“You have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.”
Discords are bound to arise in society and ingenious human minds have always devised ways and means for resolution of conflicts. Nature has endowed people with rationality and they have constantly attempted to discover methods of establishing a cohesive society. Dispute resolution is one of the major functions of a stable society. Through the medium of the State, norms and institutions are created to secure social order and to attain the ends of justice or the least to establish dispute resolution processes. States function through different organs and the judiciary is one that is directly responsible for the administration of justice. In commonplace perception judiciary is the tangible delivery point of justice. Resolving disputes is fundamental to the peaceful existence of society. Therefore, effective and efficient systems for determination of disputes become an obvious appendage.
Justice is the foundation and object of any civilized society. The quest for justice has been an ideal which mankind has been aspiring for generations down the line. Preamble to our Constitution reflects such aspiration as “justice-social, economic and political”. Article 39A of the Constitution provides for ensuring equal access to justice. Administration of Justice involves protection of the innocent, punishment of the guilty and the satisfactory resolution of disputes.
The world has experienced that adversarial litigation is not the only means of resolving disputes. Congestion in court rooms, lack of manpower and resources in addition with delay, cost, and procedure speak out the need of better options, approaches and avenues. Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism is a click to that option.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: An Indian Perspective
Article 21 of the Constitution of India declares in a mandatory tone that ‘no person shall be deprived of his life or his personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.’ The words “life and liberty” are not to be read narrowly in the sense drearily dictated by dictionaries; they are organic terms to be construed meaningfully. Further, the procedure mentioned in the Article is not some semblance of a procedure but it should be “reasonable, fair and just”. Thus, the Right to Speedy Trial has been rightly held to be a part of Right to Life or Personal Liberty by the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court has allowed Article 21 to stretch its arms as wide as it legitimately can. The reason is very simple. This liberal interpretation of Article 21 is to redress that mental agony, expense and strain which a person proceeded against in criminal law has to undergo and which, coupled with delay, may result in impairing the capability or ability of the accused to defend himself effectively. Thus, the Supreme Court has held the Right to Speedy Trial a manifestation of fair, just and reasonable procedure enshrined in Article 21.
The Constitutional philosophy propounded as Right to Speedy Trial has though grown in age by almost two and a half decades; the goal sought to be achieved is yet a far-off peak. The failures of prosecuting agencies and executive to act and to secure expeditious and speedy trial have persuaded the Supreme Court in devising solutions which go to the extent of almost enacting by judicial verdict bars of limitation beyond which the trial shall not proceed and the arm of law shall lose its hold. The validity or justness of those decisions is not the matter to be decided but the seriousness of delay in the conclusion of criminal and civil matters must be appreciated at the earliest. This seriousness was appreciated and accepted by many , including the Constitutional Courts , long before. The same has got recognition from the “legislature” as well in the form of introduction of “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) Mechanism (ADRM) through various statutes.
There is a growing awareness among the masses as well regarding ADR and people are increasingly using the same for getting their disputes settled outside the court. This will also reduce the “backlog problem’ that India is facing. It is now universally accredited that ‘Justice delayed is Justice denied’. The existing justice system is not able to cope up with the ever-increasing burden of civil and criminal litigation. There is growing awareness that in the majority of cases court action is not an appropriate remedy for seeking justice. We have to formulate effective ADR Mechanisms to ease the burden of judicial functioning. The backlog of cases is increasing day by day but criticizing judiciary for the same is a wrong practice. It must be noted that the backlog is a product of “inadequate judge population ratio” and the lack of basic infrastructure. The government has to play a pro-active role in this direction.
WHAT IS ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
On 4th December 1997 the Chief Ministers of States and the Chief Justices of the High Courts met in New Delhi to discuss at length the alternative means of dispute resolution. In the meeting it was declared that the present justice delivering system is not capable to bear the whole workload and it would be appropriate to deliver justice by the alternative means of disposal of disputes as well. Under this system there is a procedural flexibility and also in time and money saving besides the absence of tension of regular trial.
The term “alternative dispute resolution” or “ADR” is often used to describe a wide variety of dispute resolution mechanisms that are short of or alternative to, full-scale court processes, established by the Sovereign or the State. The term can refer to everything from facilitated settlement negotiations in which disputants are encouraged to negotiate directly with each other prior to some other legal process, to arbitration systems or mini trials that look and feel very much like a courtroom process. It included arbitration, as also conciliation, mediation and all other forms of dispute resolution outside the courts of law, which would all fall within the ambit of ADR.
ADR facilitate parties to deal with the underlying issues in dispute in a more cost-effective manner and with increased efficacy. In addition, ADRs provide the parties with the opportunity to reduce hostility, regain a sense of control, gain acceptance of the outcome, resolve conflict in a peaceful manner, and achieve a greater sense of justice in each individual case. The resolution of disputes takes place usually in private and is more viable, economic, and efficient.
ADR is not a recent phenomenon as the concept of parties settling their disputes themselves or with the help of third party, is very well-known to ancient India. Disputes were peacefully decided by the intervention of Kulas (family assemblies), Srenis (guild so men of similar occupation), Parishad, etc., the primary object of ADR movement is avoidance of vexation, expense and delay and promotion of the ideal of “access of justice” for all.
ADR system seeks to provide cheap, simple, quick and accessible justice. Under this, disputes are settled with the assistance of third party; where proceedings are simple and are conducted, by and large, in the manner agreed to by the parties. So, precisely saying, ADR aims at provide justice that not only resolves dispute but also harmonizes the relation of the parties.
NEED AND THE PURPOSE OF ADR IN INDIA
The growth of A.D.R in the last few decades on the one hand reflects disenchantment with the formal justice system characterized by delays and on the other an effort to promote a less formal dispute resolution mechanism. This development is not the outcome of any juristic philosophy. Rather it was necessitated by the growth of commercial litigation needing speedy resolution, by the ever increasing volume of court work, by court dockets becoming heavier and by the judge/case ratio becoming imbalanced on account of limited resources.
In a developing country like India with major economic reforms under way within the framework of the rule of law, strategies for swifter resolution of disputes for lessening the burden on the courts and to provide means for expeditious resolution of disputes, there is no better option but to strive to develop alternative modes of dispute resolution (ADR) by establishing facilities for providing settlement of disputes through arbitration, conciliation, mediation and negotiation. In this context the legendaries of various fields i.e., commercial, administrative and legal unanimously constituted an institution to be called “International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution-ICADR. This institution was established in Delhi on 31st May, 1995 and registered under the Society Registration Act, 1960. It is an autonomous non-beneficial institution. The chief object of this institution is to inculcate and expand the culture of alternative dispute resolution.
In essence the system of ADR emphasizes upon:
• Mediation rather than winner take all.
• Increasing Accessibility to justice.
• Improving efficiency and reducing court delays.
The Constitution of India through Article 14 guarantees equality before the law and the equal protection of the laws. Article 39A of the Constitution mandates the State to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and ensure that the same is not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. Equal opportunity must be afforded for access to justice. Law should not only treat all persons equally, but also the law must function in such a way that all the people have access to justice in spite of economic disparities. The expression “access to justice” focuses on the following two basic purposes of the legal system.
• The system must be equally accessible to all.
• It must lead to results that are individually and socially just.
It is one of the most important duties of a welfare state to provide judicial and non-judicial dispute-resolution mechanisms to which all citizens have equal access for resolution of their legal disputes and enforcement of their fundamental and legal rights. Poverty, ignorance or social inequalities should not become barriers to it. The workload of Indian Judiciary increased by leaps and bounds and has now reached a stage of unwieldy magnitude, which has in fact led to a large backlog of cases. Due to this ADR has become the need of the hour for Indian Judiciary. Considering the delay in resolving the dispute Abraham Lincon has once said:
“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser, in fees, expenses, and waste of time”.
“In the same vein Judge Learned Hand commented, “I must say that as a litigant, I should dread a law suit beyond almost anything else short of sickness and of death”.
LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS IN INDIA
In Sitanna v. Viranna, AIR 1934 SC 105, the Privy Council affirmed the decision of the Panchayat and Sir John Wallis observed that the reference to a village panchayat is the time-honoured method of deciding disputes. It avoids protracted litigation and is based on the ground realities verified in person by the adjudicators and the award is fair and honest settlement of doubtful claims based on legal and moral grounds.
The legislative sensitivity towards providing a speedy and efficacious justice in India is mainly reflected in two enactments. The first one is the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and the second one is the incorporation of section 89 in the traditional Civil Procedure Code (CPC).
The adoption of the liberalized economic policy by India in 1991 has paved way for integration of Indian economy with global economy. This resulted in the enactment of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (new Act) by the legislature as India had to comply with well-accepted International norms. It superseded the obsolete and cumbersome Arbitration Act, 1940. The new Act has made radical and uplifting changes in the law of arbitration and has introduced new concepts like conciliation to curb delays and bring about speedier settlement of commercial disputes. The new Act has been codified on the lines of the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration as adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). One of the most commendable objects of the new Act is to minimize the role of the courts in the arbitration process. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 laid down the minimum standards, which are required for an effective ADRM.
Further, the recent amendments of the CPC will give a boost to ADR. Section 89 (1) of CPC deals with the settlement of disputes outside the court. It provides that where it appears to the court that there exist elements, which may be acceptable to the parties, the court may formulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for arbitration, conciliation, mediation or judicial settlement. While upholding the validity of the CPC amendments in Salem Advocate Bar Association v. U.O.I , the Supreme Court had directed the constitution of an expert committee to formulate the manner in which section 89 and other provisions introduced in CPC have to be brought into operation. The Court also directed to devise a model case management formula as well as rules and regulations, which should be followed while taking recourse to alternative dispute redressal referred to in Section 89 of CPC. All these efforts are aimed at securing the valuable right to speedy trial to the litigants.
ADR was at one point of time considered to be a voluntary act on the apart of the parties which has obtained statutory recognition in terms of CPC Amendment Act, 1999, Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, Legal Services Authorities Act, 1997 and Legal Services Authorities (Amendment) Act, 2002. The access to justice is a human right and fair trial is also a human right. In India, it is a Constitutional obligation in terms of Art.14 and 21. Recourse to ADR as a means to have access to justice may, therefore, have to be considered as a human right problem. Considered in that context the judiciary will have an important role to play.
The Supreme Court of India has also suggested making ADR as ‘a part of a package system designed to meet the needs of the consumers of justice’. The pressure on the judiciary due to large number of pending cases has always been a matter of concern as that being an obvious cause of delay. The culture of establishment of special courts and tribunals has been pointed out by the SC of India in number of cases. The rationale for such an establishment ostensibly was speedy and efficacious disposal of certain types of offences.
Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 provides the provision both for conciliation and arbitration for the purpose of settlement of disputes. In Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation v. Krishna Kant , the Supreme Court observed: “The policy of law emerging from Industrial Disputes Act and its sister enactments is to provide an alternative dispute-resolution mechanism to the workmen, a mechanism which is speedy, inexpensive, informal and unencumbered by the plethora of procedural laws and appeals upon appeals and revisions applicable to civil courts. Indeed, the powers of the courts and tribunals under the Industrial Disputes Act are far more extensive in the sense that they can grant such relief as they think appropriate in the circumstances for putting an end to an industrial dispute.”
Section 23(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 mandates the duty on the court that before granting relief under this Act, the Court shall in the first instance; make an endeavor to bring about reconciliation between the parties, where it is possible according to nature and circumstances of the case. For the purpose of reconciliation the Court may adjourn the proceeding for a reasonable period and refer the matter to person nominated by court or parties with the direction to report to the court as to the result of the reconciliation. [Section 23(3) of the Act].
The Family Court Act, 1984 was enacted to provide for the establishment of Family Courts with a view to promote conciliation in, and secure speedy settlement of, disputes relating to marriage and family affairs and for matter connected therewith by adopting an approach radically different from the ordinary civil proceedings . Section 9 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 lays down the duty of the family Court to assist and persuade the parties, at first instance, in arriving at a settlement in respect of subject matter. The Family Court has also been conferred with the power to adjourn the proceedings for any reasonnable period to enable attempts to be made to effect settlement if there is a reasonable possibility.
Shri M.C.Setalvad, former Attorney General of India has observed: “….equality is the basis of all modern systems of jurisprudence and administration of justice… in so far as a person is unable to obtain access to a court of law for having his wrongs redressed or for defending himself against a criminal charge, justice becomes unequal …Unless some provision is made for assisting the poor men for the payment of Court fees and lawyer’s fees and other incidental costs of litigation, he is denied equality in the opportunity to seek justice.”
WHAT ARE THE MECHANISMS OF ADR?
ADR can be broadly classified into two categories; court-annexed options (it includes mediation, conciliation) and community based dispute resolution mechanism (Lok- Adalat).
The mechanism of Arbitration and Conciliation was introduced in India through the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996: Part I of this act formalizes the process of Arbitration and Part III formalizes the process of Conciliation. (Part II is about Enforcement of Foreign Awards under New York and Geneva Conventions.).
Arbitration: is a procedure in which the dispute is submitted to an arbitral tribunal which makes a decision (an award) on the dispute that is binding upon the parties. Arbitration generally grows when the parties through the contract agrees to resort to arbitration process, in case of disputes that may arise in future regarding contract terms and conditions. The process of arbitration can start only if there exist a valid Arbitration Agreement between the parties prior to the emergence of the dispute. As per Section 7, such an agreement must be in writing. The contract, regarding which the dispute exists, must either contain an arbitration clause or must refer to a separate document signed by the parties containing the arbitration agreement. The existence of an arbitration agreement can also be inferred by written correspondence such as letters, telex, or telegrams which provide a record of the agreement. Any party to the dispute can start the process of appointing arbitrator and if the other party does not cooperate, the party can approach the office of Chief Justice for appointment of an arbitrator. A sole arbitrator or panels of arbitrators so appointed constitute the Arbitration Tribunal. The arbitration tribunal has jurisdiction over its own jurisdiction. Thus, if a party wants to challenge the jurisdiction of the arbitration tribunal, it can do so only before the tribunal itself. If the tribunal rejects the request, there is little the party can do accept to approach a court after the tribunal makes an award. Section 34 provides certain grounds upon which a party can appeal to the principal civil court of original jurisdiction for setting aside the award. Once the period for filing an appeal for setting aside an award is over, or if such an appeal is rejected, the award is binding on the parties and is considered as a decree of the court.
Conciliation: A non-binding procedure, in which an impartial third party i.e. the conciliator or the mediator, assists the parties to a dispute in reaching a mutually satisfactory and agreed settlement of disputes. Conciliation is a less formal form of arbitration. This process does not require an existence of any prior agreement. Any party can request the other party to appoint a conciliator. One conciliator is preferred but two or three are also allowed. Parties may submit statements to the conciliator describing the general nature of the dispute and the points at issue. Each party sends a copy of the statement to the other. The conciliator may request further details, may ask to meet the parties, or communicate with the parties orally or in writing. Parties may even submit suggestions for the settlement of the dispute to the conciliator.
When it appears to the conciliator that elements of settlement exist, he may draw up the terms of settlement and send it to the parties for their acceptance. If both the parties sign the settlement document, it shall be final and binding on both.
Mediation: Mediation, aims to assist two (or more) disputants in reaching an agreement. The parties themselves determine the conditions of any settlements reached— rather than accepting something imposed by a third party. The disputes may involve (as parties) states, organizations, communities, individuals or other representatives with a vested interest in the outcome. Mediators use appropriate techniques and/or skills to open and/or improve dialogue between disputants, aiming to help the parties reach an agreement (with concrete effects) on the disputed matter. Normally, all parties must view the mediator as impartial. Disputants may use mediation in a variety of disputes, such as commercial, legal, diplomatic, workplace, community and family matters. A third-party representative may contract and mediate between (say) unions and corporations. When a workers’ union goes on strike, a dispute takes place, and the corporation hires a third party to intervene in attempt to settle a contract or agreement between the union and the corporation.
Negotiation: Negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. It is the primary method of alternative dispute resolution. Negotiation occurs in business, non-profit organizations, and government branches, legal proceedings, among nations and in personal situations such as marriage, divorce, parenting, and everyday life. Those who work in negotiation professionally are called negotiators. Professional negotiators are often specialized, such as union negotiators, leverage buyout negotiators, peace negotiators, hostage negotiators, or may work under other titles, such as diplomats, legislators or brokers.
Lok-Adalat: The Lok-Adalat system contributed under National Legal Service Authority Act, 1987 is a uniquely Indian approach. The Constitutional duty of the State to provide legal aid, prompted by the decisions of the apex court, led to the formation of a Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes (CILAS). The legal legitimacy of Lok Adalat flows from the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. It roughly means “People’s court”. This is a non-adversarial system, where by mock courts (called Lok Adalats) are held by the State Authority, District Authority, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal Services Committee, or Taluk Legal Services Committee, periodically for exercising such jurisdiction as they thinks fit. These are usually presided by retired judge, social activists, or members of legal profession. It does not have jurisdiction on matters related to non-compoundable offences. There is no court fee and no rigid procedural requirement (i.e. no need to follow process given by Civil Procedure Code or Evidence Act), which makes the process very fast. Parties can directly interact with the judge, which is not possible in regular courts. A case can be transferred to a Lok Adalat if one party applies to the court and the court sees some chance of settlement after giving an opportunity of being heard to the other party. The focus in Lok Adalats is on compromise. When no compromise is reached, the matter goes back to the court. However, if a compromise is reached, an award is made and is binding on the parties. It is enforced as a decree of a civil court. An important aspect is that the award is final and cannot be appealed, not even under Article 226 because it is a judgment by consent. All proceedings of a Lok Adalat are deemed to be judicial proceedings and every Lok Adalat is deemed to be a Civil Court. Main condition of the Lok Adalat is that both parties in dispute should agree for settlement. The decision of the Lok Adalat is binding on the parties to the dispute and its order is capable of execution through legal process. Lok Adalat is very effective in settlement of money claims. Disputes like partition suits, damages and matrimonial cases can also be easily settled before Lok Adalat. Lok Adalat is a boon to the litigant public, where they can get their disputes settled fast and free of cost.
HOW TO MAKE ADR SYSTEM MORE VIABLE???
We cannot stop the inflow of cases because the doors of justice cannot be closed, but we can increase the outflow of cases either by strengthening (both qualitatively and quantitatively) the capacity of the existing system or by way of finding some additional outlets.
In this situation ADR mechanism implementation can be such a drastic step for which three things are required most:
• Mandatory reference to ADRs
• Case management by Judges
• Committed teams of Judges and Lawyers
Equal justice for all is a cardinal principle on which entire system of administration of justice is based. We cannot conceive justice which is not fair and equal. We should aim to achieve earlier and more proportionate resolution of legal problems and disputes by increasing advice and assistance to help people resolve their disputes earlier and more effectively; increasing the opportunities for people involved in court cases to settle their disputes out of court; and reducing delays in resolving those disputes that need to be decided by the courts.
To implement the noble ideas and to ensure the benefits of ADR to common people, the four essential players (government, bench, bar litigants) are required to coordinate and work as a whole system. Case management includes identifying the issues in the case; summarily disposing of some issues and deciding in which order other issues to be resolved; fixing time tables for the parties to take particular steps in the case; and limiting disclosure and expert evidence.
• Government: Government has to support new changes. If the government support and implements changes ADR institutes will have to be set up at every level from district to national level.
• Bench: unless mindsets of the judges are changed, there will be no motivation for the lawyers to go to any of the ADR methods.
• Bar: the mindset of the members of the Bar is also to be changed accordingly otherwise it would be difficult it is difficult to implement ADR. The myth that ADR was alternative decline in Revenue or Alternative Drop in Revenue is now realizing that as more and more matters get resolved their work would increase and not decrease.
• Litigants: few parties are usually interested in delay and not hesitate in taking a stand so as to take the benefit if delay. Parties have to realize that at the end, litigation in court may prove very costly to them in terms of both cost and consequence.
ADR is quicker, cheaper, and more user-friendly than courts. It gives people an involvement in the process of resolving their disputes that is not possible in public, formal and adversarial justice system perceived to be dominated by the abstruse procedure and recondite language of law. It offers choice: choice of method, of procedure, of cost, of representation, of location. Because often it is quicker than judicial proceedings, it can ease burdens on the Courts. Because it is cheaper, it can help to curb the upward spiral of legal costs and legal aid expenditure too, which would benefit the parties and the tax payers. In this juncture, few things are most required to be done for furtherance of smooth ADR mechanisms. Few of them are:
• Creation of awareness and popularizing the methods is the first thing to be done.
• NGOs and Medias have prominent role to play in this regard.
• For Court- annexed mediation and conciliation, necessary personnel and infrastructure shall be needed for which government funding is necessary.
Training programs on the ADR mechanism are of vital importance. State level judicial academies can assume the role of facilitator or active doer for that purpose. While the Courts have never tired of providing access to justice for the teeming millions of this country, it would not be incorrect to state that the objective would be impossible to achieve without reform of the justice dispensation mechanism. There are two ways in which such reform can be achieved- through changes at the structural level, and through changes at the operational level:
• Changes at the structural level challenge the very framework itself and require an examination of the viability of the alternative frameworks for dispensing justice. It might require an amendment to the Constitution itself or various statutes.
• On the other hand, changes at the operational level require one to work within the framework trying to identify various ways of improving the effectiveness of the legal system. Needless to say, this will considerably reduce the load on the courts apart from providing instant justice at the door-step, without substantial cost being involved. This is also avoiding procedural technicalities and delays and justice will hopefully be based on truth and morality, as per acknowledged considerations of delivering social justice.
As is said in the practical philosophy of law that lawyers are what their cases have made them, so goes the addendum that a legal system is venerated as it has been handled and managed in course of time. Then only a legacy is left for the future to find it sufficiently germane to be accepted as a proposition of inheritance. The law and legal system should appeal the reasons of people, is not a legal principle but a common sense observation of fact. It is this spirit that has led to the evolution of ADR Mechanisms for the dispensation of justice with efficacy and steadfastness!
The Constitution of India calls upon the state to provide for free legal aid to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic inability. India socio-economic conditions warrant highly motivated and sensitized legal service programs as large population of consumers of justice (heart of the judicial anatomy) are either poor or ignorant or illiterate or backward, and as such, at a disadvantageous position. The State, therefore, has a duty of secure that the operation of legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
As per latest available information, 57,179 cases were pending in the Supreme Court of India as on 30.6.11. The number of cases pending in the High Courts were 42, 17,903 as on 30.9.2010. Shri Salman Khurshid, Minister of Law & Justice said that in order to facilitate expeditious disposal of cases in courts, Government has taken a number of measures as mentioned below:
The Government has approved setting up of ‘National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms’. The major goals are:
• Increasing access by reducing delays and arrears in the system;
• Enhancing accountability through structural changes and by setting performance standards and capacities.
Enactment of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 which provides for establishment of Gram Nyayalayas to improve access to justice to marginalised. The current year allocation has been increased from Rs. 40 crore to Rs. 150 crore. So far 151 Gram Nyayalayas have been notified by the states. In order to computerise the justice delivery system Government is implementing e-Courts Project for the District and Subordinate Courts in the country.
The Government has accepted the recommendations of the Thirteenth Finance Commission to provide a grant of Rs. 5000 crore to the States for improving the justice delivery system in the country over a five year period 2010-15. With the help of these grants, the States can, inter-alia, set up morning / evening / shift / special magistrates’ courts, appoints court managers, establish ADR centres and provide training to mediators / conciliators, organise more Lok Adalats to reduce pendency. The grants also provide for training of judicial officers, strengthening of State Judicial Academies, and training of public prosecutors and maintenance of heritage court buildings.
Former Minister of Law and Justice, Veerappa Moily announced the ‘National Litigation Policy’ (NLP) to reduce the average time of pending cases in India. The NLP aims at reducing government litigation in courts. Launching the NLP to make government an “efficient and a responsible” litigant, Moily said, “Monitoring and review mechanism proposed under it would prevent delay or neglect of important cases such as the Bhopal gas tragedy.” The Law Minister had in October 2009 released a vision statement at a two-day conference on National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary towards Reducing Pendency and Delays to reduce the backlog of cases. However, some of the suggestions laid out in the vision statement have not been included in the NLP such as introduction of night courts, appointment of judges on a contractual basis and establishment of a National Arrears Grid.
Mahatma Gandhi had put in correct words as:
“I had learnt the true picture of law. I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s heart. I realized that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder. The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromised of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby not even money certainly not my soul.”
In the days of “time being money”, even in games like cricket, we have drifted towards one day, limited over matches instead of the five days, two inning matches. Arbitration, as practiced in India, instead of shortening the lifespan of the dispute resolution, became one more “inning” in the game. Not only that, the arbitrator and the parties’ lawyers treated arbitration as “extra time” or overtime work to be done after attending to court matters.
The disillusionment and frustration of people over the inordinate delay in dispensation of justice today looms large as a great threat to erode the confidence of people in the justice system of the country. It is the constitutional obligation of the judiciary to exercise its jurisdiction to reaffirm the faith of the people in the judicial set up. Therefore, evolution of new juristic principles for dispute resolution is not only important but imperative.
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• Law Commission of India, 188th Report on Proposals for Constitution of Hi-Tech Fast – Track Commercial Division in High Courts December, 2003.
• Law Commission of India, 76th Report on Arbitration act, 1940, November, 1978.
• Law Commission of India, 114h Report on Gram Nyayalayas, August 1986.
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