India’s Ministry of Law and Justice released Friday the Draft Mediation Bill, 2021, inviting comments and suggestions from all stakeholders. The bill aims to promote, encourage and facilitate mediation in the country, particularly institutional mediation.
In a press release, the Ministry said “since the laws on Mediation are contained in several enactments including rules and regulations, it was felt necessary to ascertain the present statutory framework on mediation and bring an umbrella legislation including amendments in the existing laws.”
As of date, in the absence of a separate statute, Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, as well as the rules framed by several high courts under that section, govern mediation in India.
The Ministry also said that since India is a party to the Singapore Convention on Mediation, it has become necessary to implement a law on issues pertaining to domestic and international mediation.
The draft bill considers the international practice of referring to ‘conciliation’ and ‘mediation’ as interchangeable words. Furthermore, it proposes pre-litigation mediation while also protecting the litigants’ right to approach the courts in the event an urgent relief is required.
The bill also includes provisions to promote community mediation and to make online mediation an acceptable and cost-effective method of resolving disputes.
In addition, the bill provides for the establishment of the Mediation Council of India as an umbrella body, as well as the registration of mediators.
With respect to enforcement of domestic and international mediation settlement agreements, the bill states that parties must apply to the high court having original civil jurisdiction with a copy of the settlement agreement.
The high court may refuse enforcement if it finds that the subject matter of disputes is not capable of settlement by mediation under the law of India, the agreement was induced or affected by fraud or corruption, or the agreement contravenes the public policy of India.
The Department of Legal Affairs said that the proposed bill is a step forward in expanding the scope and reach of ADR.