‘Mediation only way to resolve enormous backlog of cases’

The emergence of mediation in the resolution of commercial disputes was highlighted by several eminent speakers at the launch of a monograph on commercial mediation, authored by senior advocate and mediator Sriram Panchu.

Mr. Panchu was recently appointed as one of the three mediators in the Ayodhya dispute and this is his third book on mediation.

The event was hosted under the auspices of the Chennai International Centre (CIC) on Saturday. Lakshmi Narayanan, former CEO of Cognizant, welcomed the gathering and introduced the speakers.

Speaking at the event, Supreme Court Judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who earlier served as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, said he was first introduced to mediation during his days as a judge of the Delhi High Court when Mr. Panchu helped set up the mediation centre.

He was one of several judges who underwent mediation training, and the experience, he said, helped him become a better judge. In later years, Justice Kaul said he realised that in many cases an approach of conciliation and compromise was of immeasurable benefit.

He said that in his opinion the structured introduction of mediation at various levels of the court system was the only way to resolve the enormous backlog of cases that is currently facing the Indian judicial system.

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi said that the two biggest obstacles to adopting mediation in our legal system were ego and suspicion. He used the example of one of the first cases handled by his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, during his days as a lawyer in South Africa. He mediated the dispute successfully and so began his private compromises of hundreds of cases. He writes: “I lost nothing thereby — not even money, certainly not my soul.”

U.S. Consul General for South India Robert Burgess spoke about how mediation is extensively issued in the U.S. T.T. Srinivasaraghavan, managing director of Sundaram Finance, spoke about the importance of the mediation process in resolving disputes related to the finance industry.

Mediation clause

He pointed out that a mediation clause was now being inserted into commercial contracts with foreign collaborators, as a prior step before arbitration.

The author was then in conversation with Justice (retd.) Prabha Sridevan. He explained that the reason for writing the monograph was to create awareness about mediation in the business and corporate world. Former Judge of Supreme Court Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla, who was recently appointed as head of the panel of mediators in Ayodhya issue, was present.

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