J&K; Need to restore glory of ‘Panchayati Adalats-The Village Courts’

OP Gupta (KAS Retd.)
India promotes of a high economic growth, it is otherwise shocking that there is still large scale poverty in India. It has the world’s largest number of poor people living in a single country. A recent study reports confirms that India has more poor people than in 26 African Countries. With many annoying, whys and wherefores; one of the leading reasons of this poverty is unwanted delays toward justices else
disposal of cases there-of.
Remembrance is still in our brains, when ‘SON-OF-SOIL’ Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, said that the government should do their job instead of hurling accusations, and people turn to the courts only after they are let down by the executives. Which court would want to intervene if the government works efficiently and sincerely? The courts which are already suffering with huge
workloads, only fulfil their constitutional duty and need would not arise if the
governments do their job”.
Indian Courts are held in high esteem not only by the developing but by developed countries as well. There is wide-spread praise for the quality of the judgments delivered, and the hard-work put in by Indian Judiciary. We, the citizens of India, can legitimately feel proud of this recognition. However, there is growing criticism, sometimes from uninformed or ill-informed quarters, about the alleged inability of our Courts to effectively deal with and wipe out the huge backlog of cases. Long delay has also the effect of defeating justice in quite
a number of cases. And, the thorough approach to lessen the excessive workloads from our respected courts is the immediate commencement of GRAM PANCHAYATS.
A Nyaya Panchayat (Gram Panchayat Adalat) – The Village Court, is a system of dispute resolution at village level in India. This well-accepted system is duly endowed with functions based on broad principles of natural justice and can tend to remain procedurally as simple as possible. The earliest nyaya panchayats were the village courts established under the Village Courts Act
of 1888.
NATURAL & SIMPLE JUSTICE
For Immediate Dispute Resolutions
well-within vicinities.
It was almost December, 20th 2012, when I read a news story in our local Daily Excelsior- JAMMU, about ensuring the speedy disposal of the local disputes at the door steps of the people, the Government has established Adalats in majority of the Panchayat Halqas across the State and these judicial bodies would start functioning within next two months. And, for educating the Chairmen and members of the Panchayati Adalats about the powers conferred upon them under the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, the Government will shortly start imparting training to them through Institute of Management and Public Administration (IMPA) and
State judiciary.
But, all went in winds.
We all know about the workloads on our courts as many among us can easily recognize that there is a burning need to increase the number of ‘Magistrates else Law-lords’ at various levels including the Supreme Court of India and the subordinate courts. Just few months back, addressing the conference of Chief Justices and Chief Ministers, our Admirable Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sh. Tirath Singh Thakur also told about the shortage of judges in the country. According to TOI reports, while referring to the shortage of judges, both in lower and higher judiciary in India, the CJI lamented the “inaction” on the government’s part in strengthening judicial infrastructure and increasing the judge-population ratio to deal with the mounting number of cases. Even though, the CJI did manage to put the government on the back foot, answers to the real issues remained elusive.
If truth be placed on records, judicial infrastructure, hasn’t kept pace with the rate of litigations. The gravity of the situation is all the more pronounced when we consider the fact that there are 38.76 lakh cases pending as on December 31, 2015, in all high courts, of which 7.45 lakh – almost 20 per cent – have been pending for over 10 years. The situation in subordinate courts is also not much better as of the 2.18 crore cases pending in lowers courts in the country, 1.46 lakh are criminal cases and over 72 lakh
are civil cases.
According to reports published in TOI’s Sunday Express, those speaks to serving and retired judges, legal experts, including eminent lawyers and policy planners, to find some answers to the vexed issues of pendency and shortage of judges and whether both the judiciary and the government have a plan to deal with all these.
Even so, in J&K as well, this long list of pendency of cases is also a matter of serious concern, where earlier the sanctioned strength of the J&K High Court was of 14 Judges but in the year 2014 only, the same was increased to 17 Judges including
Chief Justice. The sanctioned strength was increased keeping in view sharp rise in the work load during the past some years and with the aim of ensuring expeditious disposal of the cases for providing timely justice to the people. However, things become a matter of solemn concern when many times this working strength of the J&K High Court goes almost near 50% of the sanctioned strength. However, as per the news from J&K that Panchayati Adalats have been established in 70% of the 4125 Panchayats across the State with the issuance of
notifications by the Directorates of Rural Development, Jammu and Kashmir and process of establishing these judicial bodies in remaining Panchayat Halqas was going on at the rapid pace, somewhere in 2011-12. The establishment of such Adalats in remaining 30% Panchayat Halqas has been delayed due to non-submission of judicial panels and Rural Development Department has asked the Sarpanchs and Panchs of such Panchayats to finalize the panels and submit the same to the Department as early as possible” if sources be believed. But, ground realities speak something different.
Given all above, since the justice is the birth right of all, as such this should be well within the means and easy reach of common masses, as it was so in the ancient India.
The petty disputes and conflicts can neither be eliminated nor avoided, for so long as the people live in a society. But, this can be resolved without having a trial of bitterness, friction and grievances’. All this was possible, when panchayati adalts use to hear in a climate of cooperation in our villages, facilitating their peaceful atmosphere in every sphere of life to maintain the peace & harmony. As it is well known to all that the prestige of panchayats was based on the respect and confidence with which the villagers use to regard the decision of the village elders, those too were keenly desired to settle the petty disputes by consolations. Even today the importance of consolations is recognized in settling a large number of industrial and labour disputes amicably.
The analogy of consolidations as a matter of fact means, solutions acceptable to all the parties concerned which minimizes the friction, avoid bitterness and thus paves-way for growth of harmonious relations’.
Since most of the disputes in villages relates to petty matters and often or settle / resolved with impartial mediation and intervention of the Panchayati Adalats which has a key role to consolation in respect of all the matters within their territorial jurisdiction and local feedback.
The actual method and means bringing above conciliation is however left to be devised by the local Panchayati Adalats taking into account the nature, circumstances of each case.
However, it is generally felt that the
consolation alone can’t be made compulsory pre condition to the settlement of dispute by the Panchayati Adalats as this may otherwise give rise to different kind of revisions petitions and may enable the concern to manipulate evidences.
As main role & responsibility of Panchayati Adalats is to: Bring about compromise to the maximum possible, in respect of the entire simple and petty dispute arising in villages.
Adjudicate upon the cases on the basis of broad principals of natural justice asserting the ground realities and facts of circumstances as per local knowledge and feedback within their competency and jurisdiction as per the law of land / state.
But to our surprise in J&K state, where the ‘Panchayati Adalats’ were constituted somewhere during 2011, and duly been notified by the concerned authorities at helm. But due to our bad luck and reasons best known to the authorities these very vital institutions were neither made functional to address the grievances apparently due to lack of initiative, facts / knowledge else absence of needed infra and upgrading the skills of requisite manpower.
As the factual position on ground there will not be a single villager in any of the 22 districts of state or even in whole of the nation who wanted these vital institutions be scraped. The reason advanced for
the continuous functioning and felt need
of Panchayati Adalats are given in brief
as under:
That the law courts at the tehsil district are procedure ridden and expensive where the villager in general and those falling in lower start as such prefer an institution near to their approaches.
That the nearby institutions, holdout greater opportunities for amicable settlements and decisions taken by it don’t leave behind the trial of bitterness which generally follows in the wake of litigations in
judicial courts.
That in the Panchayati Adalats there are better chances of consolation method of approaches well within nearby surroundings. That the people in villages are so closely known to each other that the party to a dispute would not be able to conceal the truth or produce fake evidences easily. And those who tell the lie before the Panchayati Adalats has to face the risk of being looked down else been boycotted otherwise by
the societies.
That the members of Panchayati Adalats drawn from among the same village folk strive to arrive at decision which are fare and duly acceptable in the larger interest of maintaining the local harmony.
That the faith of the villagers in these very institution is further born out by the fact that there have been very few application for the revision of decision of Panchayati Adalats which of course can bring down the work load as well as pendency of cases alongside redresses of their cases at local level.
The attention of Government and controlling departments is hereby solicited not only to cater the work-loads or lending hands to lower down the unnecessary foot falls in urban institutions but also to demonstrate the administrative skills & wills
near discharging the service obligations to best of expectations of the rural populace, where real India subsists.

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