LAHAN, Oct 24: Some 50 cases have been registered at the newly formed judicial committee in Nahara Rural Municipality of Siraha district, but only 10 of these have been resolved so far.
The judicial committee is an entirely new concept, but it is still functioning in the manner of the panchayats of yesteryear. The committee office-bearers, the plaintiffs and the defendants need to brainstorm together to reach a conclusion.
According to Gulab Devi, coordinator of the judicial committee and vice-chairperson of the rural municipality, a problem has arisen because no budget was allocated for the judicial committee and it is thus unable to hire a legal consultant. “We have not been able to use the law for resolving the cases since we don’t have any legal consultant,” she said. “I don’t have any legal knowledge either and we end by patching things up between the litigating parties.”
Most of local-level bodies in the districts have been using this same approach as they neither have a legal bench as such nor a legal consultant.
According to coordinator of the judicial committee at Bariyarpatti Rural Municipality Rekha Yadav, cases registered at the committee have had to be sorted out through discussions and reconciliation between the opposing parties. “We don’t have any knowledge of legal procedures, and with the simple training that we were given it’s difficult to adjudicate,” she said, “It would have been better if we could hire legal help.”
There are nine rural municipalities and eight municipalities in Siraha district. Out of these, Bhagwanpur Rural Municipality has not even been able to form a judicial committee. The judicial committee formed by the chairperson of Aurahi Rural Municipality was not acceptable to the vice-chairperson. And except for Lahan and Dhangadhi municipalities, no local level body has been able to hire a legal consultant.
“With neither legal knowledge nor a legal consultant to turn to, even sorting out simple cases becomes a challenge,” said Deputy Mayor of Kalyanpur Municipality Rohani Yadav. Vice-chairperson of Sakhuwanankar Rural Municipality Amala Devi shares a similar experience.
Legal experts said serious problems have arisen in the districts due to the lack of legal knowledge at the judicial committees. According to advocate Sunil Kumar Sah, problems have piled up in the judicial system due to sheer lack of legal knowledge at the local levels.
Article 217 of the constitution provisions the formation of a judicial committee at each local-level body. The three-member judicial committee is coordinated by the vice-chairperson or deputy mayor of the local body.