Kerala High Court Upholds Lok Adalat’s Award Despite Procedural Violations

Kerala HC Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: November 28, 2023 at 01:03 IST

The Kerala High Court ruled that to annul an award issued by a Legal Services Authority, it must be demonstrated that the Authority lacked the jurisdiction to issue such an award. The court emphasized that mere procedural infractions were insufficient to nullify the award.

A division Bench comprising Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Shoba Annamma Eapen dismissed an intra-court appeal challenging a single judge’s ruling that affirmed an order from a Lok Adalat conducted by the Taluk Legal Service Authority, Kochi. The bench stated:

“The Constitution itself defines the scope of judicial review. Any regulation made invoking the statutory provision cannot enlarge or expand the scope and width of Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Nevertheless, taking note of the regulation as above, we are of the view that the intention of regulation allowing a challenge on a threshold by judicial review is on a well defined parameter under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and nothing else. Thus, procedural violation, affecting jurisdiction, the court may be able to interfere with such Award passed and mere violation itself will not be sufficient to hold that it would vitiate the award. To vitiate the award, it must be found that the authority have no competency under any other provisions to hold such Adalath to pass an Award.”

The Court clarified the essence of Regulation 12(3) of the National Legal Service Authority (Lok Adalat) Regulations, 2009, which permits a challenge to an award based on a settlement due to procedural violations specified in Section 20 (‘Cognizance of cases by Lok Adalats’) of the Legal Services Authorities Act.

The appellant contested the award, asserting that they consented to pay a specified sum but challenged it based on procedural breaches and alleged threats from the third respondent.

The appellant’s representatives referred to Regulation 12(3) of the Regulations, 2009 to argue that the right to challenge an award based on a settlement via Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution could be upheld.

However, the Court refuted these arguments, noting that Lok Adalats had the authority to issue awards within their jurisdiction, even if the matter was not pending before a court, as stipulated under Section 19(5) of the Act, 1987.

“In such circumstances, we cannot find any procedural lapse affecting the jurisdictional authority of Lok Adalat to pass such an Award. The court cannot interfere with such Award. The learned single judge rightly turned down the challenge,” it concluded, dismissing the appeal.

Related Post