The default dispute resolution processes within many organisations are negotiation, litigation and arbitration. The drawbacks of litigation and arbitration are that they can be time-consuming and expensive.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) encompasses a range of options, falling between litigation and arbitration on the one hand and negotiation on the other, for effective resolution of disputes.
ADR is a widely accepted and appreciated method for reducing the number as well as cost of legal suits in many countries. Many developed and developing states have gained tremendous success in reducing backlog by adopting ADR.
Disposal of suits and litigation through ADR is bound to enhance the quality of social justice and thereby contribute to promotion of harmony and peace in society, both of which are pre-conditions for meaningful development in social, cultural economic and other spheres.
In fact, mediation, conciliation/ reconciliation, arbitration and other forms of ADR are important vehicles for promoting social harmony. On the other hand, ADR is an alternative route for reaching a speedier and less-expensive mode to settle disputes.
However, there was no implementation of these provisions until a special pilot project was taken on 'Mediation as a measure of ADR' in June, 2000. Under that project, three assistant judge's courts of Dhaka were specified as exclusive Family Courts for the purpose of mediation.
At that time, a circular was issued from the High Court Division of the Supreme Court providing credit of two trials for one successful mediation in a family dispute and the credit of one trial for two unsuccessful mediations. This circular inspired the Family Court judges to give more efforts to mediation in Family Court cases, and also achieve success in dispute resolution.
Success in realisation of dowry money and amicable, peaceful and quick settlement of disputes through mediation in the Family Courts inspired the government and the policymakers as well to widen the scope of ADR through other legislation.
Accordingly, ADR mechanism was introduced for the first time in general civil litigation in 2003 by the Code of Civil Procedure and by the Artha Rin Adalat Ain.
In this context, the Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC) deserves appreciation for making substantial progress in popularising the concept of ADR among various stakeholders including the government, banks and financial institutions, corporate houses, lawyers and even law students.
Teaching and promoting the ADR at undergraduate and university level is important because it will promote a culture where litigation would not be preferred or promoted and will also change the mindset of the people.
The BIAC has made a number of achievements in applying best practices of the ADR in the country by facilitating arbitration and mediation and also by arranging training programmes on ADR at home and abroad for representatives from banks and financial institutions, government, legal fraternity, corporate institutions and students of law.
The government worked on incorporation of ADR in different existing laws in order to make the dispute resolution system easier and less time-consuming. Many economists are now praising the role of the BIAC for settling commercial disputes out of court during the last seven years.
There is, in fact, no alternative to the system of ADR for freeing the judiciary from the huge backlog of cases. There are reportedly 3.0 million pending cases in the lower courts. If a dispute can be settled through ADR outside the court before it turns into a case, waste of valuable time and money can be prevented.
In the circumstances, the country should hasten the process of popularising the ADR system without any delay. There is a need for collaboration through arbitration-mediation where both parties are equally benefited.
Such effort should get prime importance in view of the fact that ADR process can be of great help in strengthening the legal framework, which, in turn, can certainly bring about positive changes in dispensing justice speedily.