The India Post, Chandigarh, 4th November, 2008 :In an effort to institutionalize Alternative Dispute Resolution and explore possibilities of settlements of disputes by parties themselves, the Punjab & Haryana High Court is poised to launch Mediation and Conciliation Centres, aptly called "Sampoorna Samadhan Kendras" in 17 District Courts in the States of Punjab and Haryana from 8th November 2008. Simultaneously, 3 Permanent Lok Adalats are also slated to function from that day in the Punjab & Haryana High Court.
Giving details, a spokesperson for the Punjab Legal Services Authority stated that Mediation and Conciliation along with Arbitration and Lok Adalats have emerged as important alternate means of conflict resolution in the recent past. Mediation is a process in which an impartial or neutral third party assists disputants in finding a mutually acceptable solution. Besides being participatory, it is both voluntary and confidential. It revolves around the willingness of the parties to resolve their disputes and the skills of the mediator to guide parties towards and acceptable settlement.
Elaborating further, he stated that Mediation differs significantly from both litigation and arbitration. In the latter cases, the decision is subject to be challenged by way of appeal or otherwise. Further unlike litigation and arbitration, the Mediator does not give his or her own judgment about the dispute. In Mediation, parties are encouraged to end their disputes on a voluntary basis. While Mediation should ideally precede litigation, parties are at liberty to opt for it at any stage of litigation. The services of Mediation can be used by parties directly or through a reference by the Court. If mediation fails, the rights of the litigants before the Court remain intact and they can avail of the remedies available to them under the law.
The spokesperson informed that Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 makes it obligatory for the Court to give a fair chance to a conciliated or negotiated settlement before adjudication is embarked upon. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 also makes provision for enabling settlements. At the highest level, the Indian Judiciary has decided that mediation will be increasingly used in the legal system. Punjab and Haryana High Court has initiated Mediation by passing an order in a pending litigation with the consent of the parties to try mediation in cases it considers fit and appropriate. Where the mediation is directed by the Court, the Mediators are appointed by the Nodal Officer under the directions of the Mediation and Conciliation Committee of the High Court from the pane of trained and experienced Mediators, who are members of the High Court Bar Association.
The Delhi High Court had embarked on the project on a pilot basis. Taking a lead from the success of the Mediation centres there, the Punjab & Haryana High Court started a Mediation Centre in the High Court as well as in the District Courts at Chandigarh wherein senior counsels have been devoting their time and energy as impartial Mediators. Buoyed by its success, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has now embarked upon setting up similar Centres at the district level in the District and Sessions Courts premises. 9 Mediation and Conciliation Centres in Haryana and 8 in Punjab would become functional on 8th November 2008 after their inauguration by Hon’ble Mr. Justice SB Sinha, Judge Supreme Court of India in the presence of Hon’ble Mr. Justice T S Thakur, Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court through a process of video conferencing. The districts being covered in the present phase are Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, Sangrur, Faridkot at Moga, Hoshiarpur and Ferozepur in Punjab and Rohtak, Gurgaon, Hisar, Faridabad, Sonepat, Rewari, Karnal, Kurukshtera and Jind in Haryana.
Two Judicial Officers from each of these districts have been imparted exhaustive training separately to act as Mediators. Till date, 21 Advocates and 38 Judicial Officers have been trained in the process of Mediation and another batch is scheduled to be trained from 8th November 2008, for which the inauguration would be done by Hon’ble Mr. Justice SB Sinha of Supreme Court of India.
Hon’ble Mr. Justice Mahesh Grover of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chairman of the High Court Mediation & Conciliation Committee, stated that it is probably for the first time in the country’s legal history that 17 Mediation and Conciliation Centres spread over two States would become functional simultaneously in different districts. The Committee has set for itself the target to not only cover the remaining districts in the two States but to also set up similar Centres at the Sub-Divisional level, said Justice Grover.
Chairman of the Legal Services Committee of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, Hon’ble Mr. Justice KS Grewal stated that the 3 Lok Adalats to be inaugurated by Hon’ble Mr. Justice SB Sinha of Supreme Court on 8th November would each be headed by a retired Judge of the High Court. Retired Justices AL Bahri, SK Jain and Mrs. Bakshish Kaur have been designated for the purpose. Initially, these Lok Adalats would be taking up cases related to Motor Accident claims which have been referred by competent Courts. However, over a period of time other matters would also be taken up for settlement by these Lok Adalats, he added.