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Importance of Informal Justice Systems

Hope for Justice

While the media has been critical of khap panchayats that have been in the news for encouraging "honour killings", there is also a push to ban these informal/traditional dispute resolution forums altogether. The Supreme Court, in all fairness, has called on khap members to put forth their arguments, which indicates that the Court is willing to consider the critical role these informal justice systems play in resolving disputes at the local level.

The decision of the Supreme Court on the public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection of young couples, who married inter-caste or within the same gotra, from the wrath of khaps (Mahapatra 2013b) will be an important marker determining the fate of informal forums of dispute resolution in India. Research reveals that informal/traditional dispute resolution forums have remained popular because the formal system focuses on rendering a winner and a loser, something that is perceived conducive more to injustice as against the opposite. In traditional systems of dispute resolution, the objective is not to punish the perpetrator as much as it is to maintain relationships between clans (Thorne 2005; Pur and Krishna 2009; Nagraj 2010).

With diversity in ethnicities, religions and cultures cutting across communities in India, local communities probably believe that informal forums of dispute resolution deliver the most equitable justice – where everyone benefits.

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