A joint project by the government, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has proposed disposal of some domestic violence cases by village courts after amending the Village Court Act 2006.
The proposal says rural women often go to such courts seeking legal remedy over dower, alimony and polygamy, but the courts are not entitled to dispose of the cases. It recommends the amendments to enable the courts to settle some of those cases.
Agreeing to the proposal, Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives Minister Md Tazul Islam said Sunday the government had taken the initiative to amend the Village Court Act 2006 to make the courts more efficient, friendly and effective.
While addressing the discussion titled "National Consultation on Review of Village Court Act 2006" to finalise the legal framework and amendments, the minister said village courts prevent wastage of both time and money since it is easy to avail legal aid there.
The courts in rural Bangladesh currently can settle petty criminal and civil offences.
"The Village Court Act could not be adequately enforced due to various reasons. Many cases are still being settled illegally outside courts," the minister told the programme jointly organised by the Local Government Division, the EU and the UNDP.
According to the government, more than 2.11 lakh cases have been filed with village courts so far. Of them, the courts settled around two lakh cases while around 10,000 cases were transferred to district courts.
The minister opined the amendments would help make village courts more efficient and reduce pressure on other courts that had already been burdened with huge case backlogs.
At the programme, Local Government Division Senior Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said he thinks if union parishad members and chairmen become more active, village courts will help reduce the backlog of cases at the Supreme Court.
He also highlighted women's participation in village courts for decision-making, and added the obligation of a woman to be present in court as a judge would serve as a milestone in establishing the rule of law.
EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink at the programme said the amendments would make the process of conducting village courts easier in line with other laws, and it would make getting justice easier for the ordinary people.
Speaking as the special guest, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh Sudipto Mukerjee said, "I believe if the proposed amendments can be implemented, this law will be of greater benefit to the marginalised people."
In 2013, Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh Project was launched in 350 unions of 12 districts on a pilot basis. After that, the second phase of the project was implemented in 1,080 unions with the 2016-2020 deadline.