the judicial norms and propriety.
16. I am rather dismayed at the manner in which the entire matter has been dealt with undermining the very purpose and object of Lok Adalats. At every stage, the Chief Judicial Magistrate and the Presiding Officer of the Mega Lok Adalat have acted in the manner contrary to law.
17. The code of judicial conduct requires a judicial officer to respect and comply with law. They ought to have faith in law and maintain professional competence in it.
18. I am also deeply concerned with the manner in which the cases are being taken up and disposed of by the Lok Adalats.
19. The Act was enacted to give effect to the provisions of Article 39-A of the Constitution which mandates that the operation of the legal system should promote justice on the 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 opportunity for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability.
20. Chapter VI of the Act deals with Lok Adalats. Sections 19 and 20 of the Act are extracted hereunder :-