Estate Officer vs Colonel H.V. Mankotia (Retired) on 7 October, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Estate Officer vs Colonel H.V. Mankotia (Retired) on 7 October, 2021

Author: M.R. Shah

Bench: M.R. Shah, A.S. Bopanna

                                                                              REPORTABLE


                                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                     CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                      CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6223 OF 2021


         Estate Officer                                                   …Appellant(s)

                                                    Versus


         Colonel H.V. Mankotia (Retired)                               …Respondent(s)


                                                JUDGMENT

M.R. SHAH, J.

1. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned order dated

30.11.2013 passed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Bench at

Indore in Writ Petition No. 8074 of 2011 by which in a Lok Adalat held on

30.11.2013, the members of the Lok Adalat has entered into the merits

of the writ petition and has dismissed the said writ petition preferred by

the appellant on merits, the original writ petitioner has preferred the

present appeal.

2.
Signature Not Verified
That the appellant herein filed a writ petition before the High Court
Digitally signed by R
Natarajan

being Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011.

Date: 2021.10.07
16:34:47 IST
Reason:

The matter was listed on

30.11.2013 before the Lok Adalat. By the impugned order, the members

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of the Lok Adalat held by the High Court entered into the merits of the

writ petition and dismissed the same on merits, which is the subject

matter of the present appeal.

2.1 That thereafter the appellant filed the restoration application before

the High Court to restore the main writ petition submitting that the order

passed in the Lok Adalat is beyond the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat and,

therefore, the same is not legal in the eyes of law. However, the said

application came to be dismissed by the High Court and hence the

present appeal.

3. Shri Vikramjit Banerjee, learned ASG appearing on behalf of the

appellant has vehemently submitted that the impugned order has been

passed in the Lok Adalat and the Lok Adalat, Madhya Pradesh High

Court has considered the case on merits and dismissed the same on

merits, which is wholly impermissible in view of the relevant provisions of

the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (hereinafter referred to as “the

Act, 1987”). Shri Banerjee, learned ASG has heavily relied upon Section

19(5), Section 20(3) and Section 20(5) of the Act, 1987 in support of his

submission that a Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine and to

arrive at a compromise or a settlement between the parties to a dispute

and has no jurisdiction to enter into the merits of the case and decide the

matter on merits, in case the settlement is not arrived at. It is
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submitted, therefore, that the impugned order passed by the Lok Adalat,

Madhya Pradesh High Court is wholly without jurisdiction. Reliance is

placed upon the decision of this Court in the case of State of Punjab

and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj (2006) 8 SCC 364.

3.1 Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent while

opposing the present appeal has submitted that the matter was placed

before the Lok Adalat with the consent of the learned counsel for the

appellant. It is submitted that, therefore, once the matter was placed

before the Lok Adalat with the consent, entire matter would be at large

before the Lok Adalat and, therefore, having found no substance in the

petition, the members of the Lok Adalat have rightly dismissed the writ

petition, which in the facts and circumstances of the case is not required

to be interfered with by this Court in exercise of power under Article 136

of the Constitution.

4. Heard the learned counsel for the respective parties at length.

5. The short question which is posed for consideration of this Court is

whether in the Lok Adalat held by the High Court, was it open for the

members of the Lok Adalat to enter into the merits of the writ petition and

to dismiss the same on merits, in absence of any settlement arrived at

between the parties?

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6. While answering the aforesaid question, the relevant provisions of

the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, which would have been a

bearing on the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat are required to be referred

to, which read as under:-

“19. Organization of Lok Adalats–(1) Every State
Authority or District Authority or the Supreme Court Legal
Services Committee or every High Court Legal Services
Committee or, as the case may be, Taluk Legal Services
Committee may organise Lok Adalats at such intervals
and places and for exercising such jurisdiction and for
such areas as it thinks fit.

(2) Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall
consist of such number of :-

(a) serving or retired judicial officers; and

(b) other persons,

of the area as may be specified by the State Authority or
the District Authority or the Supreme Court Legal Services
Committee or the High Court Legal Services Committee,
or as the case may be, the Taluk Legal Services
Committee, organising such Lok Adalats.

(3) The experience and qualifications of other
persons referred to in clause (b) of sub-section (2) for Lok
Adalats organised by the Supreme Court Legal Services
Committee shall be such as may be prescribed by the
Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice
of India.

(4) The experience and qualifications of other
persons referred to in clause (b) of sub-section (2) for Lok
Adalats other than referred to in sub-section (3) shall be
such as may be prescribed by the State Government in
consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.

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(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 of :-

(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.

Provided that the Lok Adalat shall have no
jurisdiction in respect of any case or matter relating to an
offence not compoundable under any law.

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)

(i) (a) the parties thereof agree; or

(i) (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 is 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

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(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 advice 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).”

6.1 As per sub-section (5) of Section 19, a Lok Adalat shall have

jurisdiction to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a settlement

between the parties to a dispute in respect of (i) any case pending
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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. As

per sub-section (1) of Section 20 where in any case referred to in clause

(i) of sub-section (5) of Section 19- (i) (a) the parties thereof agree; or (i)

(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 is

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. It further provides 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.

6.2 As per sub-section (3) of Section 20 where any case is referred to

a Lok Adalat under sub-section (1) or where a reference is 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. Sub-section (5) of Section 20 further provides that 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.
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7. Thus, a fair reading of the aforesaid provisions of the Legal

Services Authorities Act, 1987 makes it clear that the jurisdiction of the

Lok Adalat would be to determine and to arrive at a compromise or a

settlement between the parties to a dispute and once the aforesaid

settlement / compromise fails and no compromise or settlement could

be arrived at between the parties, the Lok Adalat has to return the case

to the Court from which the reference has been received for disposal in

accordance with law and in any case, the Lok Adalat has no jurisdiction

at all to decide the matter on meris once it is found that compromise or

settlement could not be arrived at between the parties.

8. Identical question came to be considered by this Court in the case

of State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Ganpat Raj (supra) and after

considering Section 20 of the Act, 1987, it is observed and held in

paragraph 7 as under:-

“7. The specific language used in sub-section (3) of
Section 20 makes it clear that the Lok Adalat can dispose
of a matter by way of a compromise or settlement
between the parties. Two crucial terms in sub-sections (3)
and (5) of Section 20 are “compromise” and “settlement”.

The former expression means settlement of differences
by mutual concessions. It is an agreement reached by
adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims by reciprocal
modification of demands. As per Termes de la Ley,
“compromise is a mutual promise of two or more parties
that are at controversy”. As per Bouvier it is “an
agreement between two or more persons, who, to avoid a
law suit, amicably settle their differences, on such terms
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as they can agree upon”. The word “compromise” implies
some element of accommodation on each side. It is not
apt to describe total surrender. (See NFU Development
Trust Ltd., Re [(1973) 1 All ER 135 : (1972) 1 WLR 1548
(Ch D)] ). A compromise is always bilateral and means
mutual adjustment. “Settlement” is termination of legal
proceedings by mutual consent. The case at hand did not
involve compromise or settlement and could not have
been disposed of by the Lok Adalat. If no compromise or
settlement is or could be arrived at, no order can be
passed by the Lok Adalat. Therefore, the disposal of Civil
Writ Petition No. 943 of 2000 filed by the respondent is
clearly impermissible.”

9. In view of the above, the impugned order passed by the Lok Adalat

dismissing the writ petition on merits is unsustainable and deserves to

be quashed and set aside. The submission made by the learned

counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent that once the matter was

placed before the Lok Adalat with consent, thereafter the entire matter is

at large before the Lok Adalat and, therefore, the Lok Adalat is justified in

disposing the matter on merits has no substance and the same is

required to be rejected outright. The consent to place the matter before

the Lok Adalat was to arrive at a settlement and or a compromise

between the parties and not for placing the matter before the Lok Adalat

for deciding the matter on merits. Once there is no compromise and/or a

settlement between the parties before the Lok Adalat, as provided in

sub-section (5) of Section 20, the matter has to be returned to the Court

from where the matter was referred to Lok Adalat for deciding the matter

on merits by the concerned court.

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10. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the

impugned order passed by the Lok Adalat, Madhya Pradesh High Court

dated 30.11.2013 in Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011 is hereby quashed

and set aside. The matter is remanded to the High Court to decide the

Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011 on merits and in accordance with law. The

Writ Petition No.8074 of 2011 is ordered to be restored to the file of the

High Court for its decision on merits and in accordance with law. The

present appeal is accordingly allowed. In the facts and circumstances of

the case, there shall be no order as to costs.

Pending applications, if any, also stand disposed of.

………………………………….J.

                                            [M.R. SHAH]



NEW DELHI;                               ………………………………….J.
OCTOBER 07, 2021.                           [A.S. BOPANNA]




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