Bihar plans training sessions to empower village courts

Published on Jun 15, 2022 09:43 PM IST

Under the Panchayati Raj Act, Gram Kachaharis are empowered to hear cases under 40 bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Bengal Gambling Act, 1867 and sections 24 & 26 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1871.

The training session will commence with an address by chief minister Nitish Kumar to the newly elected panchayat representatives. (PTI)
The training session will commence with an address by chief minister Nitish Kumar to the newly elected panchayat representatives. (PTI)
By, Patna

Bihar government is organising training sessions for jurors of Gram Kachahari (village courts) in June-end in a bid to strengthen the justice delivery system at the grassroots level, which could help take the load off the courts and police, officials familiar with the matter said.

Also, a state-level orientation programme for newly elected representatives of the panchayati raj system, including mukhiya, sarpanch and others will commence from June 16 in Patna and will be webcast across the state down to the panchayat level. It will commence with an address by chief minister Nitish Kumar to the newly elected panchayat representatives.

As per the Bihar Panchayati Raj Act, 2006, the government has to impart training to the members of the village courts, including sarpanch, his deputy (up-sarpanch) and its members and secretary, so that they could resolve certain types of disputes at the panchayat level itself through mutual understanding and goodwill without the involvement of police and courts.

Under the Act, Gram Kachaharis are empowered to hear cases under 40 bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Bengal Gambling Act, 1867 and sections 24 & 26 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1871.

The matters before a village court are heard by a bench of five Pancha (jurors). As per the provisions, each of the two contending parties nominate a “Panch” on the bench, while two members are nominated by the Sarpanch, who heads the bench. In the absence of Sarpanch, deputy Sarpanch heads the bench. If a Sarpanch has a reason to suspect that any particular act may cause breach of peace, he/she can issue a written order to any person refraining him from indulging in such an act. Gram Kachahari has the power to impose a fine of up to 1,000, though it has no power to pass order for imprisonment.

It has no power to take cognisance against a government servant or any office bearer of the Gram Kachahari. The person affected by the decision of the Gram Kachahari may appeal before the full bench of seven members within 30 days of the decision.

“The purpose behind giving judicial authority to Gram Kachahari is to expedite delivery of justice at the grassroots and reduce cost of litigation. Besides, delivery of justice will be quick. But to ensure that justice is done in a proper manner, the members need to be trained to make them aware of their rights and duties. Bihar is the first state that came up with the Gram Kachahari concept after 2006,” said Ram Niwas Prasad, a retired district judge .

The first time the village court members were imparted training was in 2017. “Village courts have tackled over two lakh cases since then. I am myself Sarpanch at Sarsain under Rajapakar block of Vaishali district and the change is apparent. Training was helpful as many of the members earlier did not even know how to discharge their duties,” said Amod Kumar Nirala, presidential of the Bihar Pradesh Panch-Sarpanch Association.

However, Nirala says there are some practical difficulties, which the association has raised with the government. “I have written recently to panchayati raj minister Samrat Choudhary that the local police deliberately put a spanner in the functioning of village courts by registering cases which they should normally avoid. Suppose a chain is snatched and the matter can be solved by the village courts. But the valuation of the chain, as registered by police, is so high so as to put it beyond the purview of the Gram Kachahari. There is a need for greater empowerment of village courts by involving them in the welfare schemes and giving them adequate facilities and protection. They should also be provided arms licences,” he says.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar had earlier said that cases coming under the jurisdiction of village courts should be transferred to them from police stations to reduce the load of litigations. As per the panchayati raj act, 2006, Bihar has set up Gram Kachaharis in every panchayat for the purposes of discharging the mandated judicial functions.

Panchayati raj minister Samrat Choudhary said the situation has changed and even courts are returning suitable cases to village courts to handle. “This is the reason why training programme has been organised at CNLU so that the Gram Kachaharis are equipped with the knowledge to deal with cases going to them effectively,” he said.

The six-phase training programme for the Sarpanchs is scheduled in June-end. “Retired district judges and officials will hold detailed interaction with them and also deliberate on practical difficulties and how to overcome them. Senior police officials will also be there. Based on our experiences last time, we had also developed a training module, which was widely appreciated,” said SP Singh, chair professor (panchayati raj) and dean, Chanakya National Law University (CNLU), which will conduct the training programme in phases.

CNLU in Patna, in collaboration with the state’s panchayati raj department, had in 2017 completed training of all panchayat leaders for the first time. However, with fresh elections last year, the composition has completely changed now.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Arun Kumar is Senior Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times. He has spent two-and-half decades covering Bihar, including politics, educational and social issues.

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