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A dispute mechanism is a structured process that addresses disputes or grievances that arise between two or more parties engaged in business, legal, or societal relationships. Dispute mechanisms are used in dispute resolution, and may incorporate conciliation, conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation.

Dispute Redressal Mechanisms are typical non-judicial in nature, meaning that they are not resolved within the court of law.

Indian scenario

Article 21 of the Constitution of India declares in a mandatory tone that 'no person shall be deprived of his life or his personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. The Right to Speedy Trial has been rightly held to be a part of Right to Life or Personal Liberty by the Supreme Court of India. This liberal interpretation of Article 21 is to redress that mental agony, expense and strain which a person proceeded against in criminal law has to undergo and which, coupled with delay, may result in impairing the capability or ability of the accused to defend himself effectively. Thus, the Supreme Court has held the Right to Speedy Trial a manifestation of fair, just and reasonable procedure enshrined in Article 21.

Before formation of law Courts in India, people were settling the matters of dispute by themselves by mediation. The mediation was normally headed by a person of higher status and respect among the village people and such mediation was called in olden days "Panchayath". The Panchayath was headed by a person of higher statues, quality and character who deemed to be unbiased by people of the locality, called Village headman and he was assisted by some people of same character or cadre from several castes in the locality. The dispute between individuals and families were heard by the Panchayath and decision given by the Panchayath was to be accepted by the disputants. The main thing that was considered in such Panchayath was the welfare of the disputants as also to retain their relationship smooth.

But in a developing country like India with major economic reforms under way within the framework of the rule of law, strategies for swifter resolution of disputes for lessening the burden on the courts and to provide means for expeditious resolution of disputes, alternative modes of dispute resolution (ADR) came up by establishing facilities for providing settlement of disputes through arbitration, conciliation, mediation and negotiation. In this context the GOI has set up different Dispute Redressal Mechanism to address the problems.

The different mechanisms formed in India are Gram Sabha, Nyaya Panchayat, Lok Adalat, Family Court, Counseling Centers, Commission of Inquiry, Tribunal, Consumer Court, Indian Legislation on ADR, etc.

In essence the system focuses on: Mediation rather than winner take all; Increasing Accessibility to justice and Improving efficiency and reducing court delays.

However, a well-functioning grievance mechanism should:

  • Provides a predictable, transparent, and credible process to all parties, resulting in outcomes that are seen as fair, effective, and lasting.
  • Builds trust as an integral component of broader community relations activities.
  • Enables more systematic identification of emerging issues and trends, facilitating corrective action and preemptive engagement.

In this series we are discussing different forms of Dispute Redressal Mechanism, issues and challenges related to it.