The village panchayats constitute very old and traditional/administrative
institution in India. With the decline of Mughal Empire and advent of British
power, this institution lost its prestige and importance. But, during the later
part of the British period they made some effort to restore the condition of
village panchayat with Village Court Acts of 1888, which created panchayat
courts for the administration of justice.
The real effort, one can witness, was made only after independence, where a
separate provision was made in Article 40 of the Constitution of India, which
declares, The State shall take steps to organize village panchayat and endow
them with such power and authority as may be necessary to enable them to
function as units of self government
The aforesaid Article must be read with Article 39-A of the Constitution which
directs the State to 'secure that the operation of the legal system promotes
justice, on the basis of equal opportunity and shall in particular, provide free
legal aid, by suitable legislation of scheme or in any other way, to ensure that
opportunity for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of
economic or other disabilities'. Thanks to the seventy third amendments Act of
1992 the village panchayats have been blessed Constitutional status.
Nyaya Panchayats are the judicial components of the panchayat system, which
forms the lowest rung of our judiciary. They are created for the administration
of justice at the local or rural level.
Reasons for setting up Nyaya Panchayats The rationale behind setting up the Nyaya Panchayat is:
- Democratic decentralisation.
- Easy access to justice.
- Speedy disposal of cases.
- Inexpensive justice system.
- Revival of traditional village community life.
- Combination of judicial system and local self government.
- Reduction in pressure on Civil Courts.
However, according to the latest reports, this institution is functioning only
in handful of states.
Constitution of Nyaya PanchayatsNyaya Panchayats constitutes a Sarpanch as its head and few panchai (generally
it varies between10 to 30). Each member of Nyaya panchyat must be iterate and
must be of minimum 30 years of age. The appointment is based on nomination and
Jurisdiction of Nyaya PanchayatsIt has judicial functions both in civil as well as in criminal fields. It can
deal with several minor offences) like simple hurt, wrongful restraint, theft
etc, and punish an accused to pay fine. In civil matters nyaya panchayat have
jurisdiction in cases like suits for money and goods etc. The pecuniary limit of
such cases is very low.
Procedure in Nyaya PanchayatsThe procedure laid down for trial of cases has been so designed as to avoid
delays and technical difficulties. Therefore procedure followed in nyaya
panchayats is very simple and informal. The procedure codes like Code of Civil
Procedure, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act apply to the nyaya
panchyats. But, they have power to call witnesses and the parties for recording
their evidence or producing any relevant document or fact. Unlike courts, they
have the power to investigate the facts to find out the truth and at the same
time they have the power to punish for its contempt. Lawyers cannot appear
before a nyaya panchyat in anyl of its proceedings.
Advantages of nyaya panchayats over the regular courts
- They provide a inexpensive and expeditious mechanism to settle disputes.
- They provide relief to the ordinary courts as they lift the part of
burden of judicial work on their shoulders. In a way, they are emerged on
solution to the problem of mounting arrears of cases before the courts.
- They provide justice at the door steps for the village folks.
- They provide protection to the local customs and traditions.
- Panchayat System has a great educative value for the villagers.
Disadvantages of nyaya panchayats
- They are faction ridden institutions manned by laymen. Justice provided
by them is based on caste, community, personal or political considerations.
Therefore, chances of injustice cannot be ignored.
- It has been seen that panchas are often corrupt, partial and behave
improperly or rudely.
- They are laymen, therefore ignorant of law and they often give arbitrary
and irrational decisions.
- One cannot ignore that casteism and groupings are major features of
rural India and therefore the influence of these shades on the justice
cannot be According to 77th Report ofthe Law Commission, wherein it observed
that, it will be a backward step to revert to the premitive method of
administration of justice by taking out disputes to a group of ordinary
laymen ignorant of modern complexities of life and not conversant with legal
concepts and procedures.
The Mehta Committee did not get very enthusiastic response on the continuation
and working ofthe nyaya panchayat. It opposed the combination of judicial and
executive functions in one body and also recommended qualified judges to preside
over nyaya panchayat.
Suggestive Measures Law Commission in its 114th Report concluded with the
safeguards designed to ensure nyaya panchayats proper working and improvement.
These courts are capable of playing a very necessary and useful part in the
administration of justice in the country.
In this Report the Law Commission presented a new model for the establishment of
The suggested model is as follows:
- There should be a panchayat judge and two lay judges in a nyaya
panchayat. Where the panchayat judge should be legally trained person
belonging to the cadre of judges to be specifically set up for the purpose.
- In order to select legally trained judge for nyaya panchayats the state
shall constitute a special cadre of Judges that is panchayatiraj cadre of
- The lay judges should be nominated not elected.
- The-local jurisdiction of the gram nyayala would be over villages
comprised in a Taluka/Tehsil.
- There would be no monetary ceiling on its jurisdiction. A broad civil
jurisdiction should be given, and the criminal jurisdiction should be equal
to that of a judicial magistrate of first class.
- The nyaya panchayat would follow a simple procedure to dispose the
- Neither the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, nor the Indian Evidence Act,
1872 is to be applied in its procedure.
- In criminal trials, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is to be
applied but Indian Evidence Act, 1872 should not applicable.
- Lawyers should be permitted to appear before the nyaya panchyats.
- No appeal shall lie in civil cases from the decisions of the nyaya
panchayats. But a revision petitionjtnay lie to correct errors of law which
may have affected the decision of the nyaya panchayats to the district
- In criminal case, an appeal would lie to the sessions courts against the
decisions of the nyaya panchayats in which it was imposed a substantive
sentence of imprisonment.
Moreover, as was recommended by the Civil Justice Committee, each party may be
allowed to choose its own pancha and the Sarpancha or the Presiding Officer of
the Panchayat Court should have a casting vote.
Yet another improvement to ensure impartiality can be to bring the dispute
between two parties belonging to a particular village before the panchas
belonging to another village. This is possible when a few closely situated
villages decide to have one Nayaya Panchayat. The Panchas belonging to another
village will have no interest in the case or the dispute and will be in a
position to impart justice. Even, otherwise, there should be regular inspection
of the Nayaya Panchayat by the Tehsildar/Sub Divisional Officer or by the
District Munsif himself to ensure that the proceedings of the Nayaya Panchayat
are free from caste/faction consideration.
There should be a provision for an appeal to the Munsif in case any party feels
aggrieved by the decision. Such provision should be there to keep a check on the
functioning of the Panchayats. To ensure impartiality, the District Munsif
should have the power to transfer a case from a Panchayat and decide it himself.
It could be done on the request of a litigant who may feel that justice would be
denied to him by the village Panchayat. Such provision will act as a good check
on the function and performance of the Nayaya Panchayats.
When 65 percent of our population resides in rural India, there seems to be no
escape from some form of nyaya panchayat. We need an effective institution which
can provide justice near to the door steps for the rural India. Otherwise, the
justice will remain to be for the urban courts, which is far from the reach of
poor rural people. Therefore, to provide a semblance of justice, Nyaya
panchayats in some form have to be created on the basis of participation of the
people. The Seventy third amendment of the Constitution has given right
direction in this regard.
Gram Nyayalaya Act, 2008.
Access to justice by the poor and the disadvantaged remains a worldwide problem.
Article 39-A of the Constitution directs the State to secure that the operation
of the legal system promotes justice, on the basis of equal opportunity, and
shall, in particular provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes
or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not
denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
To give effect to the said mandate the Government has taken various measures to
strengthen the judicial system by simplifying the procedural laws, incorporating
various alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as arbitrator,
conciliation and mediation, conducting of Lok Adalats, etc., establishing Fast
Track Courts, special Courts and Tribunals/and providing free legal aid to the
poor, women and children.
To provide access to justice at the grass roots level, the Law Commission of
India in its one hundred fourteenth Reports on Gram Nyayalaya recommended
establishment of Gram Nyayalayas so that speedy, inexpensive and substantial
justice could be provided to the common man. Accordingly, the Government
introduced the Gram Nyayalayas Bill, 2007 in Rajva Sabha on fifteenth July, 2007
to give effect to the said recommendations of the Law Commissions.
The salient features of the present Bill are as follows:
- The Gram Nyayalaya shall be court of Judicial Magistrate of the first
class and its presiding officer (Nyayadhikari) shall be appointed by the
State Government in consultation with the High Court. The qualifications,
salary, terms and conditions of service of the Nyayadhikari shall be the
same as that of the Judicial Magistrate of the first class.
- The Gram Nyayalaya shall be established for every Panchayat af|
intermediate level or a group of contiguous Panchayats at intermediate level
in a district or where there is no Panchayat at inThe Gram Nyayalaya shall
be a mobile court and shall exercise the powers of both Criminal and Civil
Courts. The pecuniary jurisdiction of the civil suits, etc shall be notified
by the concerned High Court.termediate level if any State, for a group of
- 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 proposed Bill.
- The Central Government as well as the State Governments have been given
power to amend the First Schedule and the Second Schedule of the proposed
Bill as per their respective legislative competence.
- The Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure in criminal trial as
provided under sub-section (1) of Section 262 and Sections 262, 264 and 265
of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 with certain modifications and as
regards other matters which are not provided in the Bill, the provisions.of
the Code of Criminal Procedure shall be applicable.
- The Gram Nyayalaya shall exercise the powers of a Civil Court with
certain modifications and shall follow the special procedure as provided in
the Bill, as regards other matters which are not provided in the Bill, the
provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 shall be applicable.
- 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.
- The judgment and order passed by the Gram Nyayalaya shall be deemed to
be a decree and to avoid delay in its execution; the Gram Nyayalaya shall
follow summary procedure for its execution.
- The Gram Nyayalaya shall 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.
- An appeal from the judgment, sentence or order of the Gram Nyayalaya in
criminal cases, to the extent provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure,
1973 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.
- An appeal from the judgment and order of the Gram Nyayalaya in civil
cases, to the extent provided in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 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.
- A person accused of an offence may file an application for plea
bargaining in which such offence is pending trial and the same will be
disposed of by that Gram Nyayalaya in accordance with the provisions of
Chapter twenty one A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Mohd Aqib Aslam
Authentication No: SP26211584989-18-920