Alternative Methods of Resolving Disputes: The Right Kind of Help for The Justice System
Teaching law to students since last year, one thing most evident was their lack of awareness regarding alternative modes of settling disputes. This became more apparent since the class I was teaching was a Masters class and the subject was Alternative Dispute Resolution. All the students were mature working professionals. While these students hailed from a cross section of society, they were all very well involved in the system and working through it in provision of justice. This cross section of students came from government or semi government organisations; some were district prosecutors, while some practicing lawyers and/or teachers, etc. Yet their grip on resolving disputes on the ground alternatively was minimal, to say the least.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a widely used term but fairly acknowledged when it comes to its practical know-how and more so the implementation. ADR consists of mostly mediation, negotiation, arbitration, conciliation and expert determination. In Pakistan, we have the law to support alternative means of settling disputes. To name a few: Arbitration Act 1940, Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards 2011, Small Minor Claims and Offences Ordinance 2002, Section 89-A under Code of Civil Procedure.
The benefits of ADR as a method of resolving disputes is comparatively more informal than the rigorous, time consuming and public domain of the court. In Pakistan, the approach towards ADR needs to be streamlined by educating those who are at both the receiving and giving ends of justice. The judges of the lower to high courts need to implement or give preference to ADR mode wherever deemed fit, while the litigant/person seeking justice needs to be guided and educated to take the alternative route for settlement so as to avoid the mental and economic burden of litigation. One such example operating in Pakistan has been of the Karachi Dispute Resolution Centre (KDRC), which provides licensed expert mediators to resolve long-standing disputes in the courts. The benefit of their ADR center can be seen from their success stories, for example, a case relating to trading of goods was pending in the High Courts since five years and was resolved expeditiously through only 12 hours of mediation. Another long standing dispute was resolved in less than eight hours and was successful in resolving dispute.
To look at the neighboring country, India, the concept of Lok Adalats i.e., the ‘peoples courts’ has been ingrained in their legal system, which has proven highly beneficial in aiding their justice system. The cases are dispensed without legal technicalities under the ‘peoples courts’ with the consent of the parties. Recently in India, the Lok Adalats beginning from February 14 now will be segregated according to cases. Unlike the earlier half-yearly Lok Adalats that used to dispose of all cases in a single day, the new concept will focus hearing cases related to a specific subject in a given month. This will further clear the backlog of cases. Following in the footsteps of the neighboring country, a similar setup needs to operate in Pakistan as well where cases are divided into categories on basis of importance and justice is delivered through alternative mode rather than burdensome litigation that only adds to the backlog.
ADR is certainly a global necessity. Some methods of alternative means of settling disputes have emerged, and one of the significant movements is conflict management and judicial reform, that ultimately aids good governance. On the grass root level lawyers, civil/commercial practitioners, prosecutors, students, and judges need to be taught the importance of ADR on a daily basis.
The course of ADR needs to be introduced by the Pakistan Bar Council and taught rigorously in the LLB programme along with practical know how so that the future lawyers can appreciate the technical strengths and implement this mechanism in a practical situation. The Bench, Bar and other stakeholders need training on ADR for which programs should be devised by the Bar Councils in collaboration with the Law and Justice Commission. Furthermore, an official institute of arbitrators/expert determinators needs to be established so that persons from fields relevant to the matter in the dispute are available. Some multinational organisations/companies can impart annual trainings to their employees/lawyers regarding the significance in solving large domestic international disputes through arbitration or mediation.
This article has previously been published in Pakistan Today.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.