ALTERNATE Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the source of resolving disputes outside the courts through arbitration, mediation, conciliation and neutral evaluation, according to the ADR Act, 2017.

The essential difference between a mediator and an arbitrator is that the former merely brings about and records a settlement between the parties which operates as a contract between them, while the latter gives the award irrespective of whether the parties accept the same or not.

Pakistan’s legal system has realised the need of ADR mechanism and its institutions, which should be established by federal and provincial governments in each district of the province. Due to the delayed adjudication process in the courts, people cannot get justice within a span of six months. ADR platform is needed more than ever to hear the cases and settle the concerns of the parties which are being referred to them by the courts as per section 6 of the ADR Act.

The courts of law in Pakistan are over-burdened with litigations. The parties remain stuck for months and years. And after the disposal of the case pending for years in the courts, merely one of the parties is served justice, while the other party feels aggrieved.

Through ADR, regulated under the ADR Act along with the Arbitration Act of 1940, the parties do not have to bear the brunt of the decision pronounced by the arbitrator. They consume less time to resolve the disputes unlike the litigation in courts, cost less amount to the people and work faster than the judicial proceedings.

The sole purpose of the Arbitration Act was to abolish litigation in courts and enhance conflict resolution through a private forum of choice. Arbitration is undertaken through persons in whom both the parties repose their trust. The course that the courts should generally follow was to encourage settlement of dispute through arbitration.

Countries like India, Canada and the United Kingdom have ADR associations. They promote conflict resolution through arbitration, mediation and other forms of ADR or online dispute resolution (ODR). People mostly approach ADR for the immediate redressal of their grievances. If ADR institutions are established in Pakistan, people will get their disputes settled through arbitration, and the workload on the courts and backlog of the cases would stand reduced.

The ADR has many merits as it provides justice in letter and in spirit. The ADR Act of 2017 covers all these concerns, but its implementation has never got going. The government must work to strengthen the justice system of the country through ADR.

Ghulam Nabi Abbasi
Karachi

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2021

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