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Mediation a viable way to settle disputes: A. P. Shah

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BOOK RELEASE: Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Justice A. P. Shah launches a book on mediation by senior advocate Sriram Panchu (left) in Chennai on Thursday. PHOTO: R. Ragu
BOOK RELEASE: Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Justice A. P. Shah launches a book on mediation by senior advocate Sriram Panchu (left) in Chennai on Thursday. PHOTO: R. Ragu

Staff Reporter

Sriram Panchu's book on subject launched in the city

CHENNAI: Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Justice A. P. Shah on Thursday called for serious exploration of mediation as a mechanism of resolving conflict against a scenario of long-drawn, expensive and bitter litigations.

Launching the book, `Settle for More -- The Why, How and When of Mediation', authored by senior advocate Sriram Panchu under the auspices of the Indian Centre for Mediation, the Chief Justice said while some cases required adversarial methods, there were many that could be settled through mediation. The first copy was handed to the author's mother Meenakshi Panchu.

Justice Shah pointed to the reluctance of Government officers to explore mediation and said the time was near when Governments would agree to mediation to settle disputes. He cited the U.S. where the Attorney General declined cases unless they involved interpretation of law or of an extraordinary nature.

He urged senior counsel to take a leaf out of the American practices of mini trials or Early Neutral Evaluation, which served as an eye-opener for rival parties on where they stood in terms of their claims and helped decide whether to litigate.

Pointing out that the judges to population ratio in India was 12 per million of the population against 41 in Australia and 107 in the U.S., Justice Shah however said he did not see a solution in merely increasing the number of judges. Though the number of verdicts would increase, so too would the number of appeals, he noted.

Twin crises

N. Ravi, Editor, The Hindu , said the philosophy of mediation espoused in the book tackled the twin crises affecting the credibility of the legal system -- the mounting backlog of cases stemming from insufficient number of judges and the unwillingness of society to accept adverse court verdicts as fair and just.

The book, `slim' as technicalities of law go, was also packed with content that provoked thought as well as offered comfort. It also broadly identifies the issues that are amenable to resolution through this process and lists the dos and don'ts for the mediator.

Viji Santhanam, managing director, Brakes India, elaborated on how mediation could be beneficial from a business perspective through facilitating speedy conflict resolution, saving time and money. The author Sriram Panchu said the mediation process filled a gap in the existing system of justice which worsened matters (between litigants) and where both sides lost in terms of time, money and broken relationships. Mediation made strong use of law and legal skills though in a different manner, he said.

According to Mr. Panchu, the Mediation and Conciliation Centre was now a model for other courts in the country and commended the support from the present Chief Justice and his predecessor Markandey Katju, who had initiated the process in the Madras High Court.

K. S. Padmanabhan, managing director of the book's publishers East West Publications and senior advocates Arvind Dattar and Aparna Vasu also participated.

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