Friday, September 29, 2023

Gram Nyayalayas: Supreme Court directs all States/High Courts to file status report within 2 months

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The Supreme Court on Thursday directed all state governments and High Courts in the country to file status reports within two months on a petition seeking establishment of Gram Nyayalayas as per the Gram Nyayalayas Act 2008.

The order was passed by the Division Bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Hima Kohli on a PIL filed by the National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice.

On its last hearing, the top court of the country had impleaded all the High Courts and state governments of the country, noting that their presence was necessary for adjudicating the matter.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner, apprised the Apex Court that some of the states have submitted in their replies that they have an alternative system.

However, the law would take care of it because it used the term ‘Notwithstanding, any other system in place’. It only excluded a few areas such as the North-East and tribal areas, added Bhushan.

He said that though the Act was passed almost 14 years ago, many States were yet to establish a single Gram Nyayalaya.

The Counsel told the Supreme Court that the Union of India has said that the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas by the States was not mandatory as the Act used the word ‘may’ instead of ‘shall’. 

As per Bhushan, the Court has interpreted ‘may’ to mean ‘shall’ in certain situations. Since access to justice was a fundamental right, ‘may’ should be interpreted as ‘shall’ in the context of Gram Nyayalayas.

The Supreme Court then impleaded High Courts as parties in the case. The Bench further observed that it will direct states such as Uttar Pradesh, which have established village courts, to file an affidavit sharing their experiences.

(Case title: National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice And Anr vs UoI And Ors)

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