Is Mediation Act of 2023 the Future of the Indian Legal System?

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on March 20, 2024, 15:04:45


India, mediation act, civil, commercial, dispute resolution

India, with its dense population, sees numerous disputes, whether civil or commercial, which remain backlogged in the already burdened judiciary system.

Timely justice delivery is hindered, as evidenced by the District Judiciary alone shouldering approximately 44.79 million pending cases in January 2024, while the High Courts had a backlog of 6.2 million cases during the same period.

The Supreme Court of India, not immune to this dilemma, had 69,766 cases pending as of July 1, 2023. This dire situation emphasises the urgent need for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods that are quicker, less costly and more flexible than the traditional adversarial system.

The Mediation Act 2023 represents a significant evolution in India's approach to dispute resolution, further leveraging technology to enhance access to justice.

India's journey towards recognising mediation in its legal framework dates back to the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, which introduced the concept of conciliators to resolve industrial disputes.

Subsequent legal reforms, such as the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996, further strengthened the recognition of mediation. However, the Mediation Bill of 2021 laid the foundation for the comprehensive Mediation Act 2023.

The Bill aimed to introduce a thoughtfully curated institutional dispute-resolution mechanism backed by collaborative problem-solving and the preservation of relationships.

It mandated that all civil and commercial disputes undergo mediation before entering the court arena, underscoring the significance of exhausting alternative remedies before resorting to litigation. This made the standing committee question the consent and voluntary nature of mediation.

Bringing strategic amendments to the bill, at its core, the Mediation Act 2023 aims to induce a culture of amicable settlement while alleviating the burden on the overburdened judicial system.

It provides a more structured framework for mediation, both offline and online, allowing disputing parties to resolve their issues with the assistance of a neutral third party, the mediator.

Key provisions of the Act include mandating mediation as a prerequisite for civil and commercial disputes before resorting to litigation; setting clear guidelines for mediator qualifications, procedural norms and confidentiality aspects, including online mediation to leverage technology and bridge geographical barriers and establishing a regulatory body for mediator registration and oversight.

The Mediation Act 2023 thus stands in the continuum of revolutionising India's dispute resolution landscape. By promoting the use of mediation, the Act will expedite the resolution process and empower disputants to shape their outcomes collaboratively.

The Act’s additional feature of online mediation further addresses logistical barriers and improves access to justice, especially in remote regions.

Moreover, the Act's focus on quality assurance through mediator accreditation and oversight cements the integrity of the mediation process.

By validating mediation as a credible and effective mechanism, the Act instills confidence in stakeholders and encourages greater adoption of alternative dispute resolution methods.

Lastly, the Mediation Act 2023 heralds a new dawn of dispute resolution in India, characterised by efficiency, accessibility and fairness. By accepting mediation and leveraging technology, India is on the brink of overcoming the daunting challenges that have long obstructed its judicial system.

As The Mediation Act 2023 comes into effect and its provisions are implemented, it signifies a transformative reform towards invoking harmony and equality in society.

In the journey towards justice, the Mediation Act 2023 will play a crucial role in guiding India towards a future where disputes are resolved amicably, efficiently and impartially.

(Roopa Shetty is the Founder of Bangalore-headquartered law firm Lex Situs)

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