Far from speeding up delivery of justice, Odisha’s village courts battle backlogs
Bhubaneswar, Feb 4 (IANS) Odisha was among the states that were the first to introduce Gram Nyayalayas, or village courts, after the Act paving the way for them came into effect on October 2, 2009.
A little less than 15 years later, far from ensuring speedy justice to those who need it the most, the state’s Gram Nyayalayas are mired in a pile of pending cases because of the apathy of the key stakeholders, including the police, lawyers and the state government.
The Law Commission, in its 114th report in 1986, had proposed that Gram Nyayalayas be set up across the country to ensure access to justice for the weaker sections of the society and reduce delays in the delivery of justice.
The Gram Nyayalayas Bill was passed by Parliament on December 22, 2008, and the Act came into effect on October 2, 2009.
Though the Act does not make it mandatory for states to set up Gram Nyayalayas, yet Odisha was among a few states to roll out the concept in 2009, hoping to deliver justic to citizens literally at their doorsteps.
Odisha has 20 operational Gram Nyayalayas out of the 24 that have so far been notified by the state government.
As per the information available with the Department of Justice under Union Ministry of Law and Justice, Odisha received Rs 524.4 lakh from the central government for the establishment of the village courts.
Bur the village courts are yet to fully achieve the objectives they were set up for. The Gram Nyayalayas, which were expected to reduce the pendency of cases in subordinate courts, are found burdened with a huge backlog of pending cases instead.
Odisha recorded the most number of pending cases at the village courts in the country after Uttar Pradesh.
The data available in the Gram Nyayalaya portal of the Department of Justice reveals that as many as 45,874, cases including 1,124 civil cases and 44,750 criminal cases, are pending in the 20 functional village courts across Odisha.
Meanwhile, many other reasons are also responsible for the poor show of village courts across the country.
“Majority of States have now set up regular courts at Taluka level. Though no state has opposed setting up of Gram Nyayalayas, however reluctance of police officials and other State functionaries to invoke jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas, lukewarm response of Bar, non-availability of notaries and stamp vendors, problem of concurrent jurisdiction of regular courts are other issues indicated by the States, which are coming in the way of operationalization of the Scheme,” said Kiren Rijiju, the ex-law minister, in Rajya Sabha in February last year.