Disputes come up for hearing and offenders are sometimes punished with imprisonment, while none challenges its authority though it is not a court of law.

The system of Gramya Adalat (village court) and Bandishala (village jail) is in vogue in Gautami gram panchayat of Sanakhemundi block of Orissa’s Ganjam district, about 35 km from here.

“The village adalat sits regularly to decide the disputes, said Sarpanch of the gram panchayat Sushant Swain.

“Those sentenced to imprisonment are locked in a one room jail with a guard,” he said.

The cases that come up for hearing range from family disputes to those over land, he said.

The village court comprises members of the village committee and elderly persons whose word is law.

Since liquor is considered one of the main causes of most disputes, total prohibition is enforced in the panchayat, the sarpanch said.

The police said that hardly any case was reported from the panchayat, which covers eight villages with a population of 10,000.

“Hardly any case is reported from the villages,” said Sub—Divisional Police Officer (Berhampur Sadar) Gagarin Mohanty.

“It has been our tradition to solve disputes at the village level from pre-independence days,” an elderly villager said. “No one defies a one defies a decision by the village adalat.”

It was adjudged the best panchayat in Orissa for 2008-09 and its sarpanch rewarded by the government on Panchayat Raj Day on March 5 with a cash prize of Rs. 1,00,000.

The CPI district unit also felicitated the sarpanch.

The panchayat has the distinction of electing its sarpanch unopposed since 1956.

The election for the post of sarpanch is not held in the panchayat, said CPI district unit secretary Prakash Patra. “The villagers sit together and select the sarpanch and ward members on their own.”

There is also a village development committee, which meets to decide on development work in the panchayat.

Government projects in the village are executed by the village committee and no contractor is allowed.