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Report No. 114

2.13. Re-structuring to start at grass-root level - New and better method for resolution of petty disputes in rural areas would result in the majority of cases being dealt with in a speedier and cheaper manner - People's participation in the administration of justice - Indigenous system in India.-

Any pyramidic structure to survive must have strong foundations. The restructuring must, therefore, start from the bottom and then move vertically upwards. The edifice of the present day justice delivery system is hierarchical in character. At the bottom, there are grass-root courts variously designated as Munsif /District Munsif /Civil Judge (J.D.) courts. The litigants come primarily in direct contact with these grass-root courts. The view of the system at this level shapes the general evaluation of the whole system. Petty disputes arising in rural areas are brought to these courts for their speedy and effective resolution. If a new mode and method is devised for resolution of such petty disputes, it will account for 75% of the litigation being dealt with in a speedy, effective and less-costly non-cumbersome manner.

It has an impact on vast masses. If the disputes brought to the grass-root courts are settled by a less formal or informal speedy procedure and more or less on the spot with people's participation, the feed stock for appeals will be substantially reduced. While devising such a forum coupled with a less-formal procedure, care has to be taken of not disturbing the susceptibilities of the rural population about their confidence in the court system. In devising such a system, attempt must be made to combine the best from all sources. The resolution of each and every dispute does not call for the expertise on the technical aspects of substantive law. Settlement of disputes arising in a locality by a body of laymen of the locality is almost universally recognised. Number of such institutions all over the world may be briefly noticed to substantiate this statement1.

The institution of Justice of the peace in England and United States of America, 'Peoples Court' in USSR and with minor variations in all Eastern European countries and the Institution of Lay Justice all entail people's participation in the administration of Justice. Yugoslavia 'is making an attempt in the direction of setting-up exclusively lay tribunals more or less based on the ideology similar to that underlying our Indian Panchayats.2 So is the remarkable experience of Hungary in the system of People's Assessors.3 The concept of lay participation in judicial decision making made its appearance centuries back and it "began with the appearance of a 'third party' who establishes the ransom following the periods of self judgment or blood feud".4

Mediation model for settling disputed issues developed when and where the third party intervening in the dispute had sufficient prestige and power to enforce decision, ransom indicated State intervention, private injury became public injury which assisted the process under which passing judgment became a state function.5 In some form or the other, lay local participation in the mode and method of resolution of dispute was always in existence. Before the advent of justice, there undoubtedly was an indigenous system for resolution of disputes. The impact of English language, western literature, the British system of Justice and the universal rationality of Western Law have combined to induce, an inbuilt prejudice for anything ancient.

However, while, trying to unearth and evaluate the indigenous system, it was found 'that the essentials of our ancient system were not very different from those of our present system.'6 While comparing the two systems, it was accepted that the subsidiary features of the present system includes clumsy and cumbrous procedure, while the earlier one was simple and less-formal. Undoubtedly, 'as the society advances from stage to stage, its needs alter from time to time and any system which governs the functioning of society or its component parts would also call for progressive modification7 One has, therefore, to keep in mind while devising the modern system, the changes that have occurred in the conditions and structure of the society for which the system is to be devised.

1. The Institution of 'Justice of the Peace' in U.K. dealing with the greater part of criminal jurisdiction and a small but not unimportant part of civil jurisdiction 'is the wonder of all foreigners for nothing like it exists in any other part of the world'. 'With few exceptions, this institution has worked quite satisfactorily and it is quite cheap'; C.K. Allen, The Queen's Peace (The Hamlyn Lectures, Fifth Series, 1953), p. 178.

2. Report of the Study Team on Nyaya Panchayat, Government of India, Ministry of Law, (April 1962), Ch. III, para. 16, p. 29.

3. See Kalman Kulscar People's Assessors in the courts: A study on the Sociology of Law, (1982).

4. Ibid., p. 17.

5. See Kalman Kulscar People's Assessors in the courts: A study on the Sociology of Law, (1982), p. 18.

6. LCI Fourteenth Report, Ch. 4, para. 5.

7. Ibid.

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