SC asks Centre to apprise it on proposal for law on mandatory pre-litigation mediation

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New Delhi, Mar 19 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre to apprise it whether the government is contemplating any law for mandatory ‘pre-litigation’ mediation of disputes in order to reduce huge pendency of cases in the judiciary.

‘Pre-litigation’ mediation is an attempt to resolve the dispute among the parties amicably with the help of neutral third party called mediator before moving the court or even before filing litigation or sending a notice.

A bench Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that they have heard the government is contemplating legislation on pre-litigation mediation.

Mehta said that he needs to seek instruction in this regard and sought some time to apprise the court on the move of the government.

The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on March 25.

On October 13 last year, the top court had sought responses from the Centre and all the high courts on the plea filed by the NGO, ‘Youth Bar Association of India’, which sought directions for taking appropriate measures to provide for mandatory ‘Pre-litigation’ mediation.

It has also sought issuance of guidelines or formulation of a Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) so as to give immediate effect to the functioning of mandatory ‘Pre-Litigation Mediation’ pan India.

The plea has referred to comment of Justice D Y Chandrachud at a webinar that as per the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), total number of cases pending before the Courts in India was 32.45 million as on May 24, 2020, of which 32 per cent cases were less than one year old.

The plea said that as per the NJDG data, out of total pending cases 9.11 million are civil cases in which 34.25 per cent cases are one year old; about 44.76 per cent cases are 1-5 years old.

“The aggregate of cases that are 5-10 years old are 14.31 per cent. Disappointingly the category of cases which falls in the range of 20 to 30 years constitute 1.15 per cent of the pendency and 0.37 per cent case are waiting for the their disposal for as much as thirty years,” the plea said.

It added if the cases are classified according to their ‘jurisdiction’, 71.06 per cent of civil cases are pending in ‘Original Jurisdiction’ and majority of the cases forming pendency in Original side belong to majorly three areas- Civil Suits (57.75 per cent), Motor Accidents Claim Petition (MACP) (16.84 per cent) and Marriage Petition (12.38 per cent).

“That it is submitted that arrears are mounting by leaps and bounds and there is no respite in sight. This is particularly because institution of cases is much more than their disposal at all the levels of judicial administration. The fundamental requirement of good judicial administration is speedy justice”, it said.

The Association said that efforts should be made to settle the disputes at the very threshold vide affording opportunity to the concerned parties to settle their disputes amicably.

“Mediation in general and ‘pre-litigative’ mediation in particular is an alternative mode to settle the dispute amicably, and that too, at pre-litigative stage,” it said.

It said that with the advent of the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Act, 2018, pre-institution mediation came into existence.

The petition further said that it gives a chance to both the parties to end the dispute in a win-win position and in the process the issues can be sorted out sooner and this process is inexpensive compared to the expenditure incurred at every stage of the case/issues in litigation.

“To reduce the number of pending cases, the Government should work on a mechanism to introduce a pre-litigation mediation process, so that avoidable cases can be prevented from reaching the courts and settle the issue effectively,” it said.

The plea sought direction to parties in certain type of non-urgent matters such as commercial cases, partition suits, probation petitions and such other categories to first exhaust mandatory pre-litigation mediation at a court annexed mediation centre or such other centre as this Court may deem fit. PTI MNL SJK SA