Over 8000 Village Courts in Bihar allotted Judicial Powers

Patna:  Village heads in Bihar have been given judicial power to punish and impose fine on those violating rules, said a minister on Monday.

State Panchayati Raj Minister Bhim Singh said the government has initiated a move to strengthen “gram kachahri” (village court) by giving power to “sarpanch” (village head) to order punishment and impose fine in cases where rules are violated.

“Sarpanches of all 8,422 ‘gram kachahris’ in Bihar have been provided judicial powers, to strengthen local bodies at the village level and reduce the burden on police,” Bhim Singh told IANS here.

The village head now has the power to look into cases ranging from land disputes to criminal trespass to family problems, and even thefts of amount up to Rs.10,000.

“Sarpanch can impose fine on a person found singing vulgar songs, performing obscene acts and abusing others at a public place.” He said order of the village head will enjoy full legality, and an appeal against it could only be made in district courts.

A panchayati raj department official said the powers of “sarpanch” were clearly enshrined in the Bihar Panchayati Raj Act, 2006, but it was not implemented with the police often taking up matters that came under the village head’s jurisdiction.

Last month, Bihar police chief Abhayanand issued orders to all policemen to assist “gram kachahris” and encourage people to approach these institutions.

The “kachahris” have the power to impose fines up to Rs.1,000 but they cannot order imprisonment. There are 40 sections under the Indian Penal Code – mostly dealing with criminal offences – that come under the jurisdiction of the “gram kachahri”. Civil cases up to Rs.10,000, and other cases of unlimited value in which both parties agree, will be referred to “kachahris”.