Supreme Court: Seeking Status Report Exam from States & HCs On Establishment of Gram Nyayalayas

The Supreme Court in the case National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice and Anr. v. UoI and Ors, wherein the division bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Hima Kohli observed and has ordered that all the State Governments and High Courts in the country to file status reports or reply within the period of 8 weeks in a petition seeking establishment of “Gram Nyayalayas” as per the Gram Nyayalayas Act 2008 in the States across the country.

 The Court during the last hearing had impleaded all the High Courts and the State governments in the country, wherein it was noted by the court that their presence was necessary for adjudicating the matter.

 The counsel, Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner submitted before the court that “in their reply, it has been submitted by some of the States that they are having an alternative system or mechanism. Therefore, but the law takes care of that because it uses the term ‘Notwithstanding, any other system in place.’ The law only excludes a few areas such as the North-East and the tribal areas.

 In the present case, the bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice wherein seeking the implementation of the Gram Nyayalayas Act. The counsel, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, had submitted that though the Act was being passed almost 14 years ago, thus, many States have not even established even a single Gram Nyayalayas.

 Further, it has been informed by the Bhushan to the bench that the Union Government has taken a stand that the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas by the States as it is not mandatory as the Act uses the word “may” instead of using the word “shall”. It was also argued by him that the Court has interpreted “may” to mean “shall” in certain situations. Adding to it, Bhushan argued that maybe since the access to justice being a fundamental right “may” ought to be interpreted as “shall” in the context of Gram Nyayalayas.

 It has then decided be decided by the bench to add High Courts as parties in the case. It has also been observed by the bench that it will direct States like UP, which have established the village courts for filing an affidavit wherein sharing their experiences.

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