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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 174
June 19, 2010

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Village court: Bringing justice to the grassroots

Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury

VILLAGE Courts Act is comprehensive piece of law though courts are yet to be established in most of the places in the country. Activation of village courts if successful would pave the way for the spontaneous flouring of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation and arbitration at the local level would help solve many problems without going to the formal courts where there is already a backlog of cases.

Strengthening local government
Strengthening of local government was suggested in the constitution, the process, however suffered on many occasions due to unstable socio-political situation. A number of initiatives to activate UP Standing Committee to ensue accountability at the local level did not sustain. National Union Parishad Forum (NUPF), an umbrella body of UP elected representative though took a number of commendable advocacy initiatives; decision-making at the local level is still a far cry.

However, elected representatives of the local government would have an opportunity to play an active role in the local justice system through village courts. If the UPs through village courts become successful in establishing justice for the poor and marginalized, governance at the local level would improve. It would also strengthen local government institutions as confidence of different stakeholders would rise.

Village Courts Act
The Village Courts Act was enacted in 2006. The act entails the functions of a village court, its jurisdiction and formation. The act has been formulated in order to resolve disputes quickly and easily within the jurisdiction of UPs.

Formation of village court
A village court would be comprised of five members. There would be 2 members (1 UP member and local elite) from the appellant side and 2 members (1 UP member and a local elite) from the side of the defendant. Chairman of the local UP would act as the chair of the Village Court. If one of the parties has reservation regarding the chairman of the UP, they can apply to the UNO in writing while mentioning the reason of dissatisfaction. In that case, UNO would nominate other member to act as chairman of the court.

Process of trial
According to the Village Courts Act, there is a process of trial to be followed. It starts with the acceptance of the application while ends up with the implementation of the verdict as shown in the flowchart.

Bangladesh Law commission

Dispute resolution and appeal
Village court is authorized to resolute dispute having a value of up to Take 25,000. There is a provision of appeal against the decision. Appeal must be submitted to the court of Assistant Judge for civil case while appeal must be submitted to first class magistrate for criminal cases.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
The term "alternative dispute resolution" or "ADR" is often used to describe a wide variety of dispute resolution mechanisms that are short of, or alternative to, full-scale court processes. The term can refer to everything from facilitated settlement negotiations in which disputants are encouraged to negotiate directly with each other prior to some other legal process, to arbitration systems or mini-trials that look and feel very much like a courtroom process.

In the absence of an effective ADR, the number of pending cases in the country increases rapidly. The parliamentary sub-committee, in its report placed before the standing committee recently, said over 15 lakh cases remained pending with the subordinate courts till January this year (The Daily Star/ February 14, 2010). Of this, 8.07 lakh cases were pending with the tribunals, district and session judge's courts and metropolitan session judge's courts, and another 7.18 lakh cases with the judicial and metropolitan magistracy.

To sum up, activation of Village Courts is not only significant to strengthen local government, smooth functioning of the local justice system would help in reducing case loads in the courts of Bangladesh. Poor and marginalized people would be largely benefited if village courts safeguard their interest while delivering justice.

Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury is currently working for FIVDB.


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