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Report No. 14

31. Procedure Codes not to apply.-

It has been said that as the Evidence Act and the Procedure Codes have been made inapplicable to these courts by the Acts constituting them and that as the panchayats are left at liberty to discover the truth in the best manner open to them and permitted even to utilise their personal knowledge in respect of the matters in issue, the very basis on which these courts are constituted is wholly opposed to the recognized canons of the administration of justice. Though these enactments exclude the application of the Evidence Act and the Procedure Codes to these tribunals, they do contain specific provisions laying down the manner of the conduct of trial in these courts and also contain provisions in regard to the delivery of judgments, the maintenance of records and other ancillary matters.

The criticism arises from the erroneous view which regards these courts in the same manner as ordinary judicial tribunals while they are essentially different. Their main function is to bring about, as far as possible, a compromise of the small disputes arising in the village. An amicable settlement of such disputes becomes easier to secure when the persons clothed with the authority of deciding them have the advantage of knowing the disputants, the subject-matter of the dispute, the way in which the dispute arose and other facts relating to them.

The personal knowledge of the panchas in these matters which they are entitled to use in inducing a settlement wherever possible and ultimately, if necessary, deciding those disputes is valuable for the efficient and smooth working of these tribunals, whether as conciliators or as adjudicators. It is, therefore, essential that these tribunals should be free from the fetters laid down in the Evidence Act and the Procedure Codes. Indeed, it would be anomalous to apply the complicated rules of evidence and procedure laid down in these laws to the adjudications of the simple and very frequently, the frivolous disputes which arise in the villages.

32. No legal representation.-

Having regard to what has been stated above, it would be equally anomalous to permit parties to disputes in these courts to be represented by legal practitioners. It has been said that the litigant in these courts should not be denied the benefit of competent legal aid. Such an argument overlooks the very simple nature of the disputes which come up before these courts and the fact that these courts are not judicial tribunals in the strict sense. The very purpose of these courts, namely the ready and commonsense administration of justice without regard to technicalities would be defeated unless the prohibition against the appearance of lawyers in these tribunals is maintained.

33. Constitutional limitation on exclusion of legal practitioner.-

Attention may, however, be drawn in this connection to clause (1) of Article 22 of the Constitution which provides inter alia that no person who is arrested shall be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. In cases where these tribunals are given jurisdiction over criminal matters which may result in persons brought up before them being arrested, the accused person will have to be given the right to consult and to be defended by legal practitioners. A provision to this effect is to be found in the Uttar Pradesh Act.

34. Panchayat courts and the increase of litigation.-

It has been suggested by some witnesses who appeared before us that the very creation of these courts in the villages has resulted in making the villagers factious so that, with the courts so easily accessible, the most trivial disputes which they would never have dreamt of taking to a court of law are now being taken to these village courts. It is suggested that the very large number of cases disposed of by these courts particularly in the State of Uttar Pradesh support this statement. This view sought to be supported only by the large number of suits disposed of by these courts is difficult to accept.

It may be that previously when courts were far away and difficult of access, villagers-particularly those who were poor and low in the social scale-had not the means and the opportunity to obtain redress of their grievances and suffered them without taking any action. These villagers having now the opportunity, resort to these courts for redressing their wrongs. That is very different from asserting that these courts have actually led to a rise in frivolous or vexatious litigation. On the contrary, the fact that these grievances are now capable of easy remedy in the village itself or nearby is a justification for the creation of these courts. The view we have taken is supported by the evidence of officials who have been supervising the working of the panchayats including the nyaya panchayats.

35. Panchayats as conciliators.-

It has been suggested that the function of these panchayats should be purely conciliatory and not adjudicatory; that it could be provided by law that in all disputes of a specified class, the disputants, before going to the ordinary courts of law, should be required to go to the local panchayat court which would exert its influence to bring about an amicable settlement. Such disputes should be entertained by the regular courts only in the event of the failure of the panchayat courts to effect conciliation. If this suggestion were accepted, it appears to us that the panchayat courts would be deprived of their real utility and the small disputes which they now adjudicate would be subjected to the delays and the expense which will arise from first going for conciliation to the panchayat courts and then going for adjudication to the regular courts.

36. Adjudicatory powers essential.-

One cannot overlook the importance of the body which is entrusted with the task of bringing about an amicable settlement being clothed with authority to adjudicate upon the dispute in the event of a settlement not being agreed to. It would not be incorrect to state that the large number of settlements which the panchayat courts are able to bring about are due, in a considerable measure, to the authority to adjudicate which they now possess. Nor can we overlook the tendency of litigants to take their matters to higher courts even in small matters and their reluctance to accept a decision as final, if there is the least possibility of canvassing its correctness in a higher court.

The mere fact that taking the matter to the regular court would result in delay will induce a large number of litigants to refuse to agree to an amicable settlement of their disputes. Even if penal provisions relating to costs were introduced, it is unlikely that such provisions will prevent litigants from refusing to agree to a reasonable compromise in the hope of delaying the adjudication by letting the matter go to the regular courts. We are, therefore, of the view that these tribunals should be vested with powers of adjudication.

37. Exclusive jurisdiction necessary.-

We think that the suggestion that the jurisdiction of these tribunals should be made concurrent with that of the ordinary courts and not exclusive is unsound. In the absence of an exclusive jurisdiction, there will be a tendency in the litigant to prefer the ordinary courts. If the plaintiff takes advantage of the village court with its cheap and expeditious procedure, the defendant will, in order to obstruct the plaintiff and delay the litigation, move for a transfer of his case to the regular court.

If our purpose is to make these courts efficient, we can do so only by investing them with complete responsibility in the exercise of such jurisdiction as they possess and give them opportunities to acquire knowledge and experience. It is unfair to criticise these courts as inefficient and at the same time deny them exclusive jurisdiction which step alone can lead to their improvement and satisfactory working.

38. Panchayat courts useful.-

Having given full weight to the various criticisms levelled against the panchayat courts, we feel justified in reaching the conclusion that, with safeguards designed to ensure their proper working and improvement, these courts are capable of playing a very necessary and useful part in the administration of justice in the country. We shall now proceed to discuss and outline what needs to be done to ensure the satisfactory and improved working of these courts.

39. Their establishment necessary.-

Before we proceed to do so, we may point out that in some of the States like Bombay, Mysore and Orissa a determined effort needs to be made to make these courts popular so that the congestion in the regular courts may be relieved and the villagers may be able to obtain justice in small disputes near their homes. Table IX shows that only an infinitesimal number of suits are filed in these courts in Bombay and Orissa. Evidence given before us indicated that though there is a statutory provision for the establishment of these courts' in the State of Mysore, they are not functioning in that State.

We have not been able to find the real cause of the situation existing in these three States. If these courts can function so as to dispose of a large mass of suits in States like Madras and Uttar Pradesh, there appears to us to be no reason whatever why they cannot be made to fulfil a similar function in these three States. We, therefore, suggest that a determined effort should be made to establish and popularise these courts in these three States.

40. Nomination out of elected Panchas favoured (Grouping of villages).-

In regard to their constitution, it is essential that the Panchas should be the elected representatives of the people. The system, which at present prevails in a number of States, of electing them as a part of the administrative or general panchayat elected for the village or villages appears to be satisfactory. In order, however, to ensure that out of the members of the panchayat so elected, persons having some knowledge or experience in matters useful to the administration of justice are chosen, the selection of nyaya panchas out of the members of the panchayat elected by the villagers may be left to an out-side authority like the Collector.

Table IX

Statement Showing The Number and Value of Suits Instituted In The Village and Panchayat Court In Certain States

Name of the State and year

Value not exceeding Rs. 10

Value not exceeding Rs. 20

Value not exceeding Rs. 50

Value not exceeding Rs. 100

Value not exceeding Rs. 50

Total number of suits instituted


















(a) This figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 10 and Rs. 50.












(a) 50

(b) 4



(b) this figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 50 and Rs. 100.




(a) 29

(b) 7






(a) 26

(b) 8



Madhya Pradesh




(x) 139

(y) 149

(z) 141


© This figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 10 and Rs. 50.




(x) 207

(y) 224

(z) 123





(x) 200

(y) 203

(z) 30










(d) This figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 50 and 100.















(e) This figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 100 and Rs. 500.




© 14

(d) 1



(f) This figures includes the suit instituted in village courts.



© 95

(d) 17

(e) 32




© 48

(d) 13

(e) 12

(f) 73



(1) 813

(2) 1,770

(1) This figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 30 and Rs. 50.


(1) 743

(3) 1,660

(2) This figure includes 957 suits valued between Rs. 30.


(1) 730

(4) 79

(5) 1,817

(3) This figure includes 935 suits valued below Rs. 30.

(4) This figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 50 to Rs. 100.

(5) This figure includes suits valued below Rs. 30.

West Bengal



(x) 2,676

(y) 1,013

(z) 982


(x) This figure denotes he number of suits valued between Rs. 10 and Rs. 50.



(x) 6,291

(y) 862

(z) 869


(y) This figure denotes the number of suits valued between Rs. 50 and Rs. 100.



(x) 2,803

(y) 1,047

(z) 894


(z) This figure denotes of suits valued between Rs. 100 and Rs. 500.

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