Report No. 114
5.10. Apprehensions about the Nyaya Panchayat system dispelled.-
Let us at this stage recall the apprehensions voiced by the earlier Law Commissions on conferring wide jurisdiction on Nyaya Panchayats. The Civil Justice Committee (1924-25) observed that 'communal differences and factions are in the way of any further extension of the jurisdiction of these tribunals'. Though there may be a grain of truth in this belief, it appears to be an over-reaction. In villages, where there are common interests to be protected, common services to be rendered and common funds to be administered, it is idle to ignore the common life of the village in which the necessities of neighbourhood have held their own or have prevailed against the divisions of caste.1
The law Commission in its Fourteenth Report, after taking note of this observation and also after taking note of the evidence gathered to the effect, further observed that 'these factions and divisions have increased by reason of the introduction of adult franchise all over the country and the appearance of political parties in the villages', rejected this criticism and discounted the apprehensions. The law Commission concluded that 'there is no reason why, with proper safeguards, these courts (Nyaya Panchayats) should not function with a fair amount of success and either conciliate or decide the petty disputes arising in the villages'2.
Similarly, the Legal Aid Committee set up by the Government of Gujarat took notice of 'the factious atmosphere in villages further sub-divided by caste, community and polities', and entertained a genuine apprehension that 'it would be difficult to expect evenhanded justice to be meted out by members of Nyaya Panchayats who would belong to one faction or group or the other.3 These hesitations were dispelled by the overriding consideration that the Nyaya Panchayats with a slightly different pattern would be an effective vehicle for rendering justice on the spot or at the doorstep of the litigants.
It would have an healthy impact on the village economy inasmuch as it will be a low cost justice system and man days in securing justice would not be lost. The psychological change that the rural poor would undergo by this altered system of administration of justice by their own peers in substitution of an alien system would be immeasurable. Trust them, provide safeguards for possible pitfalls, but do not reject them. Any innovation is always fraught with unseen danger but that by itself cannot be a road block to change.
1. Report of the Civil Justice Committee, p. 116, cited in LCI Fourteenth Report, Vol. II, Ch. 43, para. 7.
2. LCI Fourteenth Report, Ch. 43, para. 25.
3. Report of the Legal Aid Committee-Government of Gujarat, (1971), para. 13.14(iii), p. 211.