Gram nyayalaya

From Justice Definitions Project

What is Gram Nyayalaya

Gram Nyayalaya (literally, "village courts") are rural or village-level courts that were established with a clear objective: to bring justice to the doorsteps of citizens and eliminate barriers to access justice based on social, economic, or other disadvantages[1]. The Law Commission of India, recognizing the need for speedy, substantial, and affordable justice for the common man, recommended their establishment in its 114th report[2]. Subsequently, the Parliament enacted the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008[3], empowering these grassroots-level courts.

These Nyayalayas, with jurisdiction determined by state governments in consultation with respective High Courts[4], play a crucial role in dispensing justice. Nyayadhikaris, appointed under the Act, has the authority to conduct mobile courts and proceedings in villages[5].

Official definition

According to Section 2(a) of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, Gram Nyayalayas are defined as courts set up in accordance with Subsection (1) of Section 3.

Legal Provisions related to Gram Nyayalayas


Section 3 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, empowers state governments, in consultation with High Courts, to set up Gram Nyayalayas in every intermediate-level Panchayat or a group of adjacent Panchayats within a district. The headquarters are designated in the respective Panchayat or another location notified by the state government.


Section 5 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, mandates the appointment of Nyayadhikari, the presiding officer, by the State Government in consultation with the High Court. Nyayadhikari qualifications align with those of a First Class Judicial Magistrate, with provisions for reservation. The salary matches that of a Judicial Magistrate of the first class (Section 7).


Territorial jurisdiction is determined by state governments, allowing Gram Nyayalayas to function as mobile courts. Section 11 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, grants jurisdiction over both criminal and civil matters, including pecuniary jurisdiction as per guidelines from the respective High Court. Gram Nyayalayas can adjudicate offences specified in the First Schedule and civil suits outlined in the Second Schedule of the Act[6]. They function in addition to regular civil and criminal courts. Special evidence consideration is permitted (Section 30).


The Act incorporates the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, for criminal matters, emphasizing a simplified procedure initially (Sections 18 and 19). In civil matters, Nyayalayas deviate from the Code of Civil Procedure, utilizing discretionary powers for faster justice delivery (Section 24(6)). As per Section 24(8), a Gram Nyayalaya is required to dispose of matters within a period of six months from the date of their institution. This provision emphasizes the need for expeditious resolution of cases, ensuring timely justice delivery in rural areas.[7]

For both criminal and civil matters, appeals against Gram Nyayalaya's decisions can be filed within a six-month limitation period. Criminal appeals go to the Sessions Court, while civil appeals go to the District Court of the concerned jurisdiction.

'Gram Nyayalaya' as defined in Government Reports

114th  Law Commission Report:

In its 114th report[8], the Law Commission of India advocated for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas, aiming to provide prompt, cost-effective, and substantial justice to the common man. The commission suggested introducing Gram Nyayalayas with a dual focus: firstly, to alleviate the backlog of cases at subordinate levels, and secondly, to usher in a participatory approach to justice. Stressing the necessity for a decentralized judicial system, the commission recommended the addition of a new tier, represented by Gram Nyayalayas, at the grassroots level of the judiciary.

Appearance in official databases

Gram Nyayalaya dashboard

The Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India[9], offers comprehensive information on Gram Nyayalayas through its website. This resource covers the introduction, features, funds allocation, and performance metrics of these village-level courts in India. The website features a dynamic dashboard presenting various statistics, including the number of notified and operational Gram Nyayalayas in different states. Additionally, it provides insights into the funds sanctioned by the central government for the effective functioning of these legal entities.

a screenshot from Gram Nyayalaya's official website showing statistics such as the total notified and operational Gram Nyayalaya
a screenshot of the official website showing statistical information such as cases disposed of and pending.

The National Judicial Data Grid:

The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), as detailed in its final report available on the official webpage, provides information about various gram nyayalayas across different districts of Kerala. Additionally, it presents statistical data, including the total number of cases pending and disposed of, as well as the count of orders passed and orders awaiting upload.

Research that engages with

Evaluation Study of the Scheme of Establishing and Operationalizing Gram Nyayalayas, January, 2018[10]

This report, sponsored by the Ministry of Law & Justice and conducted in January 2018 revealed some concerning statistics. Between 2009-10 and 2017-18, only 320 Gram Nyayalayas were notified by various State Governments, out of which only 204 are currently operational. Shockingly, only 11 states have taken steps to notify Gram Nyayalayas, which goes against the legislative intent and purpose of the act. The act aims to provide 'justice at the doorstep' for all citizens and ensure 'access to justice' for everyone.

Indian Justice Report[11]

The IJR is an annual report that ranks the states and union territories of India based on their performance in four pillars of justice delivery: police, prisons, judiciary, and legal aid. The report identifies various challenges and issues that hinder the functioning and performance of these courts, such as the non-mandatory nature of setting them up, the lack of infrastructure, staff, funds, and mobility, and the low cooperation from the police and other authorities. The report also provides some data and statistics on the number of notified and operational gram nayalayas, the funds allocated and released by the central and state governments, and the cases received and disposed of by these courts. The report suggests that gram nayalayas need more support and resources to fulfil their role as a means of delivering justice at the doorstep and reducing the burden on the higher court

International experience

United States of America

In the United States, community courts[12] have been established on principles akin to India's Gram Nyayalayas, focusing on neighbourhood-centric court programs that synergize the community and the justice system to address local issues. The Centre for Court Innovation outlines six guiding principles for community courts[13]: restoring the community, bridging the gap between communities and courts, integrating a fragmented criminal justice system, assisting offenders in addressing underlying issues leading to crime, enhancing court information, and constructing a courthouse that mirrors these aspirations. These courts are designed to respond to particular concerns of communities[14].


Village courts are a form of local dispute resolution mechanism in Bangladesh, established by the Village Court Act, 2006[15]. They aim to provide accessible, speedy, and low-cost justice to the rural people, especially the poor and vulnerable, for petty civil and criminal cases. Village courts are expected to resolve cases within 30 days, and the decisions are binding and enforceable by law. Village courts have shown positive impacts on the rural justice system in Bangladesh. They have reduced the case backlog and the cost and time of litigation in the formal courts, increased the satisfaction and trust of the people in the justice system, and empowered women and marginalized groups to access justice. Village courts have also contributed to social harmony, peace, and development in rural communities[16].

Also known as

Village courts


  1. see the preamble of the gram nyayalayas act, 2008. it reads thus: “an act to provide for the establishment of gram nyayalayas at the grass roots level for the purposes of providing access to justice to the citizens at their doorsteps and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of social, economic or other disabilities and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
  2. Available at:
  3. (2024). English Releases. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2024].
  4. The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, §3.
  5. The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, §9.
  6. The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, §11.
  7. The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008.
  8. Available at:
  9. Available at:
  10. Evaluation Study of the Scheme of Establishing and Operationalizing Gram Nyayalayas, .Available at:
  11. India Justice Report: Ranking States on Police, Judiciary, Prisons and Legal Aid (2022). Available at:
  12. Bureau of Justice Assistance. (2023). Community Courts Initiative | Overview. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2024].
  13. Available at:
  14. id.
  15. Available at:
  16. (2019). Village Court in Bangladesh: Bridging the Justice Gap | South-South Galaxy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2024].
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