The Supreme Court has directed the states, which are yet come out with notifications for establishing ‘Gram Nyayalayas’, to do so within four weeks, and asked the high courts to expedite the process of consultation with state governments on this issue.
An Act passed by Parliament in 2008 provided for setting up of ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ at the grass roots level for providing access to justice to citizens at the doorstep and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to anyone by reason of social, economic or other disabilities.
A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana also took into account the fact that several states have issued notifications for establishing ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ but all of them were not functioning except in Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
The bench noted that states like Gujarat, Haryana, Telangana, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha have not yet filed their affidavits on this issue despite the apex court’s October 18 last year direction.
“We direct the aforementioned states to file their affidavits within one week from today, subject to deposit of Rs 1 lakh by each of the above-mentioned states with the Registrar (Judicial) of the Supreme Court, who shall keep the same in a separate head,” the bench, also comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, said in its January 29 order.
The bench requested the chief justices of high courts, where the constitution of ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ and appointments of its members are pending, to expedite the process of consultation with the respective state governments.
“In view of the above, we direct the states, who have not yet issued notifications for establishing the Gram Nyayalayas, to issue the same within a period of four weeks from today and place copies of the same before us with an affidavit,” it said.
“The Registry is directed to communicate the instant order to the chief justices of all the high courts as also the chief secretaries of all the states through e-mail as also by speed post,” the bench said and posted the matter for hearing after four weeks.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice and others, placed before the bench the state-wise data showing the steps taken by the authorities for establishing and functioning of ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ under the 2008 Act.
As per details placed before the court by the petitioner, Goa has issued notification for establishing two ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ but none were functioning there while Haryana has issued notification for establishing three but only two are functioning.
It further said that Jharkhand has issued notification for establishing six ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ but only one is functioning while Karnataka has issued notification for establishing two but none are functioning.
It said that Uttar Pradesh has issued notification for establishing 113 ‘Gram Nyayalayas’, out of which only 14 are functioning, while the state had to establish 822.
The apex court had in September last year agreed to hear a plea seeking a direction to the Centre and all states for taking steps to set up ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ under the supervision and monitoring of the top court.
The plea has said that sections 5 and 6 of the 2008 Act provide that state government in consultation with the high court will appoint a ‘Nyayadhikari’ for each ‘Gram Nyayalaya’, who will be a person eligible to be appointed as a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class.
Bhushan had said that only 208 ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ are functioning in the country as against 2,500 estimated to be required by the 12th five-year plan.
The plea has also sought a direction to the Centre for providing adequate financial support for setting up ‘Gram Nyayalayas’, over and above what has been provided for under the Scheme for Central Assistance first notified in 2009 and continued thereafter.
It said so far only 11 states have taken steps to notify Gram Nyayalayas.