GRAM NYAYALAYAS/FAMILY COURTS

GRAM NYAYALAYAS/FAMILY COURTS

“As enshrined in preamble, equality and justice are indisputably two key facets of the idea of a constitution of India”.

Context – Supreme Court has directed all the states to come out with notifications for establishing ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ within a month and has asked the HC to expedite the process of consultation with state governments on this issue.

 

BACKGROUND AND EVOLUTION
  • 39A (Added by 42nd CAA 1976) in DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY (Part IV) of Indian constitution directs the State “to ensure equal justice on a basis of equal opportunity and shall provide free legal aid”.
  • 114th Report of the Law Commission (1986) recommended setting up of Gram Nyayalayas (mobile village courts) at the grass root levels.
  • Gram Nyayalayas Act 2008 came into force on October 2, 2009 (On eve of Gandhi Jayanti).
  • However, presently only 11 states have taken steps to notify Gram Nyayalayas so far.
  • Only 208 Gram Nyayalayas are functioning in the country.
  • Moreover, not a single Gram Nyayalayas have become operationalin North- Eastern States.

 

ABOUT GRAM NYAYALAYAS 
  • Statutory and Quasi-judicial body est. by Gram Nyayalayas Act 2008.
  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall be court of Judicial Magistrate of the first class.

 

ABOUT GRAM NYAYALAYAS 
  • Provide access to justice to the most marginalized sections of the society.
  • To reduce barriers to access in terms of distance, time & associated costs w.r.t. justice.
  • Alternate Dispute redressal mechanism- Arbitration-conciliation-mediation
  • Reduce delay by providing timely and speedy summary procedure.
  • To ensure cheap, affordable and effective justice to downtrodden starts of society.
  • Reduce workload on higher tiers of judiciary.
  • Implementing DPSP as envisaged in 39A.

 

STRUCTURE AND ORGANISATION
  • It is established for every Panchayat at intermediate level or a group of contiguous Panchayats at intermediate level in a district.
  • The State Government, in consultation with the High Court, notifies the boundaries of the area under the jurisdiction of a Gram Nyayalaya. It can also alter such limits at any time.
  • It can hold mobile courts in villages falling under its jurisdiction and State Government shall extend all required facilities.

 

APPOINTMENT OF PRESIDING OFFICER
  • The State Government shall appoint a presiding officer called Nyay Adhikari for every Gram Nyayalaya in consultation with the High Court, who will be a person eligible to be appointed as a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class.
  • The salary and other allowances along with the other terms and conditions of service shall be on the same lines as well.
  • Representation shall be given to the members of the SC, ST, women and others.

 

JURISDICTION, POWERS AND AUTHORITY
  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall be a mobile court and shall exercise the powers of both Criminal and Civil Courts.
  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the First Schedule and the Second Schedule to the Act.
  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall exercise the powers of a Civil Court with certain modifications and shall follow the special procedure as provided in the Act.
  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall try to settle the disputes as far as possible by bringing about conciliation between the parties and for this purpose. It shall make use of the conciliators to be appointed for this purpose.
  • Gram Nyayalaya can try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the Act. For e.g. Offences not punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years.
  • Gram Nyayalaya is not bound by the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but is guided by the principles of natural justice and is subject to any rule made by the HIGH COURT.

NOTE – The nature of jurisdiction specified in the Act can be amended by both the central and state governments.

 

SUMMARY PROCEDURE FOLLOWED BY GRAM NYAYALAYA
  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure in criminal trial.
  • The judgment and order passed by the Gram Nyayalaya shall be deemed to be a decree and to avoid delay in its execution. Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure for its execution.
Meaning of Summery Procedure– It is legal procedure used for enforcing a right that takes effect faster and more efficiently than ordinary methods. The legal papers- a court order, for example – used to achieve an expeditious resolution of the controversy.

 

APPEAL AGAINST JUDGEMENTS OF GRAM NYAYALAYA
  • For criminal case – shall be taken to the Court of Session.
  • For civil case – shall be taken to District court.
  • Appeals in both cases have to be heard and disposed of within six months.

 

ISSUES PLAGUING PERFORMANCE OF THE GRAM NYAYALAYAS
  • Inadequate enforcement of Act – only 208 functional Gram Nyayalayas in only 11 states of the country against a target of 5000 such courts.
  • Financial constraints, reluctance of lawyers, police officials and other State functionaries to invoke jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas, lukewarm response of the Bar, infrastructure and security are grossly inadequate.
  • Some of the Gram Nyayalayas are established in cities/towns along with other regular courts having parallel jurisdiction.g. in Indore.
  • Majority of States have now regularised courts at Taluk level, thus reducing the demand for Gram Nyayalayas.
  • Issues of vacancies and inordinate delays in awarding judgement.
  • Absence of a separate cadre of Gram Nyay Adhikari, the Gram Nyayalayas are presided over by First Class Judicial Magistrates or Civil Judges, who are already overburdened with their regular judicial work.
  • There is ambiguity and confusion and overlapping regarding the specific jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas, due to the existence of alternative forums such as labour courts, family courts, etc.
  • Negligible cases disposed by Gram Nyayalayas – They do not make any substantial difference in the overall pendency in the subordinate courts.
  • Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee Report-Expressed dismay that the Gram Nyayalayas which were supposed to usher in a revolution at the lowest level of the judicial system were being held back because of fund sharing problem between the Central and the State Governments.

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY OF GRAM NYAYALAYAS
  • Act should be amended- Jurisdiction of the Gram Nyayalayas may be redefined in order to remove the ambiguities regarding the jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas.
  • Training of Gram Nyay Adhikari- Apart from the legal and procedural requirements of Gram Nyayalayas, training may also include the local language of the community amongst whom they are posted.
  • Infrastructure and Security- Separate building for the functioning of the Gram Nyayalaya as well as for the accommodation of the staff.
  • Awareness generation and capacity building among various stakeholders
  • Creation of a regular cadre of Gram Nyay Adhikari- This could be made a compulsory service for a certain period for a newly recruited judicial officer to the regular cadre of first class judicial magistrates or civil judges.
  • Establishment of permanent Gram Nyayalayas- Gram Nyayalayas may be established in every Panchayats at intermediate level or group of contiguous Panchayats at intermediate level depending upon the number of disputes which normally arise from that area.

 

CONCLUSION/WAY FORWARD
  • Barring shortcomings, the institution of Gram Nyayalayas has been a positive step. The policy makers need to review, reflect and act upon the suggestions offered by stakeholders and firmly resolve to fulfil the mandate of the Act.

 

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