Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism Relieves Justice Delivery System, People of Burden of Litigation: SC Judge

Supreme Court judge Sanjay Kishan Kaul on Sunday batted for the use of technology in the alternative dispute resolution mechanism and said this route relieves the justice delivery system and people of the burden caused by litigation.

Speaking at the valedictory session of the Bar Council of India’s (BCI) two-day ‘International Lawyers Conference 2023’, the second senior-most judge in the apex court also flagged the issue of mental health and said that awareness about it in the legal fraternity is the “need of the hour”.

Justice Kaul said,”While litigation in courts has always been a sought after option by litigants and lawyers, it makes me happy to see the growing use of the alternative dispute resolution mechanism in nature of arbitration, mediation and conciliation, in which personally I have great faith.”

“The advantages of sitting outside courts outweighs the advantage of litigating a matter, which more often than not goes on for years, leads to immense delay in the justice delivery system, and leaves people antagonistic towards each other,” he said at the function, which was attended by Union ministers Amit Shah and Bhupender Yadav among others.

Justice Kaul appreciated the work of the BCI and termed the two-day programme a great initiative.

“Great initiative and my appreciation for what has been endeavoured and done. That the legal fraternity of lawyers think so positively is itself a great beginning. We had two days of invigorating and insightful and intellectual discussions, deliberations and consensus on what the system requires, from all of us to improve it,” he said.

He added that the discussions and suggestions emanating from the programme must be documented and given to the government for improvement of the legal system.

Justice Kaul said, “We in India have been trying to make use of technology in the judicial setup. The most noteworthy use of it has been the advent of virtual or e-courts, while the COVID-19 pandemic had its own problems and brought the world to a standstill.”

“It is a matter of pride for us, both judges and lawyers, that the places of giving justice did not close. It may have been affected but all of us tried our best to see that the common people could still approach the justice delivery system, despite the pandemic,” he said.

Virtual hearing allows lawyers and litigants from across the country to attend their respective cases without having to travel all the way to Delhi, which involves time and money, Justice Kaul said.

He said that “it is commonly said, justice should be equally and readily available to each person, notwithstanding the financial constraint”. “Even after the effects of the pandemic subsided, courts across India have adopted the virtual method, which I am sure will remain in the times to come,” Justice Kaul said.

There are certain issues such as constitutional aspects and statutory challenges that are best addressed in adversarial systems in courts, the Supreme Court judge said but added that he believes that a better alternative dispute resolution mechanism and its implementation can help people to walk hand in hand and maintain peace in society.

It is also economically less draining as they are involved in the process of eliminating the need to hire professionals charging hefty amounts, he said.

Referring to the Mediation Act of 2023, which was notified on September 15, Justice Kaul said that its objective is to encourage online mediation to serve the interest of stakeholders in the alternative mechanism for resolving disputes.

“In fact, in an unique endeavour, when Mr Rohinton Nariman was heading the mediation committee, we got all the mediators of the country to look across the border and then come with suggestions. The suggestions formed the fabric of the new Mediation Act,” he said.

He lauded the views of legal luminaries from the law society of England and Wales, the Bar Council of England and Wales and the Commonwealth Group, and said that their views on promotion of equitable justice were thought provoking.

“While we may be separated by physical boundaries, we are united by the common cause of recognising and improving the problem that exists in the legal system across the globe. It is now time to pass the baton to the younger generation of lawyers, who, in my opinion, are far more technologically advanced and are aware of impending problems,” he said.

Justice Kaul, who is set to demit office on December 25, said, “It is commonly said that change is the only constant. It is our duty to groom the next set of legal professionals and listen to their suggestions about improving the legal system. As an officer of the court, I believe their voices should be heard and respected “.

On mental health, he said that law is an exhausting profession and members of the legal fraternity work for hours at a stretch to the detriment of their health.

Justice Kaul said that “awareness about mental health is the need of the hour.” “Glorifying the hustle culture should be stopped and more conversation should be held at the workplace regarding the importance of mental health wellbeing. I also believe that one of the important things is the ethical value at which this profession is carried out,” he said.

He stressed on the need of guiding young law practitioners and referred to senior advocates KK Venugopal and Fali S Nariman, who were in the audience, to say that they were his role models along with others.

“I think it is time we produce role models for the younger generation to follow,” he said, adding that the BCI, the law society of England and Wales and the Bar Council of England and Wales, should collaborate and hold more such conferences, particularly for younger legal professionals. They will get a chance to interact with each other and deliberate on issues, Justice Kaul said.

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Justice Sanjiv Khanna, a judge in the Supreme Court who also addressed the gathering, stressed on the need for using simple language in the legal profession to enable citizens to take informed decisions and avoid unintentional violations.

Supreme Court judge Justice P S Narasimha said it was a proud moment when he enrolled as a lawyer in 1988 as that meant, he had to act with reason as it was the most important tool of this profession.

“This tool which I obtained after becoming a lawyer continues to be with me as a judge and it is of equal significance to everybody, including members of political, executive, or those who occupy constitutional positions,” he said.

On Saturday, while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the programme, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud had said institutional collaboration is the way forward in facilitating access to justice and highlighted the need for engagement between nations, institutions and individuals.

The conference was attended by students, lawyers, foreign delegates and several other dignitaries and had 10 technical sessions on vital legal topics such as justice delivery system-the impact of social media, access to justice and legal aid in developing nations, international legal solutions, alternative dispute resolution on international transactions and artificial intelligence-transforming the legal landscape.

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