Coming, women-only courts for alternative dispute resolution

Fifty villages each in Assam and J&K to be pilots for special women’s courts to be set up at gram panchayat level

July 08, 2023 10:20 pm | Updated July 09, 2023 11:04 am IST - New Delhi

The Nari Adalat [women’s court] will not only address individual cases but also raise awareness about social schemes under the government.

The Nari Adalat [women’s court] will not only address individual cases but also raise awareness about social schemes under the government. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Centre is launching a unique initiative of setting up women-only courts at the village level as an alternate dispute resolution forum for issues like domestic violence, property rights and countering the patriarchal system.

The scheme would be launched on a pilot basis in 50 villages each in Assam and Jammu and Kashmir from August and would be extended to the rest of the country over the next six months.

Detailed Standard Operating Procedures have been prepared for all States which would be released next week. 

The Nari Adalat of each village would have 7-9 members – half of which would be the elected members of the gram panchayat and the other half women with social standing like teachers, doctors and social workers – who would be nominated by the villagers.

“This platform leverages their potential as advisers and leaders within their communities, functioning as a pressure group,” a senior official in the Ministry of Women and Child Development told The Hindu.

The Nari Adalat [women’s court] will not only address individual cases but also raise awareness about social schemes under the government while collecting valuable feedback to enhance the effectiveness of these initiatives. It will cater to all women and girls who require assistance or have grievances within the local community.

Its main functions include raising awareness about the legal rights and entitlements of women and resolving cases falling within its jurisdiction. “The services provided will include alternate dispute resolution and grievance redressal, counselling, evidence-based decision making, pressure group tactics, negotiation, mediation and reconciliation with mutual consent for accessible and affordable justice,” the official said.

Additionally, the platform will engage with citizens, promoting awareness about women’s rights, legal opinions, various schemes and collecting public feedback.

Members known as Nyaya Sakhis [legal friends] will be nominated or selected by the gram panchayat, while the head of Nari Adalat called the Mukhya Nyaya Sakhi [chief legal friend] will be chosen among the Nyay Sakhis. The tenure of the head will be generally six months after which a new one will be selected.

The Nari Adalat though does not hold any legal status, has its primary focus on reconciliation, grievance redressal and creating awareness of rights and entitlements.

The scheme would be run by the Ministry of Women and Child Development under the Sambal sub-scheme of Mission Shakti, which is dedicated to strengthening women’s safety, security and empowerment.

The implementation process will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, the Ministry of Rural Development and Common Service Centers operated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information technology.

The scheme takes inspiration from the Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats [People’s Court of Women] which were run by the National Commission for Women (NCW) till 2014-15.

The matters redressed through these Lok Adalats, which were provided financial assistance by the NCW, related to family affairs, matrimonial disputes, bigamy, succession, and motor vehicle accident disputes related to labour.

The NGOs in association with District Legal Aid and Advisory Boards, activists, advocates and other stakeholders, used to organise PMLAs. Till the discontinuation of the scheme in 2014-15, a total of 298 such Adalats were held.

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