Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia on Saturday underlined the need for spreading a settlement culture for the success of mediation as an alternative dispute resolution system.

The absence of the settlement culture among litigants was the single most important factor in the flooding of courts with cases. In foreign countries, people preferred settlement to litigation and that was why mediation was successful there, he said.

Inaugurating a two-day national conference on ‘Mediation' here, Justice Kapadia regretted that the attitude of litigants in India was winning a case and not resolving it through settlement. “We must understand the value of time. This is one of the areas we need to focus on how to promote that culture. Thus, for recovering Rs. 5, people will spend 15 years in the courts.”

The challenge

The real challenge before mediators was to develop a settlement culture and to provide a solution which would be better than what one would get when a case was filed or referred to for mediation. For this, “we need good mediators, who, besides being well-trained and skilful, must have wisdom.”

For disposal of commercial disputes, commercial courts were to be set up, but at present there was no proper training of the mediators, particularly to handle commercial disputes.

Legal clinics

Justice Altamas Kabir, Supreme Court judge and Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority, said it was proposed to set up ‘legal clinics' all over the country to enable people to have consultations on their problems and then decide to take the dispute to court or resolve it through mediation at the pre-litigation stage itself. While arbitration and conciliation had been given statutory backing, mediation was yet to get that status.

Justice R.V. Raveendran of the Supreme Court said: “Space is to be created in courts to deal with cases like criminal, election, taxation and administrative cases which cannot be resolved through mediation. If these cases are taken out, courts can concentrate on other types of cases which require adjudication.”

“Sense of frustration among litigants”

There was a sense of anxiety and frustration among litigants because of the delay in the adjudicatory process and the high cost involved in it as well as the inflexibility of the process. An atmosphere should be created in which lawyers would be willing to go for mediation, he said.

Another Supreme Court judge, Justice Cyriac Joseph, and Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Madan B. Lokur highlighted the importance of mediation.

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