News Excerpt
Recently, the Supreme Court has directed the states, which are yet to come out with notifications for establishing ''Gram Nyayalayas'', within four weeks, and asked the high courts to expedite the process of consultation with state governments on this issue.

•    An Act passed by Parliament in 2008 provided for setting up of ''Gram Nyayalayas'' at the grass roots level for providing speedy access to justice to citizens at the doorstep and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to anyone by reason of social, economic or other disabilities.
•    The bench noted that certain states including Haryana, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh have not yet filed their affidavits on the issue despite the court’s direction last year
•    Overall, only 208 Gram Nyayalayas are functioning across the country, as against the required 2500 as per the 12th five-year plan.

    Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice and others, placed before the bench the state-wise data showing the steps taken by the authorities for establishing and functioning of ''Gram Nyayalayas'' under the 2008 Act.
    Currently, as per the report submitted, Goa has issued two notifications regarding the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas but none are functioning. Haryana has issued notifications for 3 Gram Nyayalayas but only two are functional.
    Jharkhand had issued notifications for 6 but only one is functioning and Uttar Pradesh, which had to establish 822, had notified 113 Gram Nyayalayas but only 14 are functioning.
    The major reason behind the non-enforcement includes financial constraints, reluctance of lawyers, police officials and other State functionaries to invoke jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas, lukewarm response of the Bar, non-availability of notaries and stamp vendors etc. are some of the issues indicated by the States which are coming in the way of operationalisation of the Gram Nyayalayas.
    There has been no comprehensive empirical assessment of the success of diversion strategies towards reducing delay in the formal legal system.
    In the absence of a separate cadre of Gram Nyayadhikari, the Gram Nyayalayas are presided over by First Class Judicial Magistrates or Civil Judges (grade I or grade II) or in a few cases Chief Judicial Magistrates who are already over burdened with their regular judicial work.
    Further, the spirit of the legislation requires that as far as possible Gram Nyayalayas should be established where it would be of maximum utility to the villagers. But in practice some of the Gram Nyayalayas are established in cities/towns along with other regular courts having parallel jurisdiction. For example, in Indore the Gram Nyayalaya functions within the regular court premises.
    The infrastructure and security are grossly inadequate.
    Many of the stakeholders including the litigants, lawyers, police officers and others are not even aware about the existence of Gram Nyayalayas in the district court premises and no conferences or seminars have been organized for creating awareness about this institution.
     The number of cases disposed by Gram Nyayalayas is negligible and that they do not make any substantial difference in the overall pendency in the subordinate courts.

    Access to justice by the poor and disadvantaged remains a worldwide problem despite diverse approaches and strategies that have been formulated and implemented to address it.
    Also, Justice to the poor at their doorstep is a dream of the poor.
    Hence, speedy setting up of Gram Nyayalayas in the rural areas would bring to the people of rural areas speedy, affordable and substantial justice.

Gram Nyayalaya
    Gram Nyayalaya is a mobile court and exercises the powers of both Criminal and Civil Courts. The seat of the Gram Nyayalaya will be located at the headquarters of the intermediate Panchayat, but they will go to villages, work there and dispose of the cases.
    It can try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the First Schedule and the Second Schedule to the Gram Nyayalaya Act and the scope of these cases can be amended by the Central as well as the State Governments, as per their respective legislative competence;
    The Gram Nyayalaya are supposed to try to settle the disputes as far as possible by bringing about conciliation between the parties.
    The judgment and order passed by the Gram Nyayalaya are deemed to be a decree and to avoid delay in its execution, the Gram Nyayalaya can follow summary procedure for its execution.
    Gram Nyayalaya are courts of Judicial Magistrate of the first class and its presiding officer (Nyayadhikari) is appointed by the State Government in consultation with the High Court of the State concerned; The Nyayadhikaris who will preside over these Gram Nyayalayas are strictly judicial officers and will be drawing the same salary and deriving the same powers as First Class Magistrates working under High Courts.
    The Gram Nyayalaya will not be bound by the rules of evidence provided in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and subject to any rule made by the High Court;
    Appeal in criminal cases shall lie to the Court of Session, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of such appeal. Appeal in civil cases shall lie to the District Court, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of the appeal.

Art 39A, Lok Adalat, Nyaya Panchayat