Taking a step further towards boosting women’s empowerment and reducing gender inequalities the Union Government is all set to introduce the new ‘Nari Adalat’ or women- courts exclusively for women and girls at the village level under Mission Shakti. Mission Shakti has under its umbrella two sub-schemes- Sambal and Samarthya. These women’s courts will act as alternative dispute resolution forums for women to settle a variety of disputes such as domestic violence, property possessorship conflicts and the problems arising out of the age-old discriminating patriarchal system. All the women and girls in need of assistance and legal aid would be able to approach these Nari Adalats.
During the 15th Finance Commission in 2021–2022, the Ministry of Women and Child Development unveiled Mission Shakti. It is a holistic effort to enhance interventions for women’s empowerment, safety, and security. The initiative will be in effect through 2025–2026. It is divided into the two following sub-schemes:
Sambal Scheme: it incorporates various steps taken to ensure the protection, well-being and security of women so that they have ample opportunities to thrive and contribute their share in the growth of the economy and the nation. The sub-schemes include components such as One Stop Centre (OSC), Women Helpline (WHL), Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and Nari Adalat .
Samarthya Scheme: it consists of various sub-schemes that work for empowering women. Components of the Samarthya scheme include Ujjwala, Swadhar Greh, working women hostel, National Creche Scheme for children of working women, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) and Gap Funding for Economic Empowerment. While some of the previous sub-schemes have been discontinued, some of them have been launched again with various progressive modifications under the Samarthya Scheme.
STRUCTURE AND WORKING OF THE ADALATS
The composition of Nari Adalat would be such that each Adalat would consist of 7- 9 members. The elected members of the village’s Gramme Panchayat would make up half of this group, while women with high social prestige, such as teachers, doctors, social workers, etc. would make up the other half. The members would be chosen and nominated by the villagers themselves instead of any indirect procedure. These members would be known as the Nyaya Sakhis (Legal Friends). The head of Nari Adalar would be known as Mukhya Nyaya Sakhi (Chief legal friend), who would be determined from the group of Nyaya Sakhis. The Mukhya Nyaya Sakhi in question would be in charge for six months before being replaced.
These Adalats will have the authority to make decisions about specific matters involving the grievances of women as well as be tasked with communicating with the public, boosting awareness of women’s rights, legal opinions, various government projects, and receiving public feedback. However, these Nari Adalats would not have any legal status.
These courts will provide a variety of services to women such as alternative dispute resolution and grievance redressal, counselling, evidence-based decision-making, pressure group tactics, negotiation, mediation and reconciliation with mutual consent for accessible and affordable justice.
IMPLEMENTATION OF SCHEME
The scheme will be initially implemented on a small scale in 50 districts of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir in August this year. The programme will gradually be expanded to the rest of the nation over the next six months. For the implementation of the plan, certain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been developed.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development will oversee the implementation of the entire program introduced under the Sambal Scheme. Furthermore, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Common Service Centers under the Ministry of Electronics and Information will facilitate the execution of the scheme.
NECESSITY AND ADVANTAGE OF THE SCHEME
The scheme has been enacted due to an array of reasons and will benefit women in a wide manner. The scheme will provide an alternative against the traditional court system, which will allow them to present their grievances in a non-discriminatory and fair surrounding. These courts will work towards empowering women to demand their own rights, freedom and challenge the unjust practices of the traditional patriarchal society. Furthermore, not only these Nari Adalats being located in villages will provide rural women access to better and free-of-cost legal facilities, but these especially address specific issues like domestic violence, property possessorship conflicts and the problems arising out of the bigotry patriarchal system. These courts will provide a variety of legal services like alternative dispute resolution, grievance redressal, counseling, evidence-based decision-making, pressure group tactics, mediation, negotiation, and reconciliation with mutual consent which are much more efficacious methods of resolving conflicts rather than the classical means.
The proposal to set up Nari Adalats is influenced from the already discontinued Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats (PMLA). The National Commission for Women established the Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats until 2014–2015, at which point they were abandoned. The rationale behind setting up the Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats was to manage affairs concerning family, matrimonial disputes, bigamy, succession and other issues related to women. Various stakeholders which included NGOs, campaigners, and District Legal Aid and Advisory Board members were responsible for setting up the Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats. Till 2014- 15, around 298 such Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats were held.
Although India has established itself as a developing economy, there is still a long way to go to close the gender gap in society. The establishment of Nari Adalats at the village level would empower women at the grass root level so that they would demand their rights and raise their voices against discriminative practices. Furthermore, these courts would play a significant role in revolutionizing society and would enlighten the male strata about the rights of women. The Nari Adalats would be setting precedents that will raise awareness about women’s rights and bring about positive and women-inclined changes in the traditional patriarchal society. Furthermore, the platform would provide women opportunities to emerge as future advisors and leaders within their own community and assert their own rights and demands.
Author(s) Name: Suhani Parhi (Army Institute of Law, Mohali)
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 ‘09 Jul 2023: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis’ (n 1)
 ‘Nari Adalat: Women only Courts’ (n 3)
 ‘09 Jul 2023: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis’ (n 1)