2 Oct 2009

Gram Nyayalayas Act becomes effective !!!

Enacted with the intent of "providing access to justice to the citizens at their doorsteps and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of social, economic or other disabilities and for matters connected therewith", the Gram Nyayalayas Act of 2008 has come into force this Gandhi Jayanti. 

Applicable to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the State of Nagaland, the State of Arunachal Pradesh, the State of Sikkim and to the tribal areas, the Act provides for the "establishment of Gram Nyayalayas at the grass roots level". 

Under the Act, it is the responsibility of the respective State Governments to establish, in consultation with its High Court, gram nyayalayas at the panchayat level and define their jurisdiction. Generally the headquarters of every Gram Nyayalaya shall be located at the headquarters of the intermediate Panchayat in which the Gram Nyayalaya is established and these nyayalayas would be presided by an officer called Nyayadhikari, who would also be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the High Court. The only qualification prescribed for being a Nyayadhikari is that "he is eligible to be appointed as a Judicial Magistrate of the first class". 

The scheme of the Act, in intending to providing access to justice to the citizens at the grass-root level is that the "Nyayadhikari shall periodically visit the villages falling under his jurisdiction and conduct trial or proceedings at any place which he considers is in close proximity to the place where the parties ordinarily reside or where the whole or part of the cause of action had arisen." The State Government has been mandated to "extend all facilities to the Gram Nyayalaya including the provision of vehicles for holding mobile court by the Nyayadhikari while conducting trial or proceedings outside its headquarters."

Overriding the general procedural laws applicable in the country, the Act provides that the Gram Nyayalaya shall exercise criminal jurisdiction by following the procedure of 'summary trial' in respect of the offence which are specified in the schedule to the Act. The concept of 'plea bargaining' has also been extended to the Gram Nyayalayas. Almost similar measures have been provided for determination of civil disputes.

Calling for quick justice, it would be the duty of the Nyayadhikari to pronounce the judgment in every trial in open court immediately after the termination of the trial or at the most within the next fifteen days and hand over a copy of the judgment free of cost to the parties. Bringing it really close to the people, the Act also prescribes that the proceedings before the Gram Nyayalaya and its judgment shall be in one of the official languages of the State other than the English language.

Appeals from the decisions of the Gram Nyayalayas shall lie to the District and Sessions Court which is supposed to dispose off the appeal within six months. No further appeal from the District and Sessions Court is provided, leading to the culmination of the dispute.  

It has also been entrusted to the Gram Nyayalaya to make attempts "to assist, persuade and conciliate the parties in arriving at a settlement". In this regard the Act also provides that District Court, in consultation with the District Magistrate, shall prepare a panel consisting of the names of social workers at the village level having integrity for appointment as Conciliators who possess such qualifications and experience such that conciliatory attempts can be made in these proceedings.

Giving teeth to these proceedings, the Act mandates the police officers, revenue officers and government officers to provide assistance to Gram Nyayalaya to carry out their functions. 

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