Pilot district courts aim to strengthen Nepal's judicial system

Tuesday, 12 August 2003: The Supreme Court of Nepal has appointed 11 district judges to four pilot district courts, a key step in a judicial reform project supported by UNDP.

A second UNDP project is helping strengthen the rule of law by setting up arbitration boards to settle minor disputes at the village and municipal levels. It is also helping the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs reform existing laws and strengthen its capacity to draft legislation and treaties.

With efforts continuing to resolve the crisis growing out of conflict between the Government and insurgents that has simmered for seven years, the reforms are vital for making the rule of law a reality and building public trust in the legal system as an integral part of good governance.

Under the current system, district court judges handle both civil and criminal cases leading to delays and a backlog of cases, and often adding to their complexity. The pilot courts - in Chitwan district in the central region, Siraha district in the east, and Kapilvastu and Kaski districts in the western region ? will have separate benches for civil and criminal cases.

The initiative will encourage the judges to become more actively involved in their cases and give them greater responsibility. The aim is to speed up the judicial process by enabling judges to focus on their areas of expertise, try out new rules and procedures and ultimately make the justice system fairer.

The project, launched in cooperation with the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Finance in 2000, has so far provided training in civil and criminal law for 53 judges and also trained 59 court staff on the use of computers. It will gradually replicate the pilot courts in other districts around the country.

"The model courts are expected to reduce the delays in dispensing justice and strengthen the rule of law," said Dr. Ram Krishna Timilsena, spokesperson for the Supreme Court,

UNDP Resident Representative Henning Karcher said: "Setting up pilot courts with separate benches for civil and criminal cases will be very beneficial. So will be the experimentation with new rules, procedure and practices. It is of paramount importance to accelerate the flow of cases."