Gram Nyayalayas are village courts for speedy and easy access to the justice system in the rural areas of India. The establishment of Gram Nyayalayas in India can be traced to the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 passed by the Parliament of India. Even though the target was to set up 5000 village courts in India, only about 200 Gram Nyayalayas are functional now.
A writ petition was filed in 2019 by the National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas as provided by the 2008 Act. The Supreme Court of India noted that while some states are yet to issue notifications, the Gram Nyayalayas were not operational in most of the states which have issued notifications.
Each Gram Nyayalaya is a court of Judicial Magistrate of the first class. Its presiding officer (Nyayadhikari) is appointed by the State Government in consultation with the High Court. The Gram Nyayalaya shall be established for every Panchayat at the intermediate level or a group of contiguous Panchayats at the intermediate level in a district. The seat of the Gram Nyayalaya will be located at the headquarters of the intermediate Panchayat; they will go to villages, work there and dispose of the cases.
Measures to improve the functioning of Gram Nyayalayas
- Establishing a regular cadre of Gram Nyayadhikaris
- Conducting procedures in local language and with simpler procedures Creating awareness amongst stakeholders via seminars, press releases etc.
- Establishing permanent Gram Nyayalayas at the intermediate level in a suitable location proving easy access to the common people
- Clearly specifying the jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas and re-defining it to remove any ambiguities Providing building, staff etc. for Gram Nyayalayas and provisioning them in the state budget.