Courts must make efforts in making mediation mandatory as part of case management: CJI

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Saturday said an active effort must be taken by courts to make negotiation and mediation mandatory, as a part of case management.

In his address at the inaugural event of a two-day national conference on mediation and information technology organised near the Statue of Unity in Gujarat’s Narmada district, he said: “Conflicts are inevitable aspects of our lives. Misunderstandings, ego issues, lack of trust and greed can lead to conflicts. Even the big conflicts can be resolved through understanding. Conflicts have a human face. One must have the foresight to look beyond the conflict. A dispute should not spoil your relationship.”

The conference was also attended by President Ram Nath Kovind, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, judges of the Supreme Court, and other dignitaries.

The Chief Justice cited the mediation undertaken by Lord Krishna, to prevent the war of Kurukshetra. “We all know the consequences of that failed mediation. Imagine, how much destruction would have been avoided; how lives could have been saved and how the kingdoms would have prospered, had Krishna succeeded,” he added.

He said the concept of ADR (alternate dispute resolution), through lok adalats, gram nyayalayas, mediation and arbitration centres, has the potential to transform the legal landscape of India by providing millions of people a platform to settle their grievances.

Chief Justice Ramana said imbibing effective ADR mechanisms into the judicial process can reduce pendency, save judicial resources and time, and allow litigants a degree of control over the dispute resolution process and its outcome.

“The role of courts assumes great importance in realising the full potential of ADR. An active effort must be taken by courts to make negotiation and mediation mandatory, as a part of case management,” he said.

The Chief Justice said with adequate cooperation from all stakeholders, it has the ability to emerge as a tool of social justice in India, and several states in India are currently coming to build a robust ADR-friendly environment.

“Mediation and negotiation at the pre-litigation stage are one of the most empowering methods of resolving disputes as they maximize the participation of stakeholders,” he said.

He emphasised on the need of skilled mediators to decide some significant issues during the process of mediation and in a situation where settlement is fully going in favour of a particular party.

“What is the duty of a mediator if the settlement reached is patently unjust to the weaker party? Should the mediator be a silent spectator during such negotiations? These are just some of the questions which one must consider, particularly in a country like India with our diverse social fabric. The ideals of substantive equality must be reflected in the resolution process as well,” he said.

On the aspect of technology, Chief Justice Ramana said all those engaged in the justice dispensation mechanism – judges, lawyers, law enforcement agencies, and others – now need to have a thorough understanding of new technologies.

Rapid development in the fields of cryptocurrency, data protection, encryption and artificial intelligence have caused courts and law enforcement agencies to engage with novel issues, and technology can be beneficially employed by the judicial system, he said.

“Technology has the potential to simplify this process. Courts in India have started utilising technology. Various High Courts have taken the transparency to a new level by way of livestreaming of the proceedings using the cost-effective technology. I am sure many more would like to emulate this model,” he said.

“The rapid development of technology has resulted in increased complexity even within the legal and regulatory landscape of the country. For instance, technological developments such as crypto currency, data protection, encryption and artificial intelligence have caused Courts and law enforcement agencies to engage with novel issues. With the passage of time, there is a possibility of increased litigation on these issues.”

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