ISLAMABAD: In a first, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has formally inaugurated a mediation centre — a forum for Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) — that would not only reduce the backlog of 18,500 cases in the IHC and over 52,000 cases in the district courts but also provide swift and inexpensive justice to litigants.

The inaugural ceremony was held at the old building of the IHC in Sector G-10. Justice Ijazul Ahsan of the Supreme Court, IHC Chief Justice Justice Aamer Farooq, IHC Senior Puisne Judge Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, judges of the district judiciary and lawyers attended the event.

Speaking on the occasion, retired Justice Khilji Arif Hassan, chief legal adviser of the Legal Aid Society, said mediation “means sharing the burden of judicial matters and resolving disputes amicably”.

He said that the Islamabad High Court annexed mediation centre could offer dispute resolution in a speedy and inexpensive way.

Judges say there is need to change perceptions towards alternate dispute resolution mechanism

According to him, family matters, inheritance, and partnership disputes may be resolved within days. He suggested the district judiciary refer cases to mediation centres for their onward disposal.

Speaking at the occasion, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said: “The ADR is very close to my heart. I made every possible effort for its success.” He said that there were a lot of “bureaucratic and systematic hurdles to achieve this goal”.

He said the centre required the judiciary, executive, and litigants to take ownership of this initiative. He acknowledged it would not “come overnight and needs a lot of work and training”. Justice Ahsan said that the Supreme Court observed that all high courts realised the importance of the ADR and decided to bring all high courts at par with each other in terms of utilising this system.

He said he was delighted to see that the project was finally started in Islamabad and expressed hope that the other high courts would also replicate the same.

Speaking about Punjab, the apex court judge, who had served in the Lahore High Court (LHC) as its chief justice, said that “we can replicate it in Punjab” as well.

He assured that the Supreme Court would fully support this initiative, but sought continuity and ownership of this project by the IHC.

He emphasised the imposition of cost on frivolous litigation and said that this would discourage the habitual litigants and encourage the genuine petitioners to resort to the mediation centre.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq said that after becoming the CJ, he wanted to reduce the backlog and over the past one and a half years, he made efforts to achieve this milestone.

He said that the court managed the training of 60 mediators and made rules, but “we have to achieve is the change in mindset”.

He said that the world was moving towards the ADR, but Pakistan was still following conventional adjudication methodology.

According to him, the conventional litigant has apprehension about mediation as they “think it would not be as legitimate as a court of law”. He stressed the need to create awareness among the masses that this system was at par with the judicial forum and was less time-consuming and inexpensive.

“We hope to reduce the backlog if we can encourage the litigants to resort to mediation,” he added.

He said that the new building of the IHC would also have a mediation centre.

Justice Aurangzeb said that though the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act was promulgated in 2017, but it has not been implemented. He pointed out that through the ADR, 3 million cases in Turkey were cleared in a very short span of time.

“Only a year ago, there was no recognition of mediation, but now, there are good mediators available in the federal capital,” he said, adding that the establishment of more mediation centres would resolve a large number of disputes in the industrial sector.

According to him, “The mediation requires the consent of both parties but in order to make arbitration a success, we are in the process of making rules to impose a cost of litigation reach to courts without mediation.”

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani said that the trained mediators will grow in the coming days.

Talking about the pendency of Islamabad’s judiciary he said that 18,600 cases are pending in the IHC, and 52,000 in sessions courts.

IHC Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan said that in addition to the lawyers, nine civil judges have been trained as mediators. “It has now become mandatory for the judiciary to refer the cases for mediation,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2023

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