New Delhi, Aug 3 - The Supreme Court today upheld the constitutional validity of setting up of Permanent Lok Adalat and making its decisions binding on parties with the provision that they cannot be challenged in courts.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and Anil R Dave justified setting up of such bodies for resolving disputes over public utility services saying "with increasing number of cases, the judicial courts are not able to cope with the heavy burden of inflow of cases and the matters coming before them."
"With large population in the country and many public utility services being provided by various service providers, the disputes in relation to these services are not infrequent between the service providers and common man. Slow motion procedures in the judicial courts are not conducive for adjudication of disputes relating to public utility service," the bench said.
"Parliament can definitely set up effective alternative institutional mechanisms or make arrangements which may be more efficacious than the ordinary mechanism of adjudication of disputes through judicial courts.
"Such institutional mechanisms or arrangements by no stretch of imagination can be said to be contrary to the constitutional scheme or against the rule of law," the bench said.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by the Bar Council of India challenging the amendment in Legal Service Authority Act for setting up Permanent Lok Adalat whose decision was made binding on the parties and cannot be challenged in courts.
The apex court also turned down the BCI's plea to quash the amendment as right to appeal against the Lok Adalat has been taken away from the parties to the dispute.
"There is no inherent right of appeal. Appeal is always a creature of statute and if no appeal is provided to an aggrieved party in a particular statute, that by itself may not render that statute unconstitutional.
"Section 22-E (1) makes every award of the Permanent Lok Adalat under 1987 Act either on merit or in terms of a settlement final and binding on all the parties thereto and on persons claiming under them. No appeal is provided from the award passed by Permanent Lok Adalat but that, in our opinion, does not render the impugned provisions unconstitutional," the bench said.
The council had argued that all public utility services relates to the people's fundamental right and any adverse decision on merits by Permanent Lok Adalat would immediately impinge upon right of an aggrieved citizen and the absence of right to appeal makes these provisions unconstitutional.
Dismissing the Council's plea, the bench said, "The disputes in relation to public utility service need urgent attention with focus on their resolution at 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."
"With large population in the country and many public utility services being provided by various service providers, the disputes in relation to these services are not infrequent between the service providers and common man. Slow motion procedures in judicial courts are not conducive for adjudication of disputes relating to public utility service," the bench further said. PTI