Thursday, August 5, 2010

Delhi HC slams marital dispute litigants who go back after taking benefits of compromise deed through mediation, makes it tough to go back on mediation

Delhi HC slams marital dispute litigants who go back after taking benefits of compromise deed through mediation, makes it tough to go back on mediation

Thu, Aug 5 05:32 AM

Touted as an effective tool to cut down the pendency of cases across courts, the mediation mechanism has recently hit a stumbling block as instead of ending multifarious litigation, it has often resulted in a fresh bout of cases. The Delhi High Court has recently witnessed several cases where the litigants, especially those entangled in marital disputes, have wished to reject the compromise deed executed after the mediation.

Of late many parties have been approaching the High Court asking to get their compromise deeds quashed, claiming they were made "under duress/coercion". But, more worryingly, the retraction often comes after one of the parties has already availed the benefits of the compromise deed.

Noting a spurt in such cases, Justice S N Dhingra said a litigant complaining of coercion must be put to stringent test before the compromise is set aside. The judge further noted receipt of the benefits is a factor that should be kept in mind before quashing a deed. "One can understand the retraction of compromise, if no benefit is received. However, the compromises are retracted even after benefits are received by one party," noted the court in its recent order.

Justice Dhingra noted that approaching the court after drawing the benefits of an agreement meant pushing the other party, who chose to comply with the terms, to a state of utmost disadvantage and hence, equity must prevail in such cases so that no injustice is done. "The party has to prove before the court by cogent evidence that the compromise was not entered into with free will and consent and the same was entered into under duress and should be ignored," ruled Justice Dhingra while dismissing two similar petitions.

Backing the court's views, jurists said the sanctity of a compromise deed must be maintained and not challenged by a lame allegation without substance. Retired Delhi High Court judge R S Sodhi told Newsline, "The entire purpose of alternate dispute redressal system is defeated if courts entertain such pleas without concrete arguments. These deeds are the rule of the courts and must be respected."

Balkrishna Sharma, a trial court lawyer who has attended several mediation proceedings, said any litigant should not be allowed to retract from the mediation without strong reasons. "A deed is executed only after willful agreements are arrived at and that too before a judicial officer. Nobody should be at a disadvantage only because he or she opted to follow the orders and honoured the deed."

Mediation process

The mediator — usually a judge — makes the two parties sit across a table and help them resolve the issues amicably before a compromise deed is executed on the terms agreed by both.

Mediation is considered very useful in cases of marital discord and issues of alimony, divorce and compensation are easily sorted out. These compromise deeds are subsequently submitted in the court trying their cases and matters are disposed of accordingly. A similar process is followed at the Lok Adalats.

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