Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a term that is used for describing a wide array of practices, the purpose of which is to manage recent issues of legal importance at a quicker and economic way than a time-consuming and expensive legal process. The ADR procedures consist of negotiation, conciliation, mediation, arbitration and an array of hybrid procedures, including mediation and last offer arbitration (MEDOLA), mini-trial, med-arb and neutral evaluation. ADR techniques are extra judicial in character. They can be used in almost all matters which are capable of being resolved, under law, by an agreement between the parties. However, it is to be kept in mind that ADR is not intended to replace altogether the traditional means of resolving disputes by the means of litigation. It only offers alternative options to litigation. ADR may not be appropriate for every dispute, even in other areas; even if appropriate, it cannot be invoked unless both parties to a dispute are genuinely interested in a settlement.


The ADR system in India is founded on the constitutional basis of Articles 14 and 21 which deal with equality before law and right to life and personal liberty respectively. ADR tries to achieve the Directive Principle of State Policy relating to Equal justice and Free Legal Aid as laid down under Article 39-A of the Constitution. The acts which deal with Alternative Dispute Resolution are Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 makes it possible for Arbitration proceedings to take place in accordance with the acts stated before.


The most important feature of ADR is that it is less time-consuming and more economic. It is also free of all technicalties as in the case of conducting cases in law courts. Here, the parties are free to discuss their difference of opinion without any fear of disclosure of this fact before any law courts and the fact that parties are having the feeling that there is no losing or winning feeling among the parties but at the same time they are having the feeling that their grievance is redressed and the relationship between the parties is restored.

Legislative recognition of Alternative Dispute Redressal

The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 brought about the establishment of Lok Adalat System for the settlement of disputes cheaply and expeditiously and in the spirit of compromise by give and take formula. Section 30 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 encourages arbitrators, with the agreement of the parties, to use mediation, conciliation or other procedures at any time during the arbitration proceedings to encourage settlement.

Further still, the Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 1999 carries section 89 which is designed to enable the courts to bring about a settlement of dispute outside the court. As and when the amendment comes to be enforced, the four methods listed in the section known as court-ordered or court-annexed ADRs would become statutory alternatives to litigation for the settlement of disputes and would be legally enforceable. It is now made obligatory for the court to refer to the dispute after the issues are framed for settlement with the concurrence of the parties by the ways of:

  • Arbitration
  • Conciliation
  • Judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat, or
  • Mediation

When the parties fail to get their disputes settled through any of the Alternative Dispute Resolution methods, the suit would come back to proceed further in the court where it was filed.

Various Kinds of ADR Mechanism


Arbitration is the process of hearing and determining of a dispute between parties by persons chosen or agreed to by them. The object of arbitration is to obtain the fair resolution of disputes by an impartial tribunal without unnecessary delay and expense.


Conciliation is the process of facilitating an amicable settlement between the parties. Unlike the case of an arbitration, there is no determination of a dispute. There need not be a prior agreement and it cannot be forced on a party not intending for a conciliation. The proceedings relating to a conciliation are dealt under sections 61 to 81 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.


Mediation aims to assist two (or more) disputants in reaching an agreement. The parties themselves determine the conditions of any settlements reached— rather than accepting something imposed by a third party. The disputes may involve (as parties) states, organizations, communities, individuals or other representatives with a vested interest in the outcome. Mediators use appropriate techniques and/or skills to open and/or improve dialogue between disputants, aiming to help the parties reach an agreement (with concrete effects) on the disputed matter.

Alternative Dispute Resolution, since its introduction in the Indian Judicial System has come a long way. Mediation centres all over the country have opened for fast and effective resolution of disputes. Delhi is one of the cities whose mediation centre has seen a lot of success stories in the last decade. Delhi has become one of the first cities in India to “effectively” reduce the number of pending cases through mediation. The mediation centres in Delhi’s six district courts have settled over 1 lakh cases in the past ten years and have contributed significantly in bringing down the pendency in city courts. A variety of cases such as matrimonial disputes, property rows, minor criminal cases, civil cases and accident cases, besides old ones and pre-litigation matters, too, have been settled by the six mediation centres.

Apart from Delhi, some other states where mediation is gaining ground are Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Thus, we can undoubtedly say that ADR as a dispute resolution process has come a long way and is seeing more and more success stories day by day. It is a boon to the Judicial system. It is expected that soon, mediation and other ADR systems will play a big role in fixing the justice delivery system and making it more efficient by solving the arrears of pending cases which the judiciary is overburdened with at present.