We have watched various Bollywood movies where the victim struggled due to the inefficient judicial system and had to fight for the justice for years. Since movies are a reflection of the society it is safe to say that what is being shown might actually be happening in the society. The various possible reasons for that could be corruption, vacant judicial posts, lack of political will, overpopulation or increased crime rates etc.
The result of such an inefficient system is that huge number of cases remain pending; there are approximately three crore pending cases in different courts of India, including sixty thousand cases in the Supreme Court. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) could be a possible solution to this grave condition in India. It is the system where cases are resolved outside the judiciary. The ADR plays alternative of the three-tier judicial system.
It won’t be inaccurate to say that ADR system was in practice since time immemorial, even before the establishment of the mechanism of the judiciary. Panchayats still exist in rural areas, which could be said to be akin to the alternative dispute resolution. It was in 1899 where Indian arbitration act was enacted but it was confined to the provincial state like Calcutta, Madras, Bombay only. Civil procedure code of 1908 brought a substantial change for arbitration act.
The most recent and effective legislation was Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 which brought a lot of changes and is based upon the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) model. In contemporary time, we see its application in almost all areas including trade and commerce, Family matters, Land and property, Consumer disputes etc.
Types of ADR in India
Under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996
Arbitration: In this method, an arbitrator is appointed who adjudges the dispute. Under this system the judgement of the arbitrator is binding and legally recognized. This method can only be opted by mutual agreement, arrived prior or after the dispute.
Negotiation: In this process, no third party is involved, only the disputed party could make a compromise by discussing with each other if possible. This is totally informal and non-binding to either of the party and anyone could move to the court if not satisfied. This is usually called as settlement out of court.
Mediation: A third party called mediator is appointed to hear the case of both the parties this method sounds similar to the arbitration has some difference as this is an informal method where the mediator always tries to find a middle path for the benefits of both the parties whereas in arbitration the process is quite similar to a court proceeding and whatever the decision of the arbitrator it is binding.
Conciliation: The disputes are resolved by the third party appointed by either of the parties and the decision is binding to the party only if they are satisfied with the decision otherwise terminated. Unlike mediation, the process is quite formal and has a legal sanctity.
Collaborative: Advocates of both the parties are involved in the discussion to solve the dispute. Both have to present their documents and argument but in less formal than the actual court hearing, the decision is not binding, and the party could appeal further.
Under legal service authorities act 1987-
Under this provision union and states has established the Lok Adalat or “people’s court” to solve various kinds of dispute in less time. Basically, these are the legal setup other than the court which runs to help the neglected, poor section of the society who urges to get the justice but could not afford the highly expensive procedure of getting justice. It is based on the Gandhian principle to empower the weaker section of the society.
SC explained Lok Adalat as- Old form of system prevailed in ancient India and its validity has not been taken away even in the modern days too.
Around fifty lakh cases have been resolved by the Lok Adalat which is a huge number and its growing day by day.
- To bring the case to the Lok Adalat the disputed party should file the application to the court and agreed upon it.
- The court should be satisfied that the matter is suitable for Lok Adalat.
Unlike other ADR here the decision is binding and acts under the code of civil procedure 1908 but has developed its own procedure to bring out satisfactory decision for both the parties. The purpose is to empower the deprived section through speedy trials without involving in legal procedure.
Composition: one sitting/retired judicial officer, a lawyer, and a social activist.
Advantages of ADR
The Law commission of India summarized it as~
- Less expensive
- Less time consuming
- Fewer technicalities, unlike complicated court system.
- Here the parties get the satisfactory outcome so no winner, no loser.
The Indian judiciary is taking suffocated breath due to the burden of large pile of cases and so the poor, underprivileged section always finds it tiring to file complaint and fight for the justice, providing ADR system is a pathbreaking step towards attaining social, political, and economic justice to each and every one enshrined in Indian constitution.
The keystone to justice is to the belief that the legal system treats all fairly- Janet Reno and this is what ADR is doing, resolving cases without any partiality.