It was perceived as a major showpiece achievement of the previous government,with the then Union Law Minister,H R Bhardwaj,even referring to it as the dream project of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. But more than seven months after it was cleared by Parliament,the scheme to set up 5,000-plus Gram Nyayalayas or village courts across the country to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to the villagers has run into rough weather.
Opposition from certain states coupled with lack of enthusiasm on the part of a majority of other states has ensured that the government has failed to notify the date from which the Gram Nyayalaya Bill passed by Parliament in December last would come into force.
After the Bill was cleared,President Pratibha Patil gave her assent in the first week of January this year. Incidentally,though the Act was notified on January 9,it
cant take the force of law till the date is notified.
Sources in the government told The Indian Express that the failure of the Central government to get even a single court under the Act established 300 courts were planned in the first phase was largely due to strong reservations expressed by two major states,Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal,about implementing the scheme for setting up Gram Nyayalayas on present terms and conditions. Both state are demanding more funds for the project.
If and when established,Gram Nyayalayas will try criminal cases,civil suits,claims or disputes concerning all the offences not punishable with death,life imprisonment or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years.
It is learnt that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and her West Bengal counterpart Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have written to the Central Government voicing their reluctance to implement the scheme. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,Mayawati has demanded that complete funding of the scheme be done by the Central Government. She has cited the states precarious fiscal health in support of her demand. A similar demand has been raised by Bhattacharjee.
As for the remaining states,which had also been asked to revert to the ministry for grant of funds for setting up Gram Nyayalayas in the first phase,none has bothered to reply.
While piloting the Gram Nyayalaya Bill,the Union Ministry of Law had indicated that the Act would entail setting up of 5,067 courts at the block-level as well as making provisions for holding mobile courts in villages.
Under the Law Ministry plan,apart from shelling out the full cost of establishment of the court,the Central Government will also bear 50 per cent of the recurring expenses for the first three years. Law Ministry estimates peg the one-time establishment cost at Rs 18 lakh while the yearly expense has been worked out at Rs 6.4 lakh. This amount also includes the salary component. But state governments feel that not only is the Rs 18-lakh grant too little,but the yearly amount is also insufficient.
Let the Government of India try to run a court with such a small amount. Are we supposed to be recruiting daily wagers for running courts? And,dont forget that even the vehicle to hold mobile courts will also have to be bought and run with the help of this amount, said a senior Uttar Pradesh government officer.