With the steep growth in the number of laws and the number of cases, the Court system is under great pressure. In order to reduce the heavy demand on Court time, efforts need to be made to resolve the disputes by resorting to Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods before they enter the portals of the court. The Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation are tools of Alternative Dispute Redressal System.
Arbitration is a method for settling disputes privately, but its decisions are enforceable by law. An arbitrator is a private extraordinary judge between the parties, chosen by mutual consent to sort out controversies between them. Arbitrators are so called because they have an arbitrary power; for if they observe submissions and keep within due bounds their sentences are definite from which there is no appeal. Arbitration offers greater flexibility, prompt settlement of national and international private disputes and restricted channels of appeal than litigation. In the words of Richard Cobden "At all events, arbitration is more rational, just, and humane than the resort to the sword."
Arbitration is a simplified version of a trial involving no discovery and simplified rules of evidence. Either both sides agree on one arbitrator, or each side selects one arbitrator and the two arbitrators elect the third to comprise a panel. Arbitration hearings usually last only a few hours and the opinions are not public record. Arbitration has long been used in labour, construction, and securities regulation, but is now gaining popularity in other business disputes. Litigation is expensive, time consuming and full of complexities.
The technique of ADR is an effort to design a workable and fair alternative to our traditional judicial system. It is a fast track system of dispensing justice. There are various ADR techniques viz. arbitration, mediation, conciliation, mediation-arbitration, mini-trial, private judging, final offer arbitration, court-annexed ADR and summary jury trial.
Arbitration is a process in which a neutral third party or parties render a decision based on the merits of the case. In the Indian context the scope of the rules for the arbitration process are set out broadly by the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1998 and in the areas uncovered by the Statute the parties are free to design an arbitration process appropriate and relevant to their disputes.
The Process of mediation aims to facilitate the development of a consensual solution by the disputing parties. The Mediation process is overseen by a non-partisan third party - the Mediator. The authority of the mediator vests on the consent of the parties that he should facilitate their negotiations.
Conciliation is a less formal form of arbitration. This process does not require an existence of any prior agreement. Any party can request the other party to appoint a conciliator. One conciliator is preferred but two or three are also allowed. In case of multiple conciliators, all must act jointly. If a party rejects an offer to conciliate, there can be no conciliation.
Parties may submit statements to the conciliator describing the general nature of the dispute and the points at issue. Each party sends a copy of the statement to the other. The conciliator may request further details, may ask to meet the parties, or communicate with the parties orally or in writing. Parties may even submit suggestions for the settlement of the dispute to the conciliator.
When it appears to the conciliator that elements of settlement exist, he may draw up the terms of settlement and send it to the parties for their acceptance. If both the parties sign the settlement document, it shall be final and binding on both.
Negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. It is the primary method of alternative dispute resolution.
Negotiation occurs in business, non-profit organizations, government branches, legal proceedings, among nations and in personal situations such as marriage, divorce, parenting, and everyday life. The study of the subject is called negotiation theory. Those who work in negotiation professionally are called negotiators. Professional negotiators are often specialized, such as union negotiators, leverage buyout negotiators, peace negotiators, hostage negotiators, or may work under other titles, such as diplomats, legislators or brokers.
The process of arbitration can start only if there exists a valid Arbitration Agreement between the parties prior to the emergence of the dispute. As per Section 7, such an agreement must be in writing. The contract, regarding which the dispute exists, must either contain an arbitration clause or must refer to a separate document signed by the parties containing the arbitration agreement. The existence of an arbitration agreement can also be inferred by written correspondence such as letters, telex, or telegrams which provide a record of the agreement. An exchange of statement of claim and defence in which existence of an arbitration agreement is alleged by one party and not denied by other is also considered as valid written arbitration agreement.
Any party to the dispute can start the process of appointing arbitrator and if the other party does not cooperate, the party can approach the office of Chief Justice for appointment of an arbitrator. There are only two grounds upon which a party can challenge the appointment of an arbitrator - reasonable doubt in the impartiality of the arbitrator and the lack of proper qualification of the arbitrator as required by the arbitration agreement. A sole arbitrator or panels of arbitrators so appointed constitute the Arbitration Tribunal.
Except for some interim measures, there is very little scope for judicial intervention in the arbitration process. The arbitration tribunal has jurisdiction over its own jurisdiction. Thus, if a party wants to challenge the jurisdiction of the arbitration tribunal, it can do so only before the tribunal itself. If the tribunal rejects the request, there is little the party can do accept to approach a court after the tribunal makes an award. Section 34 provides certain grounds upon which a party can appeal to the principal civil court of original jurisdiction for setting aside the award.
Once the period for filing an appeal for setting aside an award is over, or if such an appeal is rejected, the award is binding on the parties and is considered as a 'decree of the court'.
However, the reality is quite different. Arbitrators, who are mostly retired judges, usually treat the arbitration proceedings in the same manner as traditional litigations, and are willing to give long and frequent adjournments, as and when sought by the parties. Although the scope of judicial intervention under the 1996 Act has been curtailed to a great extent, courts through judicial interpretation have widened the scope of judicial review, resulting in the admission of large number of cases that ought to be dismissed at the first instance. Moreover, the parties usually approach arbitration with a similar mindset as for litigation, with the result that awards invariably end up in courts, increasing the timeframe for resolution of the disputes. Thus concept of fast track arbitrations has been established. Fast track arbitration is a time-bound arbitration, with stricter rules of procedure, which do not allow any laxity or scope for extensions of time and the resultant delays, and the reduced span of time makes it more cost-effective.
Arbitration costs incurred by the parties may include the arbitrator's fees, rent for arbitration venues, administrative/clerical expenses, and professional fees for the representatives of the parties (which may include lawyers and expert witnesses). The sum of these fees may differ significantly between ad hoc and institutional arbitrations.
The Place of arbitration will be decided by mutual agreement. However, if the parties do not agree to the place, tribunal shall decide the same after having regard to the circumstances of the case, including the convenience of the parties. Similarly, the language to be used in arbitral proceedings can be mutually agreed otherwise, Arbitral Tribunal can decide. The arbitral tribunal may order that any documentary evidence shall be accompanied by a translation into the language agreed upon by the parties or determined by the parties or determined by the arbitral tribunal.
Salient features of Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015:
The Amendment Act has introduced some major changes in the principal Act. We have prepared a brief summary of the following key amendments: