The Indian legal system traces its origin back to the colonial era, when the
earliest attempts for reforming the contemporary legal structure were made by
the East India Company, through numerous judicial plans and laws having
introduced and passed in the British Parliament. Over the years, the legal and
judicial system in India has undergone massive developmental stages and as a
result, evolved into a holistic and inclusive justice delivery system where the
inculcation of new and alternative methods of dispute resolution and efficient
technology-based mechanisms are strengthening their roots.
In so far as the other aspect of the Indian legal system is concerned, there is
another shade where the judicial structure of world's largest democracy is
plagued by steadily rising number of pending cases, PILs and undertrials. The
Economic Survey, 2018, states that there are approximately 3.5 crore cases
pending in the legal system, particularly in district and subordinate courts. In
that context, the traditional mode of dispute resolution i.e., litigation proves
to be a lengthy process leading to unnecessary delays in dispensation of justice
as well as over-burdening the judiciary. In such a scenario, Alternative
Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes provide a better and more expedient approach
for dispute resolution.
ADR refers to the different ways people can resolve disputes without a trial.
Common ADR processes include, inter alia, mediation, arbitration, and neutral
evaluation. It is a non-adversarial method of resolving disputes that
involves working cooperatively to find the best solution for everyone. And
hence, can play a significant role in lessening the load of litigation on the
courts while providing a comprehensive and rewarding experience for the parties.
Need for Alternative Dispute Resolution:
These processes are generally confidential, less formal, and less stressful than
traditional court proceedings. ADR typically saves money and speeds settlement,
resulting in creative solutions, longer-lasting outcomes, better satisfaction,
and improved relationships.
The overwhelming backlog of court cases in India has put a great deal of strain
on the justice system. In India, the quantity of court cases has skyrocketed
recently, causing backlogs and delays and emphasising the demand for ADR
ADR enables the amicable resolution of disagreements. It enables trials to be
concluded quickly. There is no possibility of an adjournment or stay order in
ADR, unlike the litigation procedure. In contrast to the litigation procedure,
where significant costs are expended to pay the attorneys and other trial
participants, in ADR only a minimal sum of money is needed.
Types of ADRAccording to a broad classification, ADR could be primarily categorised into:
- Arbitration� Arbitration is a consensual dispute resolution process based on the parties' agreement to submit their disputes for resolution to an arbitral tribunal usually composed, of one or three independent Arbitrators appointed by or on behalf of the parties. The arbitrators are official representatives on behalf of judicial institutions, where the decision and award pronounced by the same is binding, but not equal to that of a judicial officer.
- Conciliation� A non-binding method in which a Conciliator, a neutral third party, assists disputing parties in reaching a mutually accepted agreement. Conciliation is a less formal type of arbitration. The parties can accept or reject the conciliator's ideas.
- Mediation� A neutral third party known as Mediator, works with the parties to try to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties. The mediator does not make a decision while aiding the parties in conversing so that they can try to resolve the dispute themselves.
- Negotiation� Another non-binding process whereby talks between the parties are started without the involvement of a third party with the goal of reaching a negotiated resolution to the conflict. It is the most typical alternative dispute resolution technique.
- Pro Bono Legal Services� In April, 2017, the Pro Bono Legal Services project was introduced by the Govt. of India. The initiative aims to satisfy the government's important duty of improving 'access to justice' for underprivileged groups of society. Moreover, it aims to provide an institutional structure to foster pro bono culture in India, and an alternative for resolving disputes at the poorest and indigent levels of society.
- Lok Adalat� Lok Adalat(s) are held by the National Legal Services Authority and other Legal Services Institutions. Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute resolution procedures. It is a place where disputes/cases pending in court of law or at the pre-litigation stage are amicably settled/compromised. The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 established Lok Adalat(s) as statutory entities.
ADR has been effective in reducing the backlog of cases at various levels of the
judiciary, especially in the previous three years. Lok Adalat(s) alone have
resolved more than 50,00,000 cases annually on average. But it appears that
people are unaware that these techniques are available. More information on
these should be made available by the National and State Legal Services
Authorities so that potential litigants will consider them as their first course
Furthermore, ICT advancements and creative ideas will be important to the future
of conflict resolution, making it efficient and accessible to all segments of
society. The use of ADR has the potential to decentralise conflict resolution in
India and provide opportunities for creatives from all walks of life to design
specialist ADR methods for quick dispute settlement.
The desire for swift and affordable justice is universal. Early resolution of a
disagreement not only saves the parties to the dispute considerable time and
money, but it also creates the atmosphere for a sound relationship between
citizens, law, and governance.
- Department Of Economic Affairs, Ministry Of Finance, Government Of India, https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/budget2019-20/economicsurvey/ (last visited 27 Aug. 2023).
- Department Of Legal Affairs, Ministry Of Law & Justice Government Of India, https://legalaffairs.gov.in/sites/default/files/Arbitration_Mediation.pdf (last visited Sep. 5, 2023).
- New York State Unified Court System, https://ww2.nycourts.gov/ip/adr/What_Is_ADR.shtml (last visited Sep. 5, 2023).
- Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, https://www.hkiac.org/arbitration/what-is-arbitration (last visited Sep. 6, 2023).
- Times Of India, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/more-than-50-lakh-cases-disposed-on-an-average-by-national-lok-adalats/articleshow/62921030.cms (last visited Sep. 6, 2023).