7,000 courts-on-wheels to bring justice to rural litigants
New Delhi, Feb 2: Some 7,000 courts-on-wheels will start visiting villages across India to hear complaints and dispose of cases within months under a proposed law, ministers and court officials from around the country have been told.The proposed village courts will offer conciliation and mediation, besides adjudicating civil and criminal disputes, a conference of state law ministers and secretaries and high court registrars was told yesterday. The mobile village courts are sought to be set up under the gram nyayalayas bill 2007 already introduced in parliament and studied by its department-related standing committee.
Opening the day-long meet, Law and Justice Minister, Mr Hans Raj Bhardwaj indicated that enactment would be pursued in the coming budget session. Mr Bhardwaj said the idea was to reduce litigation while bringing justice to villagers’ doorsteps through a fast track system.
The move is intended to bring relief to millions of rural Indians with inadequate access to courts which function from district level upwards and are weighed down by close to 30 million pending cases. Delays are not the only issue in access, which is also affected by such factors as the absence of a clear fee schedule for lawyers.
The meet called by the law and justice ministry discussed time-frame and financial arrangements for the nyayalayas. Officials said the central government planned to bear non-recurring expenditure for setting up gram nyayalayas and half the recurring expenditure for the first three years.
The presiding officers of these courts to be hired by state authorities will travel periodically to the villages. “Nyayadhikari will periodically visit the villages falling under his jurisdiction and conduct proceedings at any place which he considers is in close proximity to the place where the parties ordinarily reside,” the bill says.
It entails that the trial of offences by the nyayalaya ‘’be, as far as may be, on a day-to-day basis’’ and cases ‘’disposed of within... Ninety days’’ of institution.
The proposed nyayalaya won’t have jurisdiction to take cognisance of:
— a dispute by or against the central government or the state government or public servant for anything which is in good faith done or purported to have been done in official capacity;
— a dispute where one of the parties is a minor or a person of unsound mind; and
— any claim cognisable by revenue courts.
Mr Bhardwaj said hiring presiding officers for proposed mobile courts will be the states’ prerogative as per norms to be set by respective high courts and urged delegates to help make the gram nayayalaya project work.