If you are a litigant, you will be well aware of the time it takes to get a decision from the court. With the overwhelming number of cases, humongous backlog, and a clogged judicial system, it takes years for the courts to pass judgments.

This report from India Today states:

The average pendency of any case in the 21 high courts for which we have data is about three years and one month (1,128 days). If you have a case in any of the subordinate courts in the country, the average time in which a decision is likely to be made is nearly six years (2,184 days). Even assuming that a case does not go to the Supreme Court (and a majority of the cases in the system do not), an average litigant who appeals to at least one higher court is likely to spend more than 10 years in court. If your case does go to the Supreme Court, the average time increases by at least three more years. Remember, of course, that we are only talking about averages.  If you are unfortunate enough, you could to be on the wrong side of the average. To put things in perspective, our database has revealed cases from the 1940s and 1950s still pending in courts.

I was 25 when I started practicing as an advocate. The office I worked at, had a variety of cases and I got exposed to almost all the courts and tribunals in the city. I spent my initial years attending different courts and observing how they function. I was attached to the family court, perhaps, because I was a lady. I was least comfortable and unhappy seeing the cases that came to the family courts. I come from a conservative family and divorces and extra-marital affairs were something unheard of.

I got to meet people from the extreme end of the spectrum – those who were suffering in silence in relationships and did not have the option of walking away from a relationship to those who would break for very trivial reasons. This made no sense to me.

What disturbed me most was that the parties in Divorce proceedings would depose in the witness box. They were made to speak all their personal stories in the open court. Only some judges made sure they got privacy. The children involved in the cases would be sitting in the courts missing school and worst listening to their parents’ stories. I wondered what they made out of the world around them; the impressions they would carry as adults. It would make me squirm.

I would go and check out the counselors and ask them if they were trained to handle relationships? To this, one of the elderly counselors simply said “What is there to get trained in? I am married for more than 10 years I know very well and we women have to adjust. .that’s all there is to it….women have lost their head because they are earning a lot nowadays”. This confused me further. I had no clue how this could be handled. Even though I was certain there had to be a better way.

In 2000. I had gone to the USA and had met up with a Mediator, to know what Mediation was all about, to find out what they did etc. I looked up for mediators in India and I could not find any. I was told that we are not ready for it yet. It will take years for our country to get that concept.

More than a decade later, as a part of the Post Graduate Diploma in Consumer Protection Law at The National Law School of India University, Bangalore, I did a dissertation on The Bangalore Mediation Centre (BMC). This gave me an opportunity to observe live mediation proceedings with written permission and consent of the parties. The mediations were conducted with professional excellence by the mediators and resulted in parties walking away with satisfied outcomes.

Being in court halls as a lawyer was a rather unpleasant experience for me, while I found BMC a welcome breath of fresh air and in Mediation my calling.

17 years back I had met mediators in The USA and wanted to start something here. There was no such thing called Mediation in India then. Today mediation is a part of the Civil Procedure code as an Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques like Arbitration, Conciliation etc. I am glad that the courts get it, the Govt gets it. Mediation and Arbitration are going mainstream and I do wish that the pace is accelerated. What Arbitration has done to business cases, Mediation can do the same for civil cases.

This website – www.outofcourt.in – is my effort to popularize mediation, to create a community of like-minded mediators and to learn and share. I urge you to join the community and let us make a difference in reducing conflicts and also contribute to reducing the judicial backlogs.