New Delhi, December 25
Noting that state governments’ apathy has made Gram Nyayalayas “almost defunct”, a Parliamentary panel has recommended to the Department of Justice to seriously ponder over further continuation of this scheme.
“The Gram Nyayalayas were envisaged to make justice delivery more accessible and affordable for the people at the grassroots. However, even after more than 12 years of coming into force the Gram Nyayalayas are yet to take off in the country. Only 15 states have notified them and about half of those are yet to be operationalised. This is in spite of the fact that financial assistance is being given to States, by the Centre, to operationalize them,” the department-related standing committee on Law and Personnel said in a report tabled in Parliament earlier this month.
“The apathy of States and challenges enumerated above by the Department has made this institution almost defunct,” the Committee said, recommending to the Department of Justice to ponder seriously over further continuation of this scheme and divert the funds to some other new scheme/s or any existing scheme, which was working well.
However, the Department of Justice informed the panel that the Gram Nyayalaya Scheme has been extended for five more years up to March 31, 2026, without any change in the funding pattern, with budgetary outlay of Rs 50.00 crore, subject to the condition that the funds will henceforth be released only after they have been notified and made operational along with the appointment of Nyayadhikaris and reported on the Gram Nyayalayas Portal.
“A review of the performance of Gram Nyayalayas will be done after one year to assess its efficacy as an institution in providing speedy and affordable justice to the rural marginalized and decide on its future,” the Department told the panel.
The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 provided for ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ at the grassroots level for providing access to speedy and affordable justice to citizens at the doorstep. It also aimed to ensure that opportunities for securing justice were not denied to anyone by reason of social, economic or other disabilities.
The Department of Justice told the panel that setting up of Gram Nyayalaya was the primary responsibility of state governments in consultation with the respective high courts. However, setting up of the Gram Nyayalayas is not mandatory on their part as per the Gram Nyayalayas Act, it said.
“The Central Government as a hand holding exercise provides financial assistance to the State Government @ Rs 27.60 lakh per Gram Nyayalaya [Rs 18 lakh (Rs 10 lakh for office building + Rs 5 lakh for vehicle +Rs 3 lakh for furnishing the office) and upto Rs 3.2 lakh per year for three years after its operationalization]. Thus, the total central assistance given to a Gram Nyayalaya in its entire life is Rs 27.60 lakh only. After three years of its operation, it survives on State grants only,” the Department told the panel.
As per the data uploaded on the Gram Nyayalaya portal, 43,914 cases--1,424 civil and 42,490 criminal--were disposed of in 258 functional Gram Nyayalayas from December 2020 to February 2022 @around 135 cases per year. Despite various issues hampering the growth of these Gram Nyayalayas, in some states, wherever the Gram Nyayalayas are operational, their functioning is reasonably efficient, the Department said.
To improve the functioning of the Gram Nyayalayas, it has been decided that central funding will be provided not at the time of notification but only on operationalisation of the Gram Nyayalaya. Further, third party evaluation of the scheme was also to be done after a year of the extension of the scheme, which will also be done shortly, the Department told the panel.
“In view of the reply furnished above by the DoJ, the Committee does not wish to pursue the matter further for the time being,” the report stated.
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