Kathmandu, August 17
Bodies formed at local level to settle disputes through mediation or regular judicial process have not been able to function properly due to lack of capacity, expertise and clarity over their roles and jurisdiction, a latest report says.
These bodies referred to as judicial committees have been formed in all of 753 local units as per the provision in the constitution. These three-member extra-judicial bodies have the mandate to settle 13 different types of disputes through regular judicial process, including property boundary disputes, compensation for damage to crops and disputes over payment of wages, and another 11 types of disputes, including encroachment of private land and divorce, through mediation.
The verdicts issued by judicial committees must be enforced by executives of local bodies and those unhappy with the decision can knock on the doors of district courts.
Before the country’s shift from unitary to federal system of government, local bodies were allowed to settle disputes through mediation only. For this, local mediation centres were established as per the provision in the Mediation Act. This law clearly defined comprehensive procedures that local units needed to follow to settle disputes.
These clear-cut methods are absent in the Local Government Operation Act, which paved the way for formation of judicial committees, says the report, ‘Findings on Functioning of Local and Provincial Governments in Nepal, unveiled today by the Democracy Resource Centre Nepal.
“The Local Government Operation Act also fails to recognise, and does not include, provisions for addressing many informal and traditional mediation practices that are still commonly practised by many communities across Nepal,” says the report, adding lack of legal and jurisdictional clarity has emerged as the biggest problem for local units.
Local units are allowed to enforce additional laws to ensure proper functioning of judicial committees. But most of the local bodies relied on model legislations provided by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration to frame such laws, says the report. This was largely because of lack of capacity and technical expertise at the local level.
The judicial committees, which are headed by deputy mayors in municipalities and vice chairpersons in rural municipalities, are crucial for local units because it is expensive to fight legal battles in courts, where processes are cumbersome as well.
Considering this, those representing judicial committees must be provided legal assistance, and training and orientation at regular intervals, says the report, which was prepared after conducting surveys in 145 local units — 67 municipalities and 78 rural municipalities — of 54 districts across the country.
A version of this article appears in print on August 18, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.