Alternate dispute resolution

AT long last, the Government seems to have realised the need to put in place a formal system of alternate dispute resolution in the backdrop of unrealistic delays in disposal of cases by the traditional system of justice. Two bills, prepared for the purpose – Alternate Dispute Resolution Act 2016 (ADR) and Cost Litigation Act 2016 – are now before the National Assembly and hopefully the two houses would take expeditious action on them in view of the dismal ground realities.
The two bills were prepared by the Law Ministry about two years back but regrettably the Federal Cabinet sat over them unnecessarily, which speaks volumes about the priority that authorities concerned attach to speedy and inexpensive dispensation of justice. Anyhow, as the two draft laws have the potential to provide substantial relief to litigants on these accounts, it is hoped that these would be processed on priority basis and the system of Panchayats envisaged in the first bill will be in place during next year. If the Government succeeds in introducing this system, it would be contributing immensely to ease out pressure on courts besides affording an opportunity to people to benefit from the system. This is because the draft law provides solution to both civil litigation as well as compoundable offences. Under the proposed law, it would be mandatory to refer all civil matters including commercial, family, trade, insurance and revenue related to ADR or Panchayat for arbitration by panel of “neutrals”. The government after consultation with the High Court shall maintain a Panel of neutrals for each Province and each district from amongst lawyers, retired judges of superior and subordinate judiciary, retired civil servants, social workers, Ulema, jurists, technocrats and experts and such other persons of repute and integrity having such qualifications and experience as prescribed. Similar systems are delivering elsewhere in the world and there is no reason this would not work in Pakistan. There could be opposition to the system by some vested interests but interest of the people lies in its early enforcement.

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