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Report No. 114

3.3. Justice at Grass-roots level.-

Once a tentative decision was taken to model judicial administration on participatory basis, it had to be decided at what level it should be introduced. Judicial administration in this country is hierarchical in character. There is a court variously named as Munsif/Civil Judge (Jr. Division) at the grass-roots level. It is subordinate to the court at the District level styled as Court of District and Sessions Judge which in turn is subordinate to the High Court at the Apex of the State Judiciary. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the High Court.

Any structure paramedic in character must have strong foundation and, therefore, the draft proposals centered upon restructuring the foundation. Accordingly, a forum for resolution of disputes emanating from rural areas and participatory in character was received. In reaching this tentative conclusion, the Commission took notice of the obvious fact that while the system of administration of justice in our country is one integrated whole, it ignores or overlooks the wide social and cultural divides between the rural population, urban population and the metropolitan elite. This approach ignores the vital fact that the nature of disputes arising in rural areas is wholly dissimilar from those in metropolitan areas and both required an altogether different model for resolution of the same.

Commercial and mercantile litigation, enforcement of corporate laws, foreign exchange regulations, monopolies and restrictive trade practices and complex constitutional issues figure in the litigation in metropolitan areas. Labour disputes dominate the courts in industrialised cities and towns. The disputes that arise in rural areas are largely related to ownership and possession of agricultural land, problems of cultivation, boundary disputes, land records, petty family and property disputes. Ignoring the stark difference between the nature of disputes, the present system requires complex voluminous procedural laws for the dispensation of justice at both the levels.

This realisation dictated the approach of the Commission to devise a different kind of forum for resolution of disputes at grass-roots level. The nature of the dispute must determine the procedure and the forum for its resolution. Prior to the introduction of the imperial courts' structure, socialisation on finding as well as the disputed issues, resolved with the appearance of a third party, and usually the third party was a respectable member of the same community.

One more realisation shaped the approach of the Commission. A popular though unwarranted belief generated and fed by the legal profession has been that no one is capable of rendering of dispensing justice unless he is trained in law. To support this unsustainable proposition it is oft-repeated that justice must be done according to law. It is not suggested that to render justice one must violate the law, but knowledge of law is not an essential pre-requisite for rendering justice. 'An interesting point that has been noticed by number of scholars in the sociology of law is that the differentiation of legal dispute and the slight shift from the traditional court procedures is related to the increased requirement for non-legal specialised knowledge in order to read the judgement.

Wolfgang Friendmann stressed that most of the members of Government Committees, administrative organisations and special courts are non-legal experts1. Similarly, an arbitrator selected by the parties can decide and disposal of any dispute irrespective of the fact whether he was equipped in law. If law is commonsense then its developrrient does not necessarily and wholly depend upon the knowledge of lawyers law or statutory law. The Commission, therefore, adopted the approach that rendering justice is not the preserve of legally trained mind. In rendering justice knowledge of local culture, traditions of the society, behavioral pattern and common sense approach are primary and relevant considerations.

More the administration of justice became characterised by the application of law, a view developed that too much legalistic approach hinders justice. Knowledge of local interest and local customs must be allowed to continue to operate and taken note of in dispensation of justice. The Commission also accepts the notions of the juristic talents of Indian people embodied in various systems of what has been termed as "peoples law".2 All these considerations shaped the approach of the Commission in devising a participatory forum for resolution of disputes at grass-roots level.

1. Kalman Kulscar People Assessors in the Courts, (1982), p. 24.

2. See U. Baxi The Crisis of thwe Indian Legal System, (1982), Ch II, p. 328.

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