Access to justice is the most basic right for every person. However, during the trying times of a global pandemic, realizing this basic right gets more and more difficult. The Covid-19 pandemic has propelled the legal system to opt for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms.
Due to the pandemic related curbs on the traditional court trials, the general public is incapable to file their grievances and seek redressal. The conventional court system requires a certain degree of physical presence, which the court is trying to shift online. However, this is not necessary for mediation and other mechanisms of ADR as they already have an established system of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).
The devastation of the pandemic has broken down the practice of litigation on a large scale and consequently led to the recognition of alternative mechanisms for dispute resolution. In order to guarantee success for these mechanisms, it is a must that the third party who mediates in the dispute is highly experienced and skilled in the field. The mechanisms of ADR pave a pathway for efficient and convenient methods of resolution. The parties and the mediator can proceed the case through the advanced technology platforms that the 21st century offers. They can use these platforms to discuss all issues related to the case and furthermore negotiate effectively.
Limitations of Traditional Court System
The access to justice has been curtailed in this pandemic, but naturally, cases have been piling up without the intervention of courts. The traditional system of law lacks the ability to function and deliver justice on the basis of modern-day technology. The virtual model of hearing often takes time to be effectively rendered by courts and due to this people are denied rightful and timely justice. The court’s power has been weakening in these times due to unstable enforceability. This instability and helplessness have given significant encouragement to the alternatives for availing sources of settlement.
On the other hand, the traditional system of litigation has always proved to be overburdened by an excessive backlog of cases and a clear lack of interaction between the courts and the people.
Significance of ADR Mechanisms
The mechanisms of ADR have proved its benefits, especially in these times. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed the functioning of courts and we need to make a shift to alternative dispute resolution. ADR has been a part of our world since the 1970s but only recently has its importance been realized by society. It provides the public with easy access to justice, to resolve their dispute and settle them even under the conditions of the pandemic.
The various mechanisms of ADR can be selected precisely, for the respective case depending on the type of case and the requirements involved. This ensures that the cases are settled without delay and adjournment due to the suspension of court proceedings.
ADR thus attends to all challenges that are faced by the traditional judicial system. Disputes can be conveniently settled according to the terms of the parties involved. It is a cost-efficient and simplified process that can also be determined under a confidential clause. The mechanisms of ADR thus ensures that access to justice would always be guaranteed, no matter what crisis the world faces. ADR can tackle cases with flexibility and settle the same swiftly.
The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Shri S. A. Bobde, one of the leading professionals in the field of law, highlighted in his recent speech in the Bar Council that ADR is the future of the world of law. In this context, he said, “As a representative of the human race, none should accept defeat in the face of natural calamities. Faith in oneself and confidence in one’s ability to remain in ‘constant newness’ makes each individual a captain of the ship of his life and enables him to metamorphose a calamity to an advantage. And that is ‘character’ – a vow not to be vanquished.” He further added, “It is in challenging times like these that we can make innovations and use technology as a transformational tool. The exploration of a virtual ADR world with virtual hearings and online dispute resolution (ODR) mechanisms with the consent of the parties is essential”. He mentioned that it will not be an exaggeration if he says today that India has the potential to become the “focal point” and “nerve center” of arbitration and timely adjudication and the cost-effective aspects constitute the backbone of such resolution.
In furtherance, many professionals believe that in order to suit the needs of the dynamic society today, it is absolutely necessary and only feasible to shift to alternative dispute resolution to match up the speed with technology and infrastructure.
Access to justice is the most basic and fundamental right of every citizen that is guaranteed under the law of the country. This right is often delayed due to various political, management, and social limitations. There is an evident lack of transparency and awfully devastating long procedures involved in the attainment of justice. The traditional Indian courts have not changed much since independence. The common man still faces alienation from understanding the case and agonizes through the uncommunicative decision-making process.
ADR is an advanced mechanism that aids the general public against the shortcomings of the judiciary. Under this system, parties can identify the main issues in the dispute and reach a mutually acceptable settlement without a conflicting and stressful resolve. ADR encourages the parties to analyze their situation and settle for a favorable outcome. ADR is impartial and completely voluntary.
ADR has persisted among us for decades now but the influence was belittled due to the traditional ways of justice. It must not only be encouraged but must be implemented on a large scale. It ensures that justice can be rendered, regardless of worldly situations. During the pandemic, the ADR mechanism has ensured that the aim of access to justice to all, is realized and not put to a halt. Despite more hardships, the door of justice is still open, for people who need it.
Ms. Hajira Fatima
Intern, ADR Wing @ Prerna Foundation