ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Deepening Decentralised Democracy?

Gram Kachahary in Rural Bihar

Bihar has an innovative system of rural local governance through judicial institutions led by the people. Each gram panchayat has a gram kachahary. How these institutions work, the challenges they face, while settling disputes, and the ways these challenges could be met are examined.

Although the 73rd amendment to the Constitution designated panchayats as institutions of self-government, they have not emerged as such because of want of functional, financial, and administrative powers at their disposal. Sharma and Chakravarty (2018) rightly observed that the rural local governments could not be integrated into the broader federal system in India. Two reasons are responsible for this state of affairs. First, the powers between states and the union have been divided as per the Constitution, whereas powers to rural local governments have been delegated by the state legislature. The former arrangement may be called distributary and the latter, devolutionary. As far as empowering the panchayats is concerned, the ball is in the court of the states and not in the Constitution. On account of this, different states have different levels of devolution of power to the panchayats. But that relates to developmental functions.

As the 73rd amendment to the Constitution is silent about judicial powers to panchayats, all states have not given judicial powers to panchayats; the exceptions are Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (UP). In the case of UP, nyaya panchayats have been defunct from 1972 and these institutions were deleted from the State Panchayat Act. Bihar’s case is unparalleled because here gram kachaharies (village courts, henceforth GK) have been constituted in each and every gram panchayat (GP). In this way, in each GP two systems of rural governance exists. The GP headed by a mukhiya looks after the developmental functions of the area, while the GK headed by a sarpanch looks after the judicial functions.

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Updated On : 2nd Dec, 2019

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