Monday, January 30, 2012

Where judges save marriages

Where judges save marriages

Smriti Singh, TNN Oct 6, 2008, 03.01am IST

With an alarming increase in the number of couples heading for divorce in the Capital, judges have now stood up to save the sanctity of marriage. From advising the couple to give their marriage a second chance to making them understand the practicality of life, the judges are doing everything that can change the mind of the couple heading for separation.

The concept of mediation centres is rapidly gaining popularity, and with a success rate of 63%, this new role of the gravel-hammering judges has earned them accolades from everywhere. According to recent court figures, more than 1,36,000 marriages take place every year while some 8,000-9,000 divorce cases are filed each year. In fact, an average of 10 cases are filed per day in just one court.

However, the new Additional Dispute Resolution (ADR) method has given the judiciary a more humane approach in resolving the matter. Sample this: A couple which had filed for a divorce recently went back to give their marriage a second chance after attending sessions in the mediation centres. "The main problem with the couple was a communication gap as both were working. So, when they approached us, all we told them was to talk, be more expressive and resolve their issues over a cup of coffee. It worked for them and within 5 sittings, they decided to give it another shot," said a mediator judge who refused to be named.

Earlier, this wasn't the role of mediation centres. The case was generally forwarded to the civil courts if the couple was not ready to reconcile. However, the new ADR method involves an enhanced role of the judge. The centres have taken the help of ADJs to do the job of the mediators. In the mediation centre at Gole market, which comes under Delhi Legal Services Authority, there are five district and sessions judges, who meet couples everyday between 8am to 7pm. Similar mediation centres can be found in Tis Hazari and Karkardoma. "The role of the judge in these mediation centres is not only to mediate between the couples but also to understand the dispute between the two parties and come up with an amicable solution," Sanjay Sharma, the project officer of DLSA, told TOI.

"Mediation in the context of matrimonial disputes is different in form and content from commercial and property disputes. So we give advice on things like motivation, sentiments, social compulsions, personal liabilities, and responsibility to solve the matter," said a mediator judge on the condition of anonymity.

The latest figures at the Tis Hazari mediation centre are encouraging. The success rate of settled cases in Tis Hazari is as high as 63% while at Karkardoma it's close to 60%.

"Out of 7,473 cases handled by the mediation centre in the past three years, 7,264 have been disposed off by now. About 4,605 cases have been settled successfully," informed Kapoor, the judge in charge of the mediation centre in Tis Hazari courts.

"Our main job is not to tell them what to do, but to mediate between the two parties. We motivate these couples to sort out their differences and the judges here try to talk to them about issues like personal liabilities and responsibilities to solve the matter," Kapoor added.

The judges at the mediation centres believe that the mindsets of the people have changed over the years. While earlier getting a divorce was considered the last resort for a couple, now they consider it their first option.

Mediator to the rescue

Anita Dhingra (name changed) never thought that her marriage of six years would come crashing down after her husband got a job transfer to another city. Anita, a working professional, did not want to leave her job so both decided to work in different cities for a while, hoping to find a solution soon. "It never worked out. Instead, we grew apart and problems started arising. I was accused of not being mature and understanding. There was too much stress," she said. In November 2007, the couple decided to split and filed for a divorce.

Their counsels suggested sessions in the mediation centre. Both agreed and as they say the rest is history. "We both were pretty apprehensive about going for sessions in the mediation center but we went ahead. The first few sessions were a waste as we just blamed each other for every thing and refused to reconcile. But then, our mediator asked us to reason out the differences and suggested certain ways to mend our differences," she said.

The first suggestion was to interact. The mediator advised the couple to take a cool-off period and think about the positive side of the relationship. "Although, the mediator never enforced anything on us, her advice came in handy and our differences started to dissolve," Dhingra said.

After the 10th session, the couple decided to give their marriage another try. Cut to September 2008, and the couple is living happily in the capital with Anita's husband taking up another job here.

This is not the only case where the help of a mediation centre has come to the rescue. There have also been number of cases where the couple still head for a divorce but on "cordial terms". One of the mediators in Tis Hazari courts explains, "Most of the time the couple comes with a decision. So we try that no matter what the decision they take in the end, it has to be on cordial terms." The mediator added that many couples who still went ahead with the divorce are now good friends. "It's healthy for everyone. Especially, if they have kids," she said.