CJI: Lack of settlement culture behind backlog
Chief Justice of India S.H.Kapadia (L)addressing the National Conference on
Mediation in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: S. Subramanium
NEW DELHI: If the judiciary is to be rescued from the "mess" of heavy pendency of cases, then the high courts and the Supreme Court have to take the lead in encouraging mediation and conciliation for settlement of litigation, the country's seniormost judges said on Saturday.
It was an impassioned appeal from Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia and two seniormost judges of the Supreme Court to a gathering of judges and Chief Justices of High Courts to encourage litigants to resort to mediation, arbitration and conciliation for settlement of disputes rather than litigate endlessly without any guarantee of a fair result.
Justice Kapadia said India did not have a settlement culture and lawyers would not encourage settlement of disputes as many did not have work. "When litigation is the only source of livelihood, will such a lawyer ever encourage settlement? So, it is for the judges to make litigants understand the value of mediation and settlement," he said.
But for a litigant to choose mediation, he must have faith in the mediators, who should be trained and could provide solutions apart from driving home the point the cost-effectiveness of the process outside the court, the CJI said.
But, it was Justice Raveendran who nailed the issue on its head. He said there was a sense of anxiety and frustration building up among the litigants because of the inherent lacunae in the present justice delivery system -- delay, uncertainty, inflexibility, cost, difficulty in enforcing decrees and the unfriendly atmosphere in the courts.
"But, who will make mediation successful? The government is not going to do it. The lawyers will not encourage it. The litigant is not in a position to understand the benefits of mediation and conciliation. So, it is for the judges to take the lead in making litigants understand the value of mediation," he said.
As Justice Raveendran gave convincing arguments for mediation during the inaugural session of National Conference on Mediation, Justice Altamas Kabir watched him with disbelief. "Justice Raveendran himself was an unbeliever in this alternative dispute redressal mechanism but now he has become a promoter of it. And this says a lot about the inherent benefit in the ADR system," he said.
Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Madan Lokur, as member of the Mediation and Conciliation Project Committee of the Supreme Court, offered to every high court the help needed to set up infrastructure for mediation centres and training of mediators.
Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia on Saturday said setting up of commercial courts to achieve quick disposal of cases is being considered as other judges of the apex court favoured promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanism to reduce the burden on courts.
Speaking at a seminar on mediation, Justice Kapadia blamed lack of settlement culture in the country for the rise in pendency of cases and people not preferring out-of-court resolution of disputes.
"We are thinking of setting up commercial courts," he said.
Speaking about huge arrears of cases in courts, Justice Kapadia said "in India we, do not have a settlement culture. People are not picking settlement culture (in India).
"Mediation and arbitration as a mode of dispute settlement is popular and successful in other countries," he said.
"We must understand the value of time. This is one of the areas we need to focus on how to promote that culture," he said.
Other Supreme Court judges at the conference also expressed similar views and emphasised the need to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanism to reduce the pressure on courts.
"Nobody can be blamed for the load of work we have. But we have to find a solution to get out of this mess," Justice Altamas Kabir, the senior-most judge, said.
"It has become difficult to pay attention to the cases which deserve attention because of increasing number of cases.
"Space is to be created in courts to deal with cases which cannot be resolved through mediation like criminal, election and administrative cases," Justice R.V. Raveendran said.
"We need to have space to focus on important cases," he said.