SC Directs States To Issue Notifications For Establishing Gram Nyayalayas Within Four Weeks

It is a matter of profound significance with far reaching implications that the Supreme Court just recently on January 29, 2020 in a notable judgment titled National Federation Of Societies For Fast Justice & Anr. Vs. Union of India & Ors. In Writ Petition(s) (Civil) No(s). 1067/2019 has directed the States which have not yet issued Notifications for establishing the Gram Nyayalayas to issue the same within four weeks. The Bench of Apex Court which delivered this notable judgment comprised of Justice NV Ramana, Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Krishna Murari. It was considering a PIL filed by National Federation Of Societies For Fast Justice.

To start with, it is first and foremost observed in the opening para that, “At the commencement of hearing, Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners has placed before us State-wise Administrative Units Information in tabular form, showing the steps taken by various States for establishing and functioning of Gram Nyayalayas under the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008.”

Going forward, the ball is then set rolling in the next para which states that, “Learned counsel for the petitioners submit that the State of Goa has issued Notification for establishing 2 Gram Nyayalayas under the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 but none are functioning there; the State of Haryana has issued Notification for establishing 3 Gram Nyayalayas but only 2 are functioning; the State of Jharkhand has issued Notification for establishing 6 Gram Nyayalayas but only 1 is functioning there; the State of Karnataka has issued Notification for establishing 2 Gram Nyayalayas but none are functioning; the State of Kerala has issued Notification for establishing 30 Gram Nyayalayas and all are functioning there whereas the State had to establish 152 Gram Nyayalayas; the State of Madhya Pradesh has issued Notification for establishing 89 Gram Nyayalayas out of which 87 are functioning; the State of Maharashtra has issued Notification for establishing 25 Gram Nyayalayas out of which 23 are functioning whereas the State had to establish 351 Gram Nyayalayas; the State of Odisha has issued Notification for establishing 22 Gram Nyayalayas out of which 16 are functioning; the State of Punjab has issued Notification for establishing 2 Gram Nyayalayas, both of which are functioning; the State of Rajasthan has issued Notification for establishing 45 Gram Nyayalayas and all the 45 are functioning there and the State of Uttar Pradesh has issued Notification for establishing 113 Gram Nyayalayas out of which only 14 are functioning, whereas the State had to establish 822 Gram Nyayalayas.”

Going further ahead, it is then pointed out that, “Vide order dated 18.10.2019, this Court had directed various States to file their affidavits before 18.12.2019.”

To be sure, it is then revealed that, “Today, during the course of hearing, we have come to know that some of the States, such as the States of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Telangana, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Odisha have not yet filed their affidavits.”

Be it noted, the Bench then holds that, “We direct the aforementioned States to file their affidavits within one week from today, subject to deposit of Rs. 1,00,000/- (Rupees one lakh) by each of the above-mentioned States with the Registrar (Judicial) of the Supreme Court, who shall keep the same in a separate head.”

What’s more, the Bench then hastens to add that, “Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the States of Bihar, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh submit that there might be some conflict between the functioning of their local laws and the functioning of Gram Nyayalayas under the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 which requires clarification. Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State of Arunachal Pradesh submits that the said State may be granted exemption for establishing and functioning of Gram Nyayalayas under the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008. We shall decide the said issues on the next date of hearing.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then points out that, “Taking into consideration the personal difficulty of the counsel appearing on behalf of the State of Kerala, we grant liberty to the counsel for the said State to file the affidavit during the course of the day.”

As it turned out, we then see that the Bench waxes eloquent to say that, “The prayer made on behalf of the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State of Tripura is also accepted and he is directed to file affidavit during the course of the day.”

To put it succinctly, the Bench then also holds that, “At the request of learned counsel appearing on behalf of the States of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, we grant them liberty to file affidavit of their respective States on 30.01.2020.”

Furthermore, the Bench then observes that, “Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the States of Assam and Punjab are directed to file affidavits by 30.01.2020, failing which these States will have to pay the costs of Rs. 1,00,000/- (Rupees one lakh) each, as mentioned above.”

Not stopping here, the Bench also then makes it known that, “Having heard learned counsel for the parties and perusing the material placed before us, it appears to us that although some States have issued Notifications for establishing the Gram Nyayalayas, all the established Gram Nyayalayas are not functioning, except in the States of Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. It has been brought to our notice that in some of the States, the proposals for establishing the Gram Nyayalayas are pending before the High Court for consultation and some of the States have not yet initiated the process of issuing Notifications for establishing such Nyayalayas.”

Most significantly, it is then held by the Bench that, “In view of the above, we direct the States, who have not yet issued Notifications for establishing the Gram Nyayalayas, to issue the same within a period of four weeks from today and place copies of the same before us with an affidavit.”

In addition to the above, the Bench also then adds further that, “We also request the learned Chief Justices of the High Courts, where the constitution of Gram Nyayalayas and appointments of its members are pending, to expedite the process of consultation with the respective State Governments.”

To say the least, the Bench then also states that, “Learned counsel for the petitioners also brought to our attention the Evaluation Study of the Scheme of Establishing & Operationalising Gram Nyayalayas, which is pending consideration before the Government of India. In the said Report, it is observed as under:

“DOJ may consider increasing the Recurring Head to Rs. 15 lakhs per year for a minimum of 5 years with 50% State Govt. Contribution and revising the Non-recurring Head to Rs. 35 lakhs per Gram Nyayalaya because the present assistance is not sufficient and dates back to calculation approved in 2009.””

Lastly, it is then held that, “In view of the above, we direct the Union of India to consider the said proposal of increasing the Recurring Head to Rs. 15 lakhs per year for a minimum of 5 years with 50% State Government Contribution. By the next date of hearing, the counsel for the Union of India has to place before us the views of the Government on the said issue. List after four weeks. The Registry is directed to communicate the instant order to the Chief Justices of all the High Courts as also the Chief Secretaries of all the States through E-mail as also by speed post.”

No doubt, it is a very well reasoned, well timed and well founded judgment! The Apex Court in this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment very rightly directs States to issue notifications for establishing Gram Nyayalayas within four weeks! There can be no denying or disputing it that the Gram Nyayalayas are now the crying need of the hour as it will bring justice at the doorsteps of those living there and save them from so many inconveniences which they have to face severely mainly due to the absence of Gram Nyayalayas!

Sanjeev Sirohi