Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gram Nyayalaya bill passed by the Rajya Sabha

Media coverage which has been expectedly modest can be found here, here, here and here. (Why the many links? compensating for being unable to bring it to you live and as it happened, sansanati khej, sabse tez style. Maybe we can find one of the RS members and ask him how he's feeling)

This means 5067 more courts which prima facie should have been a good thing. I'm not sure if it will reduce pendency in courts significantly. This doubt I entertain as I seek to draw some kind of analogy with The Report by the Standing Committee on Personel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice on the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2008 which sought to increase the number of judges in the supreme court with a view to reducing pendency. (LSC made a representation to the same committee on a different issue last year, more on that later in this post and another post on that coming up). The problem of pendency in the opinion of the committee does not arise from the number of courts alone but also because of several other factors. The Gram Nyayalayas Bill, while admirable in its ambition doesn't seem to do much more than adding a bunch of courts rather than changing the way in which justice is delivered.

The courts which will be in the district headquarters or taluks will go to the villages in buses or jeeps and function there. The main concern I have with this is that this may go the way of village dispensaries which have an amazing 60% absence rate among the personnel supposed to be manning it.

Perhaps one should take heart from the statistics about Fast Track Courts which apparently reduced pendency greatly.

Union Law minister H R Bharadhwaj
"said he had sought the help of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh to send at least 3000 judges, who will be the judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) to the courts. They will be called ‘Nyaya Adhikaris.’ “They are strictly judicial officers. They will be drawing the same salary, deriving the same powers as the first class magistrates working under the High Courts,” he said in reply to the debate." - TOI

Now I have always been of the creed who believes that this kind of system might actually be upsetting the local, informal dispute resolution systems existing in the villages. I would have voted for a system of regularizing, standardizing and empowering these systems rather than introducing a new system all together. This brings me back to some of the recommendations I had made in front of the Parliamentary committee on that day. Keep visiting this blog for more on the same.

Vikram Hegde

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