The Indian judiciary and the legal profession have endorsed and supported mediation. This has resulted in court-annexed Mediation Centres being created as institutionalised schemes.
The Delhi High Court Mediation and Conciliation Centre, known as Samadhan, were established in May 2006. It results from the joint initiative of the Bench and the Bar of the Delhi High Court, who have committed themselves to Mediation as an appropriate method of Alternate Dispute Resolution. It is run by the Bar and is coordinated by an Organising Secretary. A panel of judges and advocates oversee the work of this Centre. The Centre is proud to have highly qualified and experienced Mediators who are members of the Delhi High Court Bar Association. The Centre maintains a list of trained Mediators from among members of the Bar whose services are available for disputes referred to the Centre.
Mediation services of the Centre can be used by parties directly or through reference by the Court. Disputes referred to mediation upon directions of the Court are called Court-annexed Mediations. Services of the Centre are available for pre-Litigation disputes (i.e. matters which are not in Court) as well as for disputes pending in Court.
The Centre handles cases referred to it by the Delhi High Court, its subordinate courts, and the Supreme Court of India. The Centre has handled a variety of cases covering matters relating to business contracts/transactions, real estate and construction, consumer issues, employment and service issues, industrial disputes, banking and insurance cases, trademark and copyright disputes, accident-related claims, landlord-tenant disputes, partnership disputes, family and matrimonial disputes, child custody and visitation rights, verification in habeas corpus matters etc. Public sector undertakings and government departments and institutions have also taken part. Samadhan has seen excellent results. In eighteen months, nearly 300 cases referred by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India have been settled, and these settlements also resolved over 400 related cases pending in different courts. These efforts have been appreciated.
The Centre undertakes training of Mediators by conducting training programmes periodically for members of the Delhi High Court Bar Association.
Wherever necessary and desirable, the Centre makes available the services of an appropriate professional or welfare expert who assists the Mediation process along with the Mediator to ensure the best possible resolution to a dispute referred to it. The Centre maintains a panel of such professionals.
The Delhi High Court Mediation Centre was aptly named ‘Samadhan’, meaning ‘resolution’. The word ‘Samadhan’ appropriately reflects the aim of the Delhi High Court Mediation and Conciliation Centre as a catalyst in providing a healing touch to the litigating public in amicably resolving their disputes.
Samadhan is administered by a Joint Committee of lawyers and Judges that has been smoothly coordinating and supervising all its activities. It has built new bridges of faith between the disputants. This has been possible because it has cemented a vital and unique collaboration between the Bar and the Bench that has been able to empower disputants to amicable resolve their disputes and find peace and harmony in their lives. In the past 10 years, Samadhan has woven a change in the perception of conflict, the treatment of disputes and the dispensation of justice. It has come to occupy pride of place in the Delhi High Court where referrals come to it not only from the Delhi High Court but also from the Supreme Court and other fora.
Today, in the 11th year since its inception, Samadhan has established itself as one of the leading Mediation Centres of the country. The acceptance of mediation as an appropriate dispute resolution process by disputants in Delhi is evident from the fact that over 80 matters are listed before the mediators of Samadhan on each working day.
We started our journey in May, 2006, when the then Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice Markandey Katju took the first courageous step towards the conception of Samadhan. It was a courageous step because the idea of mediation faced stiff opposition from the lawyers who initially feared it may affect their practice. Mr. Amarjit Singh Chandhiok, then President of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, on behalf of the Bar, joined Justice Katju in establishing the idea of Samadhan and assured him that the experiment would succeed if Samadhan was set up as a lawyer run mediation centre. Today, the same Bar is very proud of its Mediation Centre and every lawyer values mediation as the most appropriate dispute resolution process in all those cases that should never be in litigation.
Around 265 mediators have mediated a wide range of disputes in areas such as intellectual property rights, matrimony, real estate transactions, construction agreements, employment, service and industry, industrial disputes, banking and insuranc.
Samadhan owes a large part of its growing acceptance, as a catalyst in finding lasting solutions to disputes and finding peace and harmony in their lives, to an engaged civil society and the people of Delhi.
The first training workshop was held from 17th March to 19th March 2006 to prepare for the functioning of Samadhan. An Overseeing Committee was formed comprising judges and lawyers of the Delhi High Court to coordinate and monitor the activities of Samadhan continously, symbolising the joint commitment of the Bar and the Bench to mediation. This administrative structure continues to date.
Following the first training, Samadhan was formally inaugurated on 26th May 2006. We started functioning from two small rooms on the ground floor. There was a small reception area between these two rooms, with hardly any place for advocates and parties to stand. Within a short period, small queues of parties and advocates started forming, waiting for their turn to avail of the mediation rooms.
On 7th January 2008, the then Chief Justice of India, Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, launched its name and logo. He also released, for the public and the Bar, awareness material highlighting the advantages of mediation, the Delhi High Court Rules governing mediation, and the functioning of the Centre.
In January 2008, Samadhan added six more rooms for mediation sessions, a room for staff and a separate reception area. As mediation gathered momentum and the number of referred cases increased, another floor comprising seven more rooms, including a multipurpose conference room for mediators, was added for conducting mediation.
As the number of referrals from courts kept increasing, Samadhan was further expanded. In January 2013, another floor with an area of 8500 sq. Ft. was added on the fourth floor of the Administrative Block of the Delhi High Court. This expansion made Samadhan a state-of-the-art Mediation Centre. The new floor had a large reception, an Administrative Room, a library, 12 rooms for mediation, one room for psychologists and counsellors on the panel of Samadhan, and one room for children to play and spend time when adult parties are in mediation. There are two waiting rooms for parties.
A video conferencing facility was added in 2017 for the benefit of disputants who cannot travel physically to the Delhi High Court to take part in the mediation process because of various reasons like physical disability, financial constraints or geographical distances.
Samadhan grew not just in infrastructure but also in the experience of its mediators and the quality of their skills. This growth was greatly encouraged by our judges.
Dr. Justice Arijit Pasayat, as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, started our participation in the Lok Adalat movement in the Supreme Court. He involved our mediators in assisting the Supreme Court of India in its Lok Adalats as amicus curiae. Samadhan has hosted outstation litigants in Delhi, conducted mediation sessions two days before every Lok Adalat and completed settlements over six Lok Adalats in Justice Pasayat’s tenure in the Supreme Court.
Justice Mukundakam Sharma as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, gave a fillip to the mediation movement by increasing referrals to the Centre because of which mediators gained valuable experience and confidence, and enhanced their abilities. He created further infrastructure in the Centre for the ever-increasing number of cases.
Justice Vijender Jain, as the Acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, fully supported the mediation movement throughout his tenure and carried forward the initiative to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, where he set up court-annexed mediation. Justice Vijender Jain gave the first opportunity to mediators from Samadhan to be trainers for the first batch of mediators in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Justice Manmohan Sarin, the first Chairperson of the Overseeing Committee, who later took over as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, and Lokayukta, Delhi, along with all the members of his committee pro-actively guided the growth of the Centre in its formative years.
Justice A. P. Shah, as the then Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was a visionary, a motivating force and a great source of support and strength. During his tenure as Chief Justice, Samadhan developed a state-of-the-art infrastructure and the strength of empanelled mediators crossed the 200 mark. It was also under his leadership that workshops to sensitise members of the Delhi Higher Judicial Service as referral judges were held.
Justice Mukul Mudgal, the second Chairperson of our Overseeing Committee, continuously encouraged and supported Samadhan in every endeavour. Later, as Chief Justice of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, he invited trainers from Samadhan to conduct introductory and advanced training for lawyers from districts of Punjab and Haryana and the mediators of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Justice A. K. Sikri, the third Chairperson of our Overseeing Committee, now retired as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India was associated with Samadhan from its inception and was instrumental in helping us innovate and ‘Indianise’ mediation to make our approach more dynamic in facing both ‘global’ and ‘local’ challenges effectively.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, our fourth Chairperson, now a judge of the Supreme Court of India, gave us our third expansion in 2013, after which Samadhan grew from strength to strength. Justice Kaul believed in the strength of a lawyer-run mediation centre and ensured that Samadhan’s mediators got the best training and exposure not only in India but also in the United States.
Justice Gita Mittal, former Chief Justice of High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh as our fifth Chairperson, felt that in her experience parties in appropriate cases for mediation find real peace in their lives only through this process because this is where they author and own their resolutions.
Justice G.S. Sistani, as the sixth Chairperson was always committed to the cause of mediation and took Samadhan to the next level of excellence. He planned various activities and events that could spread awareness of mediation in Samadhan’s 11th year.
Justice Sanghi, presently the Chief Justice of the High Court of Uttarakhand has also played a pivotal role in ensuring the continued success of Samadhan.
Justice Hima Kohli, now a judge of the Supreme Court of India, as our seventh Chairperson took steps to initiate online mediation during the COVID crisis, which was the need of the hour.
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