Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre for implementation of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 in National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice v Union of India and ors.
The PIL filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan was heard by a bench of Justices NV Ramana and Ajay Rastogi.
Court was informed that there are roughly 50,000 blocks in the country where Gram Nyayalayas are supposed to be setup under the 2008 Act. Unfortunately, only 320 of these are notified, but only 204 are in fact, functioning.
The petition states, “Identifying the rural poor as the victims of the present judicial system, in the light of Article 39-A of the Constitution, the 114th Report of the Law Commission (1986) recommended setting up of Gram Nyayalayas at the grass root levels to provide access to justice to the most marginalized sections of the society specifically to reduce barriers to access in terms of distance, time, & associated costs; reduce delay by providing for summary procedures; and reduce workload on higher tiers of judiciary.”
It has been submitted that non-establishment of such institutions frustrates the statutory right of citizens and constitutional right of rural population to “Access to Justice”
The petition relies on Anita Kushwaha v Pushap Sadan (2016), wherein the apex court had held ‘Access to Justice’ a fundamental right guaranteed by Articles 14 and 21, thus including physically accessible, speedy and affordable justice as facets of ‘Access to Justice’.
Counsel submitted that the non-constitution of Gram Nyayalayas defeats the intent of the legislature as summed up in the Statement of Objects of the Act:
“An Act to provide for the establishment of these bodies at the grass roots level for the purposes of providing access to justice to the citizens at their doorsteps and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of social, economic or other disabilities and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
–India Legal Bureau