Previously, administration of justice was manned by the Deputy Commissioner and his Assistants in accordance with Rules for the Regulation of the Procedure of Officers Appointed to Administer Justice in the Lushai Hills, 1937 made by virtue of section 6 of the Scheduled Districts Act, 1874 (Act No. XIV of 1874) by the then British people and remains in force till implementation of the scheme of separation of judiciary from the executive during 2008 in the district of Saiha [Vide, Notification No. A. 48011/2/2008- LJE/61: Dt. the 1st July, 2008 published in the Mizoram Gazette, Extra Ordinary: Vol. XXXVIII, 16.7.2008, Asadha 25, S.E. 1930, Issue No. 253]. Under the said Rules of 1937, Deputy Commissioner and his Assistants as bestowed the powers under sub-section (5) of section 3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 acted as Sessions Judge, Chief Judicial Magistrate and other Judicial Magistrates for trying criminal cases. Civil cases in between non indigenous tribes and others were also dealt with by the Deputy Commissioner and his Assistants.
In the post independence era on April 23, 1953, Pawi-Lakher Regional Council with its headquarters at Saiha was inaugurated in accordance with the provisions of the sixth schedule to the Constitution of India. Thereafter, as soon as the then Lushai hills was emerged into Union Territory on 21st Jan, 1972, the first Chief Commissioner in the Union Territory period S.J. Das promulgated Pawi-Lakher Autonomous Region (Re-organisation) Order 1972, dated 1st April 1972 by virtue of paragraph 1 (2) of the sixth schedule to the Constitution of India. It resulted trifurcation of the existing Pawi-Lakher Autonomous Region into Pawi Autonomous Region with it’s headquarter at Lawngtlai, Lakher Autonomous Region with its headquarter at Saiha and Chakma Autonomous Region with its headquarter at Kamalanagar (Chawngte). Lawngtlai District Court cover two Autonomous District Councils namely- Lai Autonomous District Council with headquarters at Lawngtlai and Chakma Autonomous District Council having headquarters at Chawngte.
By virtue of paragraph 5 of the Mizoram District Councils (Miscellaneous Provisions) Order, 1972, The Pawi-Lakher Autonomous Region Administration of Justice) Rules, 1954 was also made in pursuance of paragraph 11 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India under No. RCE 11/54/9/351, dated 1st March, 1954. It was created courts for the said region namely Village Court and Regional Council Courts constituted under sub paragraph 6 and paragraph 7 of the said Rules of 1954 respectively. In respect of appeal and superintendents of the said courts, the Assam High Court (Jurisdiction over Regional Council Courts) order, 1959 was made under Notification No. TAD/R/11/53/32, dated. 8th August, 1959 by the Governor of Assam as the powers vested under sub-paragraph (3) of paragraph 4 of the sixth schedule to the Constitution of India.
The Assam Autonomous District (Administration of Justice) Act, 1960 was also made on 15th April 1960 for the appointment of Additional Deputy Commissioner for an Autonomous District either generally, or for the trial of the particular case or a particular cases, civil or criminal and may direct that such Additional Deputy Commissioner shall for the general or special purposes aforesaid exercise all or any of the powers of the Deputy Commissioner.
After elevated the territory into Union Territory of Mizoram on 21st January, 1972, The Pawi-Lakher Autonomous Region (Administration of Justice) Rules,1954 still continued according to the North Eastern Areas (Re-organization) (Mizoram) Adaptation of Laws Order,1972 under Notification No. F. 19(2)72-L-1 Dt. 25.3.1972.
When Mizoram attained full fledge statehood on 29th February, 1987, all Courts and Tribunals and all authorities discharging lawful functions throughout the existing Union Territory of Mizoram or any part thereof immediately before statehood shall continue to exercise their respective functions as envisaged by section 45 of the State of Mizoram Act,1986 (No.34 of 1986).
To match with separation of judiciary in Mizoram, the Mizoram Civil Courts Act, 2005 (Act No. 11 of 2005) was enacted under Notification No. H. 12018/155/05-LJD/7, the 19th Oct, 2005. The effective date order was also issued under Memo No. A. 36016/5/2001 – P&AR (CSW), Aizawl, the 26th April, 2006. The said Act has been amended under Notification No. H. 12018/155/05-LJD/23, dated Aizawl, the 30th October, 2007. The established civil courts in the state including for Lawngtlai District under this Act are:-
a) Court of a District Judge.
b) Court of a Senior Civil Judge.
c) Court of a Civil Judge.
d) Court of Small Causes.
The pecuniary as well as territorial jurisdiction was also specified in the said Act, whereas the courts constituted under The Pawi-Lakher Autonomous Region (Administration of Justice) Rules,1954 doesn’t emphasize any specific pecuniary jurisdiction.
Tribal to tribal Courts in the Chakma Autonomous District Council:
The Chakmas have already taken action in compiling their own customary laws whereas the Lais and Maras still follow the Pawi-Lakher Region Customary Laws of 1959.
By virtue of paragraph 5 of the Mizoram District Councils (Miscellaneous Provisions) Order, 1972, the Pawi-Lakher Autonomous Region (Administration of Justice) Rules, 1954 under No. RCE. 11/54/9/351, the 1st March, 1954 duly promulgated in pursuance of paragraph 11 of the sixth schedule to the Constitution of India with previous approval of the Govt. of Assam under sub-paragraph (4) of the paragraph 4 of the said sixth schedule, continued to apply to the newly formed Chakma Autonomous District until enactment of the Chakma Autonomous District Council (Administration of Justice) Rules, 2001. Under the said old Rules of 1954, there were two classes of courts namely Village Courts and District Council Courts. However, administration of justice under the new Chakma Autonomous District Council (Administration of Justice) Rules, 2001 are as follows;
There are three classes of courts under the new Rules of 2001 which extent to the whole of Chakma Autonomous District Council, the hierarchy of courts are:-
1. Village Courts
2. Subordinate District Council Courts
3. District Council Court
The village courts in Chakma Autonomous District Council as on November, 2005 are as many as 69. The village council for each village shall sit as the village court, when the village council sit itself as a court, the quorum to constitute a court should not be less than three members. The jurisdiction of a village court shall extend to the hearing and trial of suits and cases arising within the territorial limits of the village and shall try suits and cases in accordance with the Chakma customary laws, in which both the parties belongs to a schedule tribe or tribes within its jurisdiction. Briefly, the powers and functions of various courts established under the Chakma Autonomous District (Administration of Justice) Rules, 2001 is analogous to the provisions of the Lushai Hills Autonomous District (Administration of Justice) Rules, 1953 as enumerated before.
Tribal to tribal Courts in the Lai Autonomous District Councils:-
The Pawi Autonomous District Council (Administration of Justice) Rules, 1974 was promulgated for the Lai Autonomous District Council by virtue of paragraph 11 of the sixth schedule to the Constitution of India according to Notification No. LAD/31/A/73/115, Dated 26th July, 1976. As elucidated under the said Rules of 1974, there shall be three classes of courts namely:-
1) Village Courts 2) Intermediate District Council Courts 3) District Council Court
Structure and personnel
Village Councils for each village shall sit as the village court provided that when the village council sits itself as a court, the quorum to constitute a court shall be not less than two members. The numbers of village courts in Pawi Autonomous District as on November, 2007 are as many as 86. The village council in that area has been governed by the Lai Autonomous District Council (Village Councils) Act, 2007 at present as notified under No.C.31012/2/05-DCA,the 23th Sept.2007.
Powers and procedures:
A village court shall try suits and cases in which both the parties belong to schedule tribe or tribes residing within its jurisdiction. In fact, the powers and procedures adopted by the village courts under these rules were analogous to the Administration of Justice Rules, 1953 as discussed earlier.
Intermediate District Council Courts:
Structure and Personnel
There shall be one Intermediate District Council Court at Lawngtlai and the other at Bualpui (Ng). Each courts shall be presided over by a judicial officer to be designated as Magistrate and to be appointed by the Executive Committee with the approval of the State Government and such judicial officer shall also sit as the recorder of the court, provided that any member of the District Council shall not be entitled to hold office as judicial officer.
The conditions of service of the judicial officer in the Intermediate District Council Courts and the staff appointed thereof, shall be regulated by the rules or orders made or issued in this behalf by the District Council. The jurisdiction of the courts at Lawngtlai and Bualpui (Ng) shall extend to the hearing and trial of suits and cases including appeals arising respectively within Block-II and I of Pawi autonomous district.
Powers and Procedure:-
The judicial officer appointed as Magistrate in the Intermediate District Council Court shall execute such powers as defined in Chapter III of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (now replaced by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973), as may be invested by the Executive Committee with the approval of the State Government. In short, the powers and procedure of the Intermediate District Council Court is analogous to the powers and procedure invested and adopted in the Subordinate District Council Courts under the Lushai Hills Autonomous District (Administration of Justice) Rules, 1953 as already mentioned.
District Council Court:-
There shall be one District Council Court for the Pawi autonomous district which shall be called the Pawi District Council Court. The Court shall consist of three judicial officers one of whom shall be appointed by the District Council as the President and recorder of the court.
The District Council Court shall ordinarily sit at Lawngtlai. The court may also sit at such other place or places as may be directly by general or special order of the District Council for the disposal of the particular case or cases, class or classes of cases specified in the order.
Any two or more Judicial Officers shall sit together as a Bench and the District Council may, by order, invest such Bench with any of the powers conferrable by or under these rules on a judicial officer and direct it to exercise such powers in such class or classes of cases as the District Council thinks fit. It is further provided that in case of difference of opinion between the two Judicial Officers sitting together as a Bench, the case shall be referred to the third Judicial Officer and the opinion of the majority shall prevail. It is the Executive Committee who shall appoint Judicial Officer of the District Council Court subject to the approval of the State Government as contemplated in the State of Mizoram Adaptation of Laws Order (No 2), 1987.
Powers and procedure:-
The District Council Court shall be a court of appeal in respect of all suits and cases triable by an Intermediate District Council Court. In criminal case, the District Council or the State Government may direct an appeal to be presented to the District Council Court against any order passed by a village court or an Intermediate District Council Court, and the same shall be presented within ninety days from the date of order to be appealed against, excluding the time needed for obtaining the copy of the order.
The District Council Court may also call for and examine the record of any proceeding of the Intermediate District Council Court or of a Village Court and may enhance, reduce, cancel or modify any sentence or finding passed by such court or demand the case for retrial.
The District Council Court also have vast power if it appears to it that (a) a fair and impartial inquiry or trial cannot be had in any Village Court or Intermediate District Council Court or (b) some question of law, tribal or otherwise of unusual difficulty is likely to arise, it may pass an order that (i) any offence be inquired into or tried by another Village Court or an Intermediate District Council Court. (ii) any particular case or classes of cases be transferred from one Village Court to another Village Court or from one Village Court to an Intermediate District Council Court or from one Intermediate District Council Court to another Intermediate District Council Court (iii) that any particular case or cases be transferred to be tried before itself.
The District Council Court may also act either on the report of the lower court or on the application of a party interested or on its own initiative.
In civil cases, courts established under the Mizoram Civil Courts Act, 2005 viz. Hon’ble Courts of Senior Civil Judge and Civil Judge and the aforesaid Hon’ble District Council Courts were established together having distinct subject matter jurisdictions.
In criminal cases, Hon’ble courts of Chief Judicial Magistrate and other Judicial Magistrates were established whilst various courts under the District Council administration were remains competent to try petty criminal cases in accordance with the Chakma Autonomous District Council (Administration of Justice) Rules, 2001 and the Pawi Autonomous District Council (Administration of Justice) Rules, 1974 as the case may be.
In short, presently Lawngtlai is one of the revenue districts under the territorial jurisdiction of Lunglei Judicial District/Lunglei Sessions Division headed by Hon’ble Chief Judicial Magistrate-Cum-Senior Civil Judge since insulation of judiciary from the executive in 2008.