Proposal blocked by law ministry

The Union law and justice ministry has blocked the proposed Nyaya Panchayat Bill, put forth by the panchayati raj ministry, on the ground that it went against constitutional provisions.

The law ministry has objected that Nyaya Panchayat members, who have been designated as the alternative dispute redressal mechanism at the grassroots level, do not have any legal or judicial background. Sources stated that it was felt that delegation of judicial powers to local elected representatives could promote khap panchayat like establishments.
The objective of the proposed Nyaya Panchayat Bill is to provide a sound institutionalised forum at the grassroots level for alternative dispute resolution through mediation and conciliation with community involvement.
The ministry has also pointed out that the constitution has provided for separation of judiciary from the executive. “Judicial independence and separation of judiciary from other organs of the state is the basic feature of our Constitution. Article 50 provides for separation of judiciary from the executive,” the law ministry contended.
The Nyaya Panchayat Bill is one of the high priority legislation planned by the panchayati raj ministry and this is the second time that the law ministry has raised objections to its clearance. In 2007, during UPA-I, the law ministry had refused to give a go-ahead to the proposal.
The Nyaya Panchayat Bill proposes to create nyaya panchayats that would aim at resolving disputes before they reach the formal justice system. However, without extinguishing the right to go to judicial forum if any party to a dispute is not satisfied with the outcome of alternative dispute resolution.
However, the law ministry feels that the said nyaya panchayats would not be part of local self-government as panchayati raj ministry contends but would become a part of subordinate judiciary at the village level.
The law ministry’s objections assume significance as the country is currently engaged in a debate on the legal status of khap panchayats. As reported first by this paper in January this year, the law ministry is also currently working with the home ministry on bringing out a comprehensive law to prevent such caste and community panchayats from ordering any unlawful acts like the so-called honour killings.

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