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Report No. 114

6.11. Appearance of lawyers.-

There has been near unanimity on the controversial question about appearance of lawyers in proceedings before Gram Nyayalaya. Most of the statutes dealing with Nyaya Panchayats have unequivocably recommended the exclusion of lawyers in the proceedings before the Nyaya Panchayat. Participants in workshops and those who submitted their views, save lawyers, were unanimously of the opinion that lawyers should not be permitted to appear before Gram Nyayalaya. Commencing from the Fourteenth Report of the Law Commission, all other Reports and Committees dealing with the topic have reaffirmed the same view. This Commission wants to introduce a slight departure from the earlier view in this behalf for very weighty reasons.

All the previous Reports of the Commission and the Committees recommended trivial jurisdiction to be conferred on Nyaya Panchayat. Approach now adopted is to confer fairly wide civil and criminal jurisdiction on Gram Nyayalaya, though the disputes in their nature are bound to be simple and uncomplicated. Further, lawyers cannot be excluded from appearance in the criminal proceedings in view of the provision contained in Article 22 of the Constitution. Any suggestion to that effect would be violative of the Constitution. The approach should not be to exclude lawyers but it should be to minimise, if not eradicate, their propensity to delay proceedings, formalise the procedure and introduce technicalities. It is the cardinal feature of our Constitution that India is to be a society governed by the rule of law.

Of course, law means not only lawyer's law but law which is denned as commonsense. One additional reason for making departure in the matter of appearance of lawyers stems from a further experiment of inducting legally trained persons in the participatory forum. Therefore, the Commission is of the opinion that the parties appearing before Gram Nyayalaya will be entitled to appear through the lawyers of their choice both in civil and criminal proceedings. However, in order to thwart the repetition of the past experience, the appearance will be subject to two specific conditions, namely, (1) Gram Nyayalaya will have no jurisdiction to adjourn the case for the convenience of the lawyers of the party, and (2) the venue of the hearing shall not be changed to accommodate the lawyer.

No adjournment will be given to enable the parties to engage the lawyers. Thus all the parties appearing before the Gram Nyayalaya who are desirous of availing assistance of lawyers should make their arrangements in advance. It would be no argument that as one party did not know whether the other party has engaged a lawyer, the matter should then be adjourned to give an opportunity to engage a lawyer. Such an approach must be wholly avoided.

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