Monday, December 11, 2023

panchayat: Minor disputes: Govt proposes panchayat-level mediation amid huge backlog of cases

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New Delhi: Amid a huge backlog of cases across several tiers of the judiciary and high litigation expenses, the Centre is proposing gram panchayat-level mediation for small civil and criminal issues, inspired by Bihar and Himachal Pradesh.Rent recovery, trespass and overtaking of property, family partitions, neighbourhood problems, and small criminal offenses can be addressed out of court and through a mediated Panchayat method.

ET gathers that all states have been asked to consider community-led mediation model templates recommended by a 2021 Ministry of Panchayati Raj expert committee.

The panel, chaired by ex-Kerala chief secretary SM Vijayanand, was established to achieve SDG Target 16.3-equal access to justice for all.The MoPR wrote last month to all states sharing the report and asking them to formulate an implementation mechanism for adoption of a ‘People-centred Justice Systems’.

The idea, the Centre has said, is to bridge the ‘immense gap between requirements and capacity of justice delivery system in the country’.The panel report underlines the need to address ‘latent justiciable needs’ of people who may not even go to courts because people are not aware of their rights or accept discrimination or inequity or oppression as “fate” or as “as how things have always been done.”Types of cases
The Bihar model has been cited as a good pointer on types of cases that can be resolved through mediation – suits for the recovery of movable property; compensation for wrongfully taking or injuring movable property, damaged property caused by cattle trespass and all suits of partition.

Minor Disputes: Govt Proposes Panchayat-level MediationET Bureau

The panel suggested using community-led mediation for small criminal disputes and civil, commercial cases with a value cap, then moving on to those that could escalate and spread violence.

Special mediation panels for youth, gender-based violence, land-related matters be set up, if found relevant, the panel has suggested.

How to implement it
The panel suggests that as proposed in the Gram Nyayalaya Act, a sub-agency be set up for delivery of grass roots justice systems for a cluster of gram panchayats with a population threshold of 10,000. More than one such sub agency may be provided in larger Blocks.

Establishment of a state-level ‘Access to Justice Fund’ on the lines of Swachh Bharat Fund or National Skill Development Fund with provisions enabling CSR and philanthropic inflows is advised as well.

The panel has proposed training of community mediators through the modules prepared by Mediation Conciliation and Project Committee (MCPC) of the Supreme Court to ensure a structured and fair mediation mechanism.

Models on the table
The panel strongly recommended Bihar’s Gram Kachahari Model for community-led mediation.

The Gram Kachahri (village court) in Bihar, an elected body aided by a Nyaya Mitra ( with a legal degree), has resolved over 75% of 1 lakh issues under the Bihar Panchayati Raj Act 2006.

Similarly, the HP Panchayat Raj Act 1994 vests judicial powers with its panchayats for a range of civil/domestic/payment disputes. Maharashtra’s Mahatma Gandhi Tanta Mukt Gaav Abhiyan-a non-formal alternate dispute resolution mechanism and the Kerala’s Jagratha Samithi model in which a Non Judicial Body with a framework covering the district, block, and the gram panchayat are also recommended as options.

It has also put on the table the model proposed in Mediation Act 2023- of notifying a permanent panel of community mediators to settle disputes likely to affect ‘peace, harmony and tranquillity’ amongst the residents or families.

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