Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana stressed the requirement for a law to make mediation the first mandatory step in the dispute settlement process.
According to statistics, the trend in Indian courts has reached 45 million cases, which is perceived as the inability of the Indian judiciary to cope with the workload of cases.
While delivering the keynote address at the India-Singapore Mediation Summit: Mediation for All: Realizing the Potential of Intervention in India, the CJI said that long before the arrival of the British opposition system in India, various forms of mediation were practiced as a method of resolving disputes. .
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Referring to Lord Krishna’s attempt in the ancient Mahabharata epic to mediate a settlement between Kaurava and Pandava, he said, Resolving Disputes through mediation was part of the tradition. India and many Asian countries have a long tradition of cooperative and amicable dispute resolution. Mediation as a concept, is deeply ingrained in the Indian ethos.
Disputes were often resolved by community elders or elders. Similarly, business disputes were settled by traders, either through direct negotiations or through commercial bodies. However, the establishment of the British court system, in 1775, marked the erosion of domestic mechanisms for resolving community-based disputes in India.
CJI and the Chief Justice of Singapore, Sundaresh Menon, were the keynote speakers at the event. The two chief prosecutors, as heads of the respective country’s judiciary, also discussed the need to strengthen and expand dispute resolution mechanisms outside of formal court proceedings.
“Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (ADRs), particularly mediation and conciliation, can reduce inclination, save resources and time, and allow litigants a degree of control over the process and outcome of their dispute resolution process.” “said CJI Ramana.
He added that while developing the ADR system, India might also need an “omnibus law” to “fill the vacuum” in the current legal system to provide and promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
In his speech, Singapore Attorney General Sundaresh Menon stated, “Mediation holds the potential to transform society’s ideas of justice from zero-sum opposing results to more effective relational outcomes, as mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration and conciliation prevent future deterioration and breakage. in relationships. “
Both chief prosecutors stressed that these systems are the “traditional” model followed in Asian societies, where dispute resolution focuses on maintaining interpersonal and trade relations.
According to CJI Ramana, access to justice, participation and delays in the judicial process are all factors contributing to the development of ADR in India. He also highlighted the fact that one phenomenon that added to the delays in India was the luxury court process.
It is a specific type of litigation where parties with resources try to disrupt the trial and delay it by instituting numerous proceedings throughout the judicial system. And it is undeniable that the prevailing Covid pandemic has also contributed to our problems, “said the Chief Justice of India.
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The CJI also said that as the focus of the global economy shifts, especially during the pandemic, these alternative dispute resolution mechanisms will become even more important.
Speaking about the disruptions caused in industry, supply chains and economies around the world, CJI Ramana said, It makes no legal sense to seek enforcement of legal rights through the courts. Formal adversarial legal systems are more costly and carry risks of damaging relationships.
India and Singapore have also worked together to develop mediation protocols and practices. Since the signing of the Singapore Intervention Convention in 2019, up to 54 countries have signed the international convention. India and Singapore are among the first to sign and ratify the agreement.
Both speakers also pointed out that during the pandemic, there was an increase in the number of disputes, most of which had emerged due to blockages and restrictions on movement, as trade channels were affected. Disputes between countries and investors are also being addressed through mediation.
However, CJI Ramana warned people about the role and neutrality of a mediator. He said that with the changing role and scope of mediation, there is a need to take into account the “inherent risk” posed by a mediator because of the potential for “external temptations and considerations”.
You can call these problems the moral dilemma of mediators, he said.
While talking about the advantage of a financially sound party, he said that Mediation Theory envisages two parties that are equal in negotiating capacity seeking the help of the mediator to resolve their disputes. But what happens when one party is better off economically, socially and politically than the other? What is the task of a mediator if the solution reached is obviously unfair to the weaker party? Should the mediator be a silent spectator during such negotiations?
These are just some of the questions to consider, especially in a country like India with our diverse social structure. The requirements of essential equality are the foundation of any constitutional democracy and these ideals should be reflected in the process of resolving disputes, CJI Ramana added.
NITI Aayog chairman Amitabh Kant, while speaking at the event, said the Indian government and judiciary were working together to establish better systems for access to justice.
He said the Online Dispute Resolution Policy Plan (ODR) would be a rapidly evolving system for delivering efficient and affordable justice especially on small and medium value issues.
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