Judicial power to  villages
Posted on June 7th, 2024


A recent statement of Lalkantha of the NPP that judicial power must be devolved to the village level has created much uneasiness among lawmakers and politicians. Objection to this comment is based on the assumption that Judicial power is the prerogative of the Judiciary created by the Constitution. It must be noted that judicial power which is one of the sovereign rights of the people, shall in terms of Article 4(c) of the Constitution be exercised by Parliament through courts, tribunals and institutions created and established, or recognized, by the Constitution, or created and established by law.

It is clear that the Parliament can pass legislation conferring judicial power outside the judicial institutions created by the Constitution. Whether such powers could be devolved to the village level has been addressed through the institution of Nyaya Panchayats ln India. A few relevant extracts on the subject from the Web are produced below for the informaion of the public.

Nyaya Panchayats are the judicial components of the panchayat system, which forms the lowest rung of the Indian judiciary. They are created for the administration of justice at the local or rural level.

  1. Reasons for setting up Nyaya Panchayats

The rationale behind setting up the Nyaya Panchayat is:

Democratic decentralization.

  1. Easy access to justice.
  2. Speedy disposal of cases.
  3. Inexpensive justice system.
  4. Revival of traditional village community life.
  5. Combination of judicial system and local self government.
  6. Reduction in pressure on Civil Courts.

  7. Constitution of Nyaya Panchayats

Nyaya Panchayats constitute a Sarpanch as its head and few panchai (generally it varies between10 to 30). Each member of Nyaya panchayat must be literate and must be of minimum 30 years of age. The appointment is based on nomination and election.
Jurisdiction of Nyaya Panchayats

It has judicial functions both in civil as well as in criminal fields. It can deal with several minor offenses) like simple hurt, wrongful restraint, theft etc, and punish an accused to pay a fine. In civil matters nyaya panchayats have jurisdiction in cases like suits for money and goods etc. The pecuniary limit of such cases is very low.

c.      Procedure in Nyaya Panchayats

The procedure laid down for trial of cases has been so designed as to avoid delays and technical difficulties. Therefore the procedure followed in nyaya panchayats is very simple and informal. The procedure codes like Code of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act apply to the nyaya panchayats. But, they have power to call witnesses and the parties for recording their evidence or producing any relevant document or fact. Unlike courts, they have the power to investigate the facts to find out the truth and at the same time they have the power to punish for its contempt. Lawyers cannot appear before a nyaya panchayat in anyl of its proceedings.

d.     Advantages of nyaya panchayats over the regular courts

1.      They provide an inexpensive and expeditious mechanism to settle disputes.

2.      They provide relief to the ordinary courts as they lift the part of burden of judicial work on their shoulders. In a way, they are emerged on solution to the problem of mounting arrears of cases before the courts.

3.      They provide justice at the door steps for the village folks.

4.      They provide protection to the local customs and traditions.

5.      Panchayat System has a great educational value for the villagers.

Law Commission of India has presented a new model for the establishment of nyaya panchayats.

The suggested model is as follows:

  1. There should be a panchayat judge and two lay judges in a nyaya panchayat. Where the panchayat judge should be a legally trained person belonging to the cadre of judges to be specifically set up for the purpose.
  2. In order to select legally trained judges for nyaya panchayats the state shall constitute a special cadre of Judges that is panchayati raj cadre of judges.
  3. The lay judges should be nominated not elected.
  4. The-local jurisdiction of the gram nyayalaya would be over villages comprised in a Taluka/Tehsil.
  5. There would be no monetary ceiling on its jurisdiction. A broad civil jurisdiction should be given, and the criminal jurisdiction should be equal to that of a judicial magistrate of first class.
  6. The nyaya panchayat would follow a simple procedure to dispose the cases.
  7. Neither the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, nor the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is to be applied in its procedure.
  8. In criminal trials, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is to be applied but Indian Evidence Act, 1872 should not apply.
  9. Lawyers should be permitted to appear before the nyaya panchayats.
  10. No appeal shall lie in civil cases from the decisions of the nyaya panchayats. But in a revision petition they lie to correct errors of law which may have affected the decision of the nyaya panchayats to the district courts.
  11. In a criminal case, an appeal would lie to the sessions courts against the decisions of the nyaya panchayats in which it was imposed a substantive sentence of imprisonment.


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