On hearing the writ petition filed for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas, the court ordered the states to issue notification of the same within 4 weeks from the date of the order and to file the copies of the notification along with affidavits. The writ petition was filed before the Supreme Court of India seeking for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas as per section 3 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008.
In the year 2019, a writ petition was filed by the National Federation of Societies for fast justice and another, against the Union of India and the states praying for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas in the states as provided under the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008. The petitioner herein is an umbrella body with 115 registered societies working all over the country to educate people and spread awareness of their rights. It frequently conducts campaigns, workshops and also files public Interest Litigation pertaining to the issue that involves the interest of the public at large.
The petition filed by the petitioner contends that the 114th law commission report, 1986, recommended for the establishment of Gram Nayayalayas for the rural poor who are the victims of the current judicial system. Years after the report, the parliament passed the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 providing for its establishment at panchayat, district and state level. The purpose of establishing Gram Nyayalayas is to provide access to justice for the people belonging to marginalized section of the society thereby reducing their dependence on Extra- judicial systems and further to reduce the workload of the higher courts. The object of the act is “to provide for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas at the grass root level for the purpose of providing access to justice to citizens at their doorstep and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of social, economic or other disabilities.”
Key features of the act:
- Section 3 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 (hereinafter referred as ‘the Act’) provides for the state government to establish by notification, the Gram Nyayalayas at panchayat, District and state level after consulting the concerned state. It provides further states that the state government shall specify the jurisdiction of the Gram Nyayalayas.
- Section 5 & 6 of the Act provides for the appointment of Nyayadhikari for the Gram Nyayalayas who shall be a person eligible for the appointment of judicial Magistrate of First Class.
- Section 9 of the Act provides for the mobile courts to enable access of justice at their doorstep.
- As per section 11,12, and 13, the Gram Nyayalayas is conferred with civil and criminal jurisdiction
- In order to reduce the workload of the District court, the high court is conferred with the power to transfer the eligible cases from District court to the Gram Nyayalayas as per section 16 of the Act.
- For the purpose of speedy justice, section 19 of the Act provides for summary trials in criminal cases
- Section 20 of the Act deals with Plea Bargaining
- Special procedure for summary trials has been prescribed under section 24 of the Act.
- Section 26 of the Act casts the duty on the Gram Nyayalayas to promote conciliation and settlement of disputes.
- The Act also provides for the adjudication of matters that are generally not litigated such us dispute relating to payment of wages under MNRGEA and Anganwadi workers etc.
The Evaluation Study of the Scheme of establishment and operationalizing Gram Nyayalayas, sponsored by the Ministry of Law and Justice and conducted by the National Productivity Council reported that against 304 Gram Nyayalayas notified only 204 Gram Nyayalayas are in function. The petition further contended that the Non-establishment of Gram Nyayalayas defeats the very purpose of the act. It further quoted the judgment of the Supreme Court in Anita Kushawaha vs. Pushap sadan, wherein the court held that ‘Access to justice’ as fundamental right. Hence the petition stated that failure on the part of the state to establish Gram Nyayalayas violates the fundamental rights provided under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The writ petition prayer for issuing Writ of Mandamus and such other order that fits the situation directing the state to take immediate steps for establishing Gram Nyaylayas as specified under section 3 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008. Further the writ petition sought to direct the Union of India to provide financial assistance for fulfilling the purpose of the act.
1. Upon hearing both sides, the court remarked that states that were directed to file affidavits in the previous hearing had failed to file the same and hence the defaulting states shall deposit Rs. 1,00,000/- with the registrar(Judicial) within one week from the date of the order while also filing their affidavits.
2. The court observed that only some states have notified for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas, whereas in some states, the notification of establishing the same are pending before the High Courts for Consultation. However some states have not even initiated the process of establishing Gram Nyayalayas.
Hence, the court directed the states that had not initiated the process to establish Gram Nyayalayas to issue notification for the same within 4 weeks from the date of order and further file the copies of the notification along with affidavit. Further it directed the Chief Justice of the High Courts to expedite the process of consultation regarding the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas that are pending before them. The court also directed the Union of India to consider the Evaluation Study of the Scheme of establishment and operationalizing Gram Nyayalayas, that recommends for the financial assistance and further directed to submit the views of the government regarding the same. While ordering to list the writ petition after 4 weeks, the court directed the registry to communicate the above order to the Chief Justice of all High Courts and Chief Secretaries of all the states through mail and speed post instantly.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
1. Writ petition No. ___ of 2019, National Federation of Societies for fast justice and another Union of India and others, Supreme Court of India, https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/pdf_upload-363935.pdf (last visited on 3rd February, 2020)
2. Writ petition No. ___ of 2019, National Federation of Societies for fast justice and another Union of India and others, Supreme Court of India, Order dated 29/01/2020, https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/pdf_upload-369756.pdf, (last visited on 3rd February, 2020)
3. Issue Notifications For Establishing Gram Nyayalayas Within Four Weeks, SC Tells States, https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/issue-notifications-for-establishing-gram-nyayalayas-within-four-weeks-152271 (last visited on 3rd February, 2020)