State of Punjab & Ors Vs.
Phulan Rani and Anr  Insc 422 (3 August 2004)
Arijit Pasayat & C.K.
Thakker (Arising out of Slp) No. 17738/2003) Arijit Pasayat, J Leave Granted.
A simple matter has unnecessarily been complicated as a result of which there
has been inordinate delay in disposing of the matter.
A writ petition No.13555/1994 was filed by respondent No.1. Phulan Rani. She
had claimed pension payable after demise of her husband who was employed as a
Tubewell operator. The services of late Mohinder Singh Walia were terminated
some time in the year 1983 on the ground that Tubewells Punjab Irrigation
Department was transferred to the Punjab State Tubewell Corporation (respondent
No.2 herein). However, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana directed re-appointment
of late Mohinder Singh Walia and consequentially he was absorbed in the Punjab
State Tubewell Corporation. According to Phulan Devi, her husband died on
18.12.1992 after retirement in 1989. The claim of pension having been rejected
by the Corporation and the State, she filed a Civil Writ Petition No.13555/94
which came to be disposed of by Lok Adalat on 18.1.2000. The State of Punjab
filed a review application taking the stand that it was not properly
represented in the proceedings. In any event, there being dispute about
entitlement of the pension, the writ petition could not have been disposed of
by the Lok Adalat. The review petition was rejected on 8.9.2000. A writ
petition was filed by the State of Punjab before the Punjab and Haryana High
Court questioning legality of the disposal by the Lok Adalat. The writ petition
was numbered as Civil Writ Petition No.4708/2002. The High Court held that even
if it is accepted that the disposal by the Lok Adalat was not the proper
course, yet on merits the respondent no.1 herein was entitled to relief.
In support of the appeal, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that
the matter could not have been disposed of by the Lok Adalat in view of the
specific provisions contained in Section 20 of The Legal Services Authorities
Act, 1987 (in short the 'Act').
Per contra, Mr. S.D. Sharma, learned senior counsel for respondent No.1
submitted that the High Court has rightly proceeded on the basis that even if
the matter could not have been disposed of by the Lok Adalat, there is nothing
wrong, in the ultimate result holding that she was entitled to pension.
The matters which can be taken up by the Lok Adalat for disposal are
enumerated in Section 20 of the Act which reads as follows:
"Cognizance of cases by Lok Adalats:- (1) Where in any case referred to
in clause (i) of sub-section (5) of Section 19- (i)(a) the parties thereof
agree; or (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 organizing 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 (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)." 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 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 Re NFU Development Trust Ltd.
(1973) 1 All ER 135(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 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 the Writ Petition No. 13555/1994 filed by respondent No.1 is
What was challenged in Writ Petition 4708/2002 to which this appeal relates
related to the powers of disposal of cases by the Lok Adalat. In view of
findings recorded that matter could not have been disposed of by the Lok
Adalat, High Court ought to have directed restoration of writ petition filed by
Phulan Devi i.e. Civil Writ Petition No. 13555/1994 for disposal in accordance
Learned counsel for the respondent No.1 submitted that prevaricating stands
have been taken by the State and the Corporation. It is really of no
consequence in view of the clear language contained in sub-section (3) and (5)
of Section 20.
The inevitable result is that appeal has to be allowed. The impugned
judgment is set aside. It cannot be lost sight of that a matter relating to
pension is pending for long. Let Writ Petition 13555/94 be restored to its
original position. The High Court is requested to dispose of the writ petition
within a period of three months from the date of receipt of this order. The
appeal is allowed in the aforesaid terms with no order as to costs.