CHENNAI: With the number of cases pending in courts refusing to come down, it’s high time that the miconceptions and myths surrounding the quick redress option of settling disputes ‘out-of-court’ are dispelled. Legal luminaries believe the process, viewed with distrust in the litigant circles, can go a long way in easing the burden on judiciary and ensuring speedy delivery of justice.
For litigants ‘out-of-court’ settlement through Alternative Dispute Settlement (ADR) methods — comprising arbitration, conciliation and mediation - has long been an option for quick redress. It also has been the least tapped avenue for availing of justice.
Senior advocate N L Rajah says that the public assumes that arbitration does not work in the same way as a court, giving birth to the myth that a justified judgment could not be guaranteed at such a forum. “This is mainly because of the misunderstanding that an arbitrator’s order does not have the same force of authority as a court’s. However, unlike popular the misconception, arbitration sessions are held like any other court session, except that the litigants get to choose their own arbitrator, who likely happens to be a retired judge,” he says.
While arbitration as an option is slowly gaining traction in the public sphere, experts say that the process is favoured by the corporates and those from the ‘creamy layer’. Advocate Anirudh Krishnan says cost factor is one of the reasons for the unpopularity of arbitration. “People usually go in for arbitration for commercial contracts and land disputes. Since, one has to hire their own arbitrator, they fear it could end up as a pricey option,” he adds.
“The price of arbitration is rising steadily. For those worried about the money, mediation can be a cost-effective mode of settlement,” says advocate Kavitha Balakrisan, who actively works in the Mediation and Conciliation Centre at the Madras High Court, the first-of-its-kind in the country.
“A good mediator will find out the weak link in the case, encourage clients to look at the bigger picture and engage in a dialogue. The whole process is kept confidential to encourage litigants to speak up,” explains senior advocate Sriram Panchu, who is acknowledged as the pioneer of mediation in the country, with books on mediation to his credit as well.