Gram Nyayalaya - An Introduction

The Law Commission of India, in its 114 th Report, had suggested establishment of Gram Nyayalayas for providing affordable and quick access to justice to the citizens at their doorsteps. The Gram Nyayalayas Bill was passed by the Parliament on 22nd December 2008 and the Gram Nyayalayas Act came into force with effect from 02nd October, 2009. The Act extends to the whole of India, except to the States of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and to the tribal areas specified in Parts I, II, IIA and III of the Table below paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India within the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, respectively.

2. Some of the salient features of the Gram Nyayalayas Act are as follows:

  • Gram Nyayalayas are aimed at providing inexpensive justice to people in rural areas at their doorsteps;
  • Gram Nyayalayas are to be established for every Panchayat at intermediate level or a group of contiguous Panchayats at intermediate level or for a group of contiguous Gram Panchayats;
  • The seat of the Gram Nyayalayas shall be located at the headquarters of the intermediate Panchayat. The Nyayadhikari shall periodically visit villages and may hear the parties and dispose of the cases at the place other than its headquarters;
  • The Gram Nyayalayas will try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the First Schedule and the Second Schedule to the Act. They are to follow summary procedure in criminal trial;
  • Disputes are to be settled as far as possible by bringing about conciliation between the parties and for this purpose, the Gram Nyayalayas will make use of the conciliators to be appointed for this purpose;
  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall not be bound by the rules of evidence provided in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice subject to any rule made by the High Court.

3. At the time of drafting the proposal for Gram Nyayalayas, it was envisaged that Gram Nyayalayas would be set up in the country at the intermediate panchayat level. A scheme of central assistance was formulated simultaneously to fund the initial cost in terms of non-recurring expenses for setting up of these courts with the assistance limited to Rs. 18.00 lakhs per Gram Nyayalaya as a one-time measure. Central Government also decided to bear 50% of the recurring expenses of these courts subject to a ceiling of Rs. 3.2 lakhs per court per annum during the first three (3) years of their operations.

4. The scheme has since been extended by the Government for five years from 01.04.2021 to 31.03.2026 at a budgetary outlay of Rs.50 crores allocated for the Gram Nyayalayas Scheme. Henceforth, the funds for the Gram Nyayalayas will be released only after they have been notified as well as made operational alongwith the appointment of Nyayadhikaris and reported on the Gram Nyayalayas Portal of the Department of Justice. A review of the performance of Gram Nyayalayas will be done after one year to assess its efficacy as an institution in providing speedy and affordable justice to the rural marginalised.