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PESHAWAR, Dec 6: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Judicial Academy is set to establish a mediation centre, the first of its kind on official level in the country, which will focus on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in criminal and civil cases pending before the courts.

“We have finalised the arrangements and the mediation centre is likely to be set up this month following which training would be provided to judges and lawyers and also to those professional mediators who have been holding jirgas on private level for resolving civil and criminal disputes,” said Hayat Ali Shah, the judicial academy’s director general.

Addressing a press conference here on Friday, he said that the main mediation centre would be set up in the academy following which they would establish such centres on divisional level within six months and subsequently in each district across the province. “These centres will be supervised from the main centre in the academy,” he added.

Mr Shah said that as Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan was the moving spirit behind all such innovative steps, including the setting up of the judicial academy and his focus on ADR, the centre would be named as “Dost Mohammad Khan Mediation Centre.”

He said that the centre would be headed by a judicial officer of grade-18, whereas a psychologist would also be appointed there who would deal with any arrogant litigant reluctant to resolve a dispute without any plausible reason.

He said that they had been formulating rules for the functioning of the proposed centre, but proper legislation would be required for it to institutionalise it. He said that the centre would need ownership both on judicial and government level. He said that they had been expecting active support from the provincial government.

“The setting up of this centre is need of the hour as several offences have been declared compoundable, but in the law no mechanism is provided to explain how these offences could be compounded,” Mr Shah said, adding that the centre would support the court in resolving disputes and the courts would be encouraged to send cases to the centre.

The judicial academy’s DG was flanked by chief technical specialist of the United Nations Development Programme Ms Sharmeela Rasool, its consultant specialist Qazi Jamilur Rehman, director of the academy Saleem Khan, dean of the academy Dr Khursheed Iqbal and director research Barrister Adnan Khan. Presently, the UNDP has been extending financial and technical support to several judicial projects, including the academy, its FM radio station, mobile courts and research centre.

Mr Shah stated that they had observed that the prolonged civil disputes often resulted in criminal offences and the parties involved in litigation often contested their cases up to the Supreme Court.

He pointed out that ADR had already been exercised in Pashtun society in different forms, including jirga system. However, he added that the private jirga system had now been drawing flak from different quarters as sometimes it violated rights of individuals and was criticised for favouring influential persons.

“With the setting up of the mediation centre the number of cases could be reduced to a great extent,” Mr Shah said, adding that the centre would try to improve the functioning of private mediation committees (jirgas) and training of its members or mediators about human rights and law.

The director general said that a mobile court was also functional and it had been focusing on ADR. He said that so far 120 cases were instituted before the mobile court of which 91 were disposed of.