Highlights of the Bill

  • The Gram Nyayalayas Bill, 2007, establishes gram nyayalayas as the lowest tier of the judiciary for rural areas.
  • Each gram nyayalaya shall be headed by a nyayadhikari, who shall have the qualifications of a first class magistrate and be from a cadre created by the Governor and the High Court.
  • Gram nyayalayas shall try those cases whose maximum punishment is a year's imprisonment, is only a fine, or in which offence is compoundable.  They shall also settle civil suits dealing with land, water, etc., as listed in a Schedule.
  • In civil disputes, gram nyayalayas shall not be bound by the procedure in Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, or the rules of evidence in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.  In criminal cases, the court shall follow procedures for summary trials.
  • Appeals in civil and criminal cases shall be heard by the senior civil judge and the assistant sessions judge, respectively.  Further appeals are not permitted.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • Various reports and earlier drafts had different views on whether nyayadhikaris should be lay persons or legally trained officers.  The Bill specifies a law degree as a minimum qualification.
  • The Ministry of Panchayati Raj had prepared a draft Bill in 2006 on Nyaya Panchayats that had similar jurisdiction as gram nyayalayas in the current Bill.
  • The Bill envisages over 6,000 nyayadhikaris.  Currently about 18 percent of judicial posts are vacant despite efforts to fill these vacancies.  It is uncertain whether trained judicial officers will be available for the new posts.
  • The NAC recommended that nyayadhikaris be appointed for three years at a time, without a formal cadre.  The Bill proposes a formal cadre and structure.
  • The Law Commission recommended that certain complaints against government officials should be under the purview of gram nyayalayas.  The Bill exempts cases involving government employees from being tried by gram nyayalayas.

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