Countrywide Implementation of Village Court System on Cards
Dhaka, 04 March, 2021: “Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh phase II” project organized a Project Reflection workshop on 04 March 2021 at Hotel InterContinental Dhaka aiming to explore a sustainable way forward to ensure access to justice for rural and marginalized people of Bangladesh. Local Government Division (LGD) of the Ministry of LGRD and Cooperatives is implementing the project with technical and financial support from the Government of Bangladesh, European Union, and UNDP. The overall objective of the workshop is to contribute to ensuring the sustainability of the project through implementing an institutional monitoring system, ensuring effective engagement of Accounts Assistant cum Computer Operators (AACOs) to run village courts, and documenting the lessons learned for effective phasing out of the AVCB II project.
Hon’ble Minister LGRD and Cooperatives, Mr. Tazul Islam, MP, attended the workshop as the Chief Guest, with the Senior Secretary of LGD, Mr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, in the chair. H.E. Ms. Rensje Teerink, EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh Mr. Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP, Bangladesh attended the workshop as the Special Guests. A total of 155 government officials, including 27 DDLGs and 128 Upazila Nirbahi Officers, from fields participated in this day-long workshop.
Speaking on the occasion, the Local Government Minister said that judicial services through village courts have become popular among the rural people day by day. We have already taken steps to amend the law to make the legal issues of village courts more up to date. The government is seriously considering the implementation of village court activities in all the unions of the country with a view to implementing the village court system across the country in the future. He has expressed a positive attitude in this regard. The Minister hoped that the cooperation between the European Union and UNDP Bangladesh would continue in the future as well.
The chair of the workshop, Mr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Local Government Division, said that the village court is not a project-related activity, rather it is an important function like other day-to-day activities of the Union Parishad. Therefore, the LGD is working to implement these activities in all the unions of the country without limiting them only to the project area. He urged all concerned to work out a future course of action to institutionalize the village court system through the experience gained from this project, the lessons learned and best practices.
H.E. Ms. Rensje Teerink, EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said that European Union has been one of the largest developing partners for Bangladesh since 1973. EU has always been keen to develop their own country program focusing on Bangladesh Government’s priority agenda in line with SDG targets.
Mr. Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP, said that the formal justice system is overburdened with approximately 3.7 million of case backlog, and Village Court has stepped in not only to settle disputes but also to make a meaningful step towards realizing justice for all.
In his welcoming speech, Mr. Maran Kumar Chakraborty, National Project Director, AVCB II and Additional Secretary of Local Government Division, said that the village Courts have gained popularity among the rural people as over 227 thousand cases have been reported to village courts and nearly 11 thousand cases have been transferred from district courts to Village Courts in project areas. “The sustainability of this project depends on the appointment and functionality of Accounts Assistant-cum-Computer Operators (AACOs) and involvement of local administration in monitoring of village courts,” he added.
As per exit strategy of the project, AACOs will take over village courts’ responsibility from project- supported Village Courts Assistant (VCA) and will provide supports to UPs to run village courts. Meanwhile, 385 AACOs have been recruited in project areas, of whom 368 already received training on village courts and already took the VC’s responsibilities from VCAs.
The project has been implementing in 1,080 unions of 128 Upazila in 27 districts under 8 divisions across the country with the financial and technical supports of the Bangladesh Government, European Union, and UNDP Bangladesh. In 2019, the project was extended in three CHT districts covering further 121 UPs and initiated its interventions, with the aim to strengthen the traditional justice system in three CHT districts and explore the possibility of village courts in CHT areas doing action research.