Law schools renew thrust on arbitration

Law schools renew thrust on arbitration

Bangalore: In a country with some 30 million pending cases, a few leading law schools are setting up training programmes in arbitration and mediation that would help speed up dispute resolution by bypassing burdened courts.

Arbitration is an alternative legal process offering faster means of resolution outside courts. The parties involved, individuals or corporate firms, choose a non-partisan arbitrator to settle the dispute. The result is binding.

But in India, the process is considerably expensive and few are aware of the legally binding status of the awards. The result: Of the thousands of disputes every year in India, a mere 3-5% go for arbitration. In the US, that number is as high as 96%.

For instance, the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR), an autonomous government-supported body set up to reduce the stress on the country’s courts, has received only some 50 cases in the last seven years, says B.S. Saluja, secretary general of the Delhi-based ICADR. Now, to boost the supply of trained arbitrators, the National Law School of India University (NLS) in Bangalore is set to begin a six month course in arbitration, mediation and conciliation by July.

The National University of Juridical Sciences, or NUJS, in Kolkata, too, is in talks with the Association for International Arbitration in Brussels to roll out a training programme for its students and faculty.

The Bar Council of India is also gearing to suggest ways to simplify the process of arbitration when it meets the ministry of law and justice in May.

“Petty matters should not linger in the courts for a long time…," says S.N.P. Sinha, who was chairman of the Bar Council of India till mid-April. But arbitration, meant to be quick and cheap, is neither in India, says Daniel Mathew, assistant professor at NUJS.

It’s mostly companies that resort to arbitration as the process is the preserve of retired judges and senior lawyers, who charge from Rs30,000 to a few lakhs of rupees for a two hour sitting.

The cost has to come down by 70-80% for arbitration to be accessible to individuals, says V. Nagaraj, professor and registrar at NLS. He is now working at just that. In about a year, Nagaraj’s school, in collaboration with ICADR, will set up a pan-India, 40-odd-member panel of arbitrators and mediators, comprising mostly lawyers and engineers, to handle cases at fixed rates that are yet to be finalized.

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