The village court plays a vital role as Bangladesh's lowest tier of the judicial system, operating as a local arbitral tribunal established under the Village Court Ordinance 1976. This institutional framework aims to expedite the resolution of certain cases and related matters in rural areas, emphasising accessibility and fairness in the justice system.
The penalty authority within village courts is set to increase, with fines quadrupling in magnitude substantially. The village court's fine limit currently stands at a modest Tk75,000. However, the government has endorsed a significant adjustment, raising this cap to a more substantial sum of Tk3,00,000.
This development stems from the official approval of the "Village Courts (Amendment) Act, 2023" during a cabinet meeting last month, chaired by the Prime Minister. Let us delve further into the significant changes brought about by the "Village Courts (Amendment) Act, 2023" and the broader context of the village court system in Bangladesh.
The decision to increase the penalty power in village courts, as stipulated in the Amendment Act, marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of Bangladesh's legal landscape.
The village court, often referred to as the Gram Adalat, serves as the bedrock of the country's judicial system, providing essential legal services to rural communities. By enhancing the court's financial authority, the government aims to address these communities' changing needs and demands and ensure that justice is accessible and effective at the grassroots level.
The move to increase the maximum fine from Tk75,000 taka to Tk3,00,000 clearly indicates the government's commitment to strengthening the village court system. This change gives the village courts more substantial financial leverage to address a broader range of cases, fostering a more equitable and responsive legal environment in rural areas.
This change is not only about financial adjustments but also about enhancing the decision-making process within village courts. The requirement for an odd number of court members, including the union council chairman, ensures balanced and representative decision-making. In cases where a member is absent, the chairman's decision assumes precedence, maintaining the efficiency and functionality of the village court system.
Moreover, the shift from using the term "minor" to "child" in certain sections of the law reflects the evolving legal and societal perspectives on juvenile justice.
This legislative change reflects the government's responsiveness to the demands of village court chairmen and the evolving legal landscape. The change aligns with international standards and demonstrates the government's commitment to upholding the rights and welfare of children in legal proceedings as well.
As the lowest tier of the country's judicial system, village courts are crucial in ensuring justice and dispute resolution in Bangladesh's rural areas. The "Village Courts (Amendment) Act, 2023" signifies a progressive step in the ongoing efforts to refine and modernise the village court system in Bangladesh. It exemplifies the government's commitment to providing accessible, fair and effective justice to rural communities while acknowledging these areas' evolving needs and demands.
Md. Shawkat Alam Faisal is an LL.B (Hons.) Graduate and LL.M (International Law) Candidate at the Department of Law, University of Rajshahi.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.