Kathmandu, February 10
Judicial committees of local levels have the power to settle cases carrying jail sentence up to one year, albeit through mediation, but due to lack of legal knowledge, training and resources, such committees have not been able to use this power effectively.
Senior advocate Mukti Narayan Pradhan said deputy chairpersons of local levels who head judicial committees could be biased against their opponents, therefore the Local Government Operation Act should be amended to allow only independent candidates to contest elections for the post of deputy chairpersons.
Deputy chairpersons and those involved in judicial committees, including staff, should be trained for at least a month to help them perform their judicial duty effectively, he said.
Deputy chairpersons who perform as judges should have certain academic qualification or else they cannot perform their job effectively, argued Pradhan. Local levels are facing budget crunch to adjudicate cases. “Notices should be duly served to case parties, but some local levels have not been able to send their staff to far-flung areas due to budget crunch,” he said.
As per the Local Government Operation Act, judicial committees need to give their verdicts on 13 types of cases just as regular courts and they should settle 11 types of cases through mediation. These committees are required to settle hurt/battery cases carrying a jail term of up to one year and divorce cases through mediation.
“It was wrong on the part of the federal government to bring the Local Government Operation Act. This act should have been brought by provincial governments,” Pradhan said, adding that provincial governments could have made suitable provisions keeping in mind special characteristics of their provinces.
“We are a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. We also have geographical diversity. But this law brought by the federal government has a similar structure of judicial committees,” he argued.
Another senior advocate Chandra Kanta Gyawali said giving powers to adjudicate cases to judicial committees was wrong, as they were elected representatives. “Many deputy chairpersons have told me that they do not want to settle cases because they fear that the losing party would not vote in their favour in the next elections,” Gyawali said.
He said local levels had exclusive powers as per Schedule 8 of the constitution to form local courts, but none of the local levels had formed those courts. “The best thing will be to give judicial committee only the power to settle cases through mediation and form local courts to adjudicate other cases,” Gyawali argued.
Deputy mayors of Kathmandu metropolis, Biratnagar metropolis, Bhaktapur Municipality — Hari Prabha Khadgi, Indira Karki and Rajani Joshi, respectively — said they had no problem adjudicating cases as they had lawyers in their offices to offer advice on legal matters.
Khadgi said she had been using her judicial right and service seekers were able to get justice without having to pay lawyers’ fee. She, however, said the Local Government Operation Act needed to be amended to let judicial committees of metropolis adjudicate cases involving annual rent of more than Rs 2.5 million.
“As per the current provision we can adjudicate rent cases involving the annual rent of Rs 2.5 million and less but in our metropolis, there are numerous houses where rent amount exceed Rs 2.5 million annually,” she said.
Karki said service seekers were content with the judicial service rendered by the judicial committee and she wanted the Local Government Operation Act amended to give judicial committees power to decide all 24 cases listed in Sections 47 (1) and 47 (2) of the act. She said she had allocated more budget for mediators as most service seekers were coming to seek mediation.
A version of this article appears in print on February 11, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.