Supreme Court Seeks Response from High Courts Against Plea to Establish Gram Nyayalayas

Supreme Court LAW INSIDER

Savvy Thakur

Published on: 16 November 2022 at 20:21 IST

The Supreme Court issued notice on Monday to the Registrar Generals of all High Courts in relation to petition requesting directions to the states to establish “Gram Nyayalayas” in accordance with the Gram Nyayalayas Act of 2008,

High Courts were added as respondents in the case by a bench led by Justices S Abdul Nazeer and V Ramasubramanian, who noted that their presence was necessary for deciding the case.

The National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice had filed a PIL seeking implemantation for the Gram Nyayalayas, and the bench was hearing the matter.

The petitioner’s counsel, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, argued that even though the Act was passed nearly 14 years ago, many states have not even established a single Gram Nyayalaya. He explained that the Act contemplated the establishment of village courts to decide specific types of small cases without adhering to the strict CPC and CrPC procedures.

Bhushan informed the bench that the Act uses the word “may” rather than “shall” and that the Union Government has stated that the States are not required to establish Gram Nyayalayas. He argued that, in some instances, the Court has interpreted “may” to mean “shall.”

Furthermore, he argued that “may” should be interpreted as “shall” in the context of Gram Nyayalayas because access to justice is a fundamental right.

“More than half of the country’s population does not have the financial means to hire lawyers and resorts to regular courts. This Act was enacted for village courts to expedite the resolution of small cases.

Bhushan argued that because access to justice is a fundamental right, “may” must be interpreted as “shall.” He noted that only Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Kerala have implemented the Act.

The bench inquired as to whether any states were opposed to Gram Nyayalayas’ establishment.Bhushan responded that, despite the High Court’s recommendation, the Himachal Pradesh Government is opposed. He went on to say that states like Jharkhand and Bihar are also in opposition. There is currently no Gram Nyayalaya in Tamil Nadu.

The Additional Advocate General of Jharkhand, Senior Advocate Tapesh Kumar Singh, argued that the State Government was not implementing the Act because it conflicts with the laws governing the administration of scheduled tribe areas.

Regarding the management of Scheduled areas, the Act had exempted North Eastern states, he said. He added that the High Courts are a necessary party in the cases because the States are to consult with the High Courts’ when making rules and appointments.

After that, the bench decided to make the High Court’s parties to the case.

The bench also made the observation that it would order States like Uttar Pradesh, which have village courts, to submit an affidavit detailing their experiences.

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