National, Front Page

Village Courts to have more teeth

Published : 11 Feb 2024 10:35 PM

The Cabinet on Sunday gave final approval to the draft of 'Village Court (amendment) Act, 2024' enhancing the authority of village courts to fine Taka 3 lakh, raising the amount from existing Taka 75 thousand.

The approval came from the weekly Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Prime Minister's Office in the capital city of Dhaka.

Cabinet Secretary Md Mahbub Hossain briefed reporters at Bangladesh Secretariat this afternoon.

Hossain said the government gave the final approval to the draft act last year. There is an obligation to take approval from the new Cabinet as it was not tabled in the last parliament, he said, adding now the current Cabinet gave the final approval.

He said the government is set to enhance the authority of village courts, enabling them to raise fines from Taka 75,000 to Taka 3 lakh.

He said a village court comprises five members, including the union parishad chairman. In some cases, the court cannot function if any member remains absent. In this situation, the absent member would get seven days to be present in the meeting. If the member cannot be present, then the chairman has the power to give one additional vote, he said.

The cabinet secretary said complication is being created if the person representing one party of a case dies. From now on, successor of the deceased can be the party in the case concerned, he said.

Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh Phase II (AVCB II) Project facilitates local authorities in making village courts functional at 1,080 unions with financial supports and a tri-partnership with European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Bangladesh. The Local Government Division (LGD) of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (MoLGRD&C) is implementing this project for creating wider access to dispute resolutions services for the rural people particularly poor and vulnerable at the community level.

Following successful implementation of a Pilot Phase (2009 – 2015), AVCB II Project has been scaled up to 27 districts covering eight administrative divisions.

The overarching objective of the AVCB II project is to contribute to improve the access to justice for disadvantaged and marginalized groups in Bangladesh.

The specific objectives of the project:

To make local authorities more responsive to local justice needs and offer appropriate legal services in the form of well-functioning village courts

To empower local people, especially women, the poor and vulnerable groups to seek remedies for injustices and to resolve their disputes at the local level in an expeditious, transparent and affordable manner.

Key Achievements: Up to April 2019 the key achievements of the project are:

Village Courts Rules enacted in February 2016

Village courts in 1,078 unions started offering dispute resolution services. In total, 105,595 cases reported (28% by women) up to April 2019, resolved 82,536 cases and 77,123 decisions implemented

Village Courts Training Manual and Flipchart, revised by the Project, is endorsed by National Institute of Local Government (NILG)

27 District Training Pools (DTPs) provided capacity building training to 24,203 service providers (UP chairmen, panel chairmen, UP members and UP secretaries)

District judicial officers being officially authorized, are participating in village courts training and became part of District Training Pool (DTPs) with the necessary guidance of the Bangladesh Supreme Court

27 Districts and 128 Upazilas Village Courts Management Committees (VCMCs) have been formed and are functioning.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Md Mahbub Hossain said the Cabinet also gave final approval to 'Local Government (city corporation) (amendment) Act 2024'.

From now on, he said, the government would do the work of drainage management instead of the city corporation. City corporation mayors and councilors will now enjoy one-month leave instead of three months, he added.

Under the amended law, Hossain said, there is a provision of holding city corporation polls within 90 days or three months before the end of the tenure while earlier it was 180 days.

He said, as per the new act, the tenure of a city corporation will be five years and the new mayors and councilors will take oath within 15 days after the election.

He said the power of forming standing committee of the city corporation has been enhanced. Now 21 committees could be formed instead of the existing 14.

He said there will be no post of secretary in the corporation and he (secretary) will be recognized as the chief executive officer.

Hossain said a proposal of exempting the Agriculture Ministry from the responsibility of forming a separate policy for processing agri products has been approved in the cabinet.

Replying to a query, the cabinet secretary said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has gave directives to all concerned to be more active in getting recognition certificates of GI products.