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Supreme Court issues notice to all High Courts on plea seeking establishment of Gram Nyayalayas

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The Supreme Court has sought response of the Registrar Generals of all High Courts on a petition seeking direction to the states to establish ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ as per the Gram Nyayalayas Act 2008.

The Bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice V. Ramasubramanian directed to add all High Courts as respondents in the case, after noting that their presence was necessary for adjudicating the matter.

The order was passed on a PIL filed by the National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice seeking the implementation of the Gram Nyayalayas Act.

Representing the petitioner, Advocate Prashant Bhushan contended that though the Act was passed almost 14 years ago, many States have not established even a single Gram Nyayalayas. 

Bhushan said the Act had proposed establishment of village courts, which would not be bound by the rigid procedure of CPC and CrPC to decide the small cases of specified nature.

The Counsel said the Central government had noted that the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas by the States was not mandatory as the Act used the word ‘may’ instead of ‘shall’.

He further said that 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, added Bhushan.

He pointed out that more than 50 percent of the population in the country were not able to afford lawyers and approach regular courts. This was the reason for enacting the courts at village level for fast adjudication of small cases.

As per Bhushan, only a few states had implemented the Act, which included Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala.

He said the government of Himachal Pradesh had opposed the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas, despite recommendation made by the High Court in this regard. Besides, the States of Bihar and Jharkhand were also opposing the Act, while the state of Tamil Nadu was yet to establish a single Gram Nyayalaya.

(Case title: National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice versus Union of India and others)

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