`Look for innovative approach for conflict resolution`

A State Colloquium for Judges and Mediators was told Saturday to `look for` and `test` new and innovative approaches for handling conflicts.

Kochi: A State Colloquium for Judges and Mediators was told Saturday to `look for` and `test` new and innovative approaches for handling conflicts and to develop a mediation process that was essentially Indian.

"The need of the hour is to look for and test new and innovative approaches for handling conflict, particularly in the face of discontentment towards the prevalent techniques of conflict resolution," Supreme court Judge Justice Swatanter Kumar said in his inaugural address at the colloquium on `Tools, Techniques and emerging trends in mediation`.

Stressing the need to develop a mediation process that was `befitting our culture and society`, he said though mediation in India holds `enormous promise`, there were several obstacles.

"Exposure to these facilitated negotiation processes, though spreading rapidly, remains limited. Judges and lawyers harbour understandable apprehensions about the relationship between mediation and the formal judicial process and deep scepticism over the application of mediation to a wide variety of Indian legal disputes, particularly outside the commercial area."

He suggested that mediation should be conducted in the language of the parties, which would help in crossing barriers.

An aspect that can be considered is the appointment of more mediators from the bar as well as the bench. However, the `growing workload` of judges was of primary concern to the higher judiciary.

"It is almost impossible for a judge to manage his enormous workload and the same time be able to set aside time for conducting mediation`, he said.

Among the many solutions suggested during various regional conferences was to designate a cadre of judges only for the purpose of mediating disputes.

Kerala High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur said there was need to provide a mechanism which was least expensive and gives minimum stress to the participants.

Kerala government has sanctioned seven posts of judicial officers to manage mediation centres, she said.

Referring to the resistance from Villapilsala panachayat in Thiruvananthapuram against setting up of a new garbage treatment plant, she said, "though we were unable to convince the panchayat during the mediation, the animosity level and strong opposition they used to exhibit there has been reduced now due to mediation."

Justice Madan B Lokur of the apex court said there was need to bring in more awareness about mediation using print and electronic media, street plays and documentaries.


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