The Central Government has decided that the provisions of the Gram Nyayalayas Act shall come into force in the areas to which this Act extends on October 2, 2009 i.e. the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 has been enacted to provide for the establishment of the Gram Nyayalayas at the grass roots level for the purpose of providing access to justice to the citizens at their door steps.
The salient features of the Gram Nyayalayas Act are as follows:—
(i) Gram Nyayalayas are aimed at providing inexpensive justice to people in rural areas at their doorsteps;
(ii) 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;
(iii) the Gram Nyayalaya shall be established for every Panchayat at intermediate level or a group of contiguous Panchayats at intermediate level in a district or where there is no Panchayat at intermediate level in any State, for a group of contiguous Panchayats;
(iv) the Nyayadhikaris who will preside over these Gram Nyayalayas are strictly judicial officers and will be drawing the same salary, deriving the same powers as First Class Magistrates working under High Courts;
(v) the Gram Nyayalaya shall be a mobile court and shall exercise the powers of both Criminal and Civil Courts;
(vi) the seat of the Gram Nyayalaya will be located at the headquarters of the intermediate Panchayat, they will go to villages, work there and dispose of the cases;
(vii) 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 Act;
(viii) the Central as well as the State Governments have been given power to amend the First Schedule and the Second Schedule of the Act, as per their respective legislative competence;
(ix) the Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure in criminal trial;
(x) the Gram Nyayalaya shall exercise the powers of a Civil Court with certain modifications and shall follow the special procedure as provided in the Act;
(xi) 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;
(xii) 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;
(xiii) 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;
(xiv) 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;
(xv) 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;
(xvi) a person accused of an offence may file an application for plea bargaining.
The Central Government has decided to meet the non-recurring expenditure on the establishment of these Gram Nyayalayas subject to a ceiling of Rs. 18.00 lakhs out of which Rs. 10.00 lakhs is for construction of the court, Rs. 5.00 lakhs for vehicle and Rs. 3.00 lakhs for office equipment. Government has also estimated that the Gram Nyayalayas upon establishment would incur a recurring expenditure of Rs. 6.4 lakhs per annum on salaries etc. and proposes to share such recurring expenditure with the State Government for the first three years within this ceiling.
More than 5000 Gram Nyayalayas are expected to be set up under the Act for which the Central Government would provide about Rs.1400 crores by way of assistance to the concerned States/Union Territories.
The Government is working out a roadmap for judicial reforms. The setting up of Gram Nyayalayas will be an important measure to reduce arrears. There are as many as 2.6 crores of arrears and the Gram Nyayalayas are likely to reduce around 50 % of the pendency of cases in subordinate courts and also to take care of the new litigations which will be disposed within six months. This measure will usher in great revolution in disposal of cases and also to take justice to the doorsteps of the common man.
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