The official report of the first ever pan-India drive on Mediation— Indian Mediation Week, (IMW) 11-17th September 2017 was released to the press yesterday (Sunday, 21st January) at a conference organized by the Legal Aid Society on the theme “Access to Justice”—inviting ideas and proposals to alleviate the state of access to justice in the state of West Bengal. The event was presided over by Hon’ble Justice Protik Prokash Banerjee, Kolkata High Court and Mr. Rahim Shamji, founder of ADR-ODR London.
This event was a follow up to the IMW awareness campaign, supported by the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India and endorsed by the Supreme Court Mediation and Conciliation Project Committee (MCPC). The drive, which began in Kolkata as an awareness project to sensitize the citizenry about ‘Mediation’ as a more cost and time effective, alternative to litigation, culminated into a full-fledged nationwide programme observing 126 such mediation drives reaching out to ten thousand people across 10 cities. An equally popular social media campaign on the theme “Suljhao Magar Pyaar Se” (Resolve, amicably) followed immediately, which was joined in by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra himself, and other notable dignitaries such as the likes of former Law Minister of India—Mr. Salman Khurshid, the Hon’ble Supreme Court Justice Madan Lokur, and the Governor of West Bengal—Mr. K.N. Tripathi.
Organized on the lines of finding and propagating ways to enhance access to justice for the common Indian, through popularizing alternatives to litigation, the event witnessed an overwhelming participation from 48 law schools across Kolkata. The conference saw the student community taking the stage to present and discuss their proposals for an improved and more accessible justice system in the state. This was a pioneering event so far as it gave them a platform to not only engage with their peers on the issue but also interact with many legal luminaries from law firms and the judiciary.
Pranjal Sinha and Akshetha Ashok, students at NUJS and Chief-Coordinators of IMW had kick-started the event by briefing the audience about the IMW campaigns and their future course of action. Justice Banerjee went on to observe, “To resolve disputes you do not always need to put on black robes and approach the court, but one can also converse with two parties in conflict and reach a solution agreeable to both, enforceable by law. This is the essence of mediation.” MR. Rahim Shamji, noted, “In India what I have noticed is all a person has in the name of solving a problem is—a hammer, and when you have a hammer in your hand every problem is a nail, and all you can do with the hammer is to hit it as hard as you can. If Litigation is the only way to resolve disputes, it only leaves the parties to fight. The mediation process is a wonderful and needed alternative. I believe in future, lawyers would not only be known as litigators but also dispute resolution experts.” He also congratulated the IMW team for this amazing initiative, and he hoped to see this movement reach new heights.
From across hundreds of proposals that were received, a few were selected to be presented onstage in front of the eminent panelists. One student highlighted the significance of developing online arbitration models, while another emphasised on the importance of organizing Mobile Courts that provide door to door legal advice while protecting people’s privacy, in the state of West Bengal similar to what we have in Haryana, among other ideas. At the closing ceremony of the Conference, plans for a follow up event, where the IMW has collaborated with Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) under Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, for nominating an independent jury to recognize the contributions of top ten individuals in the field of mediation in India were revealed. The mediators' award ceremony will be held in Delhi in March, 2018.
The full report of the Indian Mediation Week can be found at: http://indianmediationweek.com/report.html