Village courts could try most cases locally in Bihar

Bihar has 1,14,000 wards, with ‘panchs’ (arbitrators) in around 1,10,000 of them. Of the 8,392 gram panchayats, there are 8,392 sarpanchs and an equal number of deputy sarpanchs.

patna Updated: Jul 04, 2017 19:48 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
A village panchayat in progress. (HT File Photo)

In a move that could go a long way in reducing the burden on the judicial system as well as the police and provide quick justice to the needy, the panchayati raj department has embarked on a major exercise to train gram panchayat members to deal with various offences.

An exhaustive module has been prepared by the Chanakya National Law University (CNLU) and submitted to the government for training of village sarpanchs (head of village courts), up-sarpanchs, nyay mitras and nyay sachivs (volunteers as members of the village courts).

The recommendations include empowering members of gram kutcheries (village courts), set up in all panchayats as per provisions laid down in the Panchayati Raj Act, 2006. Each gram kutchery has five members.

Secretary, panchayati raj department, Arvind Choudhary said as gram kutcheries have been vested with wide ranging powers, it is important to sensitise members on various legal provisions and how to go about it. He said village courts were functional at many places, but that needed to be streamlined in view of their important role.

“The powers include clamping of section 144 in their jurisdiction up to 15 days, beyond which it needs to be vetted by the SDO concerned. Kutchery would also be able to impose a fine up to Rs 1,000 and deal with land disputes, criminal trespass, public nuisance, eve teasing or family issues,” he added.

Due to non-functional village courts, cases go to police and local courts. Lack of knowledge about judicial powers is at present a deterrent for village courts.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar has insisted on the need to train panchayat officials to implement the law and transfer all disputes from police to them. Cases under purview of some 40 sections of IPC would now be dealt by the kutchery.

While SPs have been entrusted the task to transfer cases to kutcheries, the law secretary would take care of cases in lower courts.

The police would also be told not to use such sections in cases that could take them out of the purview of the village courts,” said an official.

Bihar has 1,14,000 wards, with ‘panchs’ (arbitrators) in around 1,10,000 of them. Of the 8,392 gram panchayats, there are 8,392 sarpanchs and an equal number of deputy sarpanchs.

CNLU registrar SP Singh said that around 33,568 village court members would be trained by 10 master trainers in the first phase and l00 field trainers in the second phase. The master trainers could be retired judges, bureaucrats, professors and lawyers, who would also undergo an orientation programme on the training module. They would prepare field trainers.

At the field level, trainers comprising retired judicial officers and magistrates would impart two-day training – one day devoted to textual training and the second day to typical case studies usually surfacing in villages.

However, the biggest challenge for village courts to succeed is to provide them an address. At present, hardly 1,000 panchayats have their own buildings. Though the government provides rent for rented accommodation, it is hard to find in rural areas, and if found, the location is invariably the house of a powerful person of the area. A senior official admitted that this would require to be avoided so that even the weakest person could freely approach village courts.

First Published: Jul 04, 2017 19:48 IST