Mumbai: As per the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) schedule, the National Lok Adalatwas held across India, including Maharashtra, on September 9. One of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms, the Lok Adalat is a forum where disputes/ cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably. Three such adalats were held at the Bombay High Court in Mumbai.
While data on the number and type of cases settled across the state was awaited at the time of going to press, a land acquisition case stood out for the court siding with four farmers overmeagre compensation.
Judges express severe displeasure
“Give them a fan and a rope too,” said Justice Kamal Khata while expressing severe displeasure over the consent terms drafted by the authorities concerned in a matter relating to four farmers in Sangli by the irrigation department in 1998. Justice Khata was presiding overthe Lok Adalat on Saturday dealing with land acquisition cases that have been pending for several years before regular courts.
In the present case, the irrigation department of the Maharashtra government obtained lands of four farmers in Umrani taluka for construction of a water tank in Khojanwadi area in 1998. Considering the meagre compensation awarded by the government, the farmers filed a reference before the senior division commissioner in Sangli, who enhanced the compensation to Rs95,000 per acre. Aggrieved by the order, the government challenged this before the Bombay High Court in 2021. During the last hearing in July, the court asked the parties to draft consent terms to settle the dispute.
According to the consent terms, the farmers agreed to appoint a power of attorney (POA), a family member, who would complete the necessary paperwork and receive the monies. However, the consent terms did not specify how the monies would be finally given.
Judges ask advocate to rework consent terms
After going through the consent terms, Justice Khata expressed anguish over the manner in which the matter was handled by which the poor would be deprived of their lands and the monetary consideration.
He asked the farmers, who did not understand English, whether they had agreed to such consent terms. Explaining the consent terms in Marathi to the farmers, justice Khata asked: “Aplya paisa aplya kade theva. Nantar nahi milnar. Lok paise gheun udanchu honar (Keep your money with yourselves. Otherwise you will not get it later. People will take it and vanish).
Justice Khata asked the advocates in the matter to rework the consent terms with a clause saying that the POA will do the paperwork but the money will go to these farmers. “Little filtration from our side can save a lot of trouble,” the judge advised the advocates while asking them to draft the consent terms very carefully.
“This (situation) is like the ‘operation is successful, but the patient is dead’. I am unable to digest this… These people are made to give away their lands and their money too,” said justice Khata.
In the order, Justice Khata has asked the parties to place the consent terms before the regular court before which the State’s appeal is pending. The matter is kept for hearing during the next Lok Adalat in December.
NALSA, along with other legal services institutions conducts Lok Adalats.
Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, the award (decision) made by the LokAdalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties, with no appeal.
Not satisfied with the award, parties are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case by following the required procedure.
There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat.
Nature of cases: Any case pending before any court; any dispute which has not been brought before any court and is likely to be filed before the court.