The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has developed the model 'Local Level Mediation Centre Operation Directive, 2021' for implementation of the rights of rural municipalities and municipalities stated in Schedule 8 of the constitution and Section 46 of the Local Government Operation Act, 2017.

A section of the act says that each local level shall have a judicial committee in accordance with schedule-8 of the constitution to resolve minor legal cases through mediation between disputing parties. The judicial committee is headed by deputy mayor of the municipality and vice-chairperson of rural municipalities.

The model procedure for operation of mediation centre released by the MoFAGA today shall come into force upon approval by the local level concerned. It requires establishment and operation of a medication centre in each ward of the local level to resolve cases falling under the jurisdiction of the judicial committee. The functions, duties and powers of the mediation centre are to receive and register applications submitted by the parties in dispute, facilitate the mediation process, forward the cases to the judicial committee if they cannot be resolved through mediation and encourage locals to enjoy the mediation service, among others.

Likewise, the mediation centre shall take help of mediators chosen by the parties in dispute for each case in the presence of local office-bearers.

The local level is also required to prepare and implement a code of conduct for mediators selected from among the locals for settlement of cases. Cases that cannot be settled by the mediation centre, shall be referred to the judicial committee. If the case cannot resolved even by the judicial committee, they shall be forwarded to the district court.

The disputes or cases to be settled by the mediation centre or judicial committee are related to distribution and use of canals, water sources, public taps, damage to crops, wood, animal fodder/grass, non-payment of wages, disappearance of pets, care of senior citizens, depriving children or husband/wife of proper food and education, rent facilities, planting of trees/saplings affecting other's properties, waste water affecting other's land or property, encroachment or trespassing of land, illegal construction of a structure, divorce, beating that is punishable by maximum oneyear imprisonment, slander, petty theft, stray cattle menace, noise pollution, improper waste management and other civil cases. As per the prevailing laws, there can be a maximum of one-year imprisonment for criminal charges.

The judgement issued by the mediation centre or judicial committee shall be enforced by the executive of the local bodies and those not satisfied with the decision may move to the district court. The local units are allowed to enforce additional laws to ensure proper functioning of the judicial committee.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 12 2021, of The Himalayan Times.