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Report No. 238

Amendment of Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and Allied Provisions

1. Introduction

1.1 The proliferation and pendency of litigation in Civil Courts for a variety of reasons has made it impracticable to dispose of cases within a reasonable time. The overburdened judicial system is not in a position to cope up with the heavy demands on it mostly for reasons beyond its control. Speedy justice has become a casualty, though the disposal rate per-Judge is quite high in our country.

The need to put in place Alternative Dispute Resolution (in short, "ADR") mechanisms has been immensely felt so that the courts can offload some cases from their dockets. The ADR systems have been very successful in some countries, especially USA wherein the bulk of litigation is settled through one of the ADR processes before the case goes for trial.

1.2 Article 39A of the Constitution of India (enacted in 1976) enjoins that the State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. Thus, easy access to justice to all sections of people and provision of legal aid for the poor and needy and dispensation of justice by an independent Judiciary within a reasonable time are the cherished goals of our Constitutional Republic and for that matter, of any progressive democracy.

1.3 In our country, arbitration and mediation have been in vogue since long. Arbitration was originally governed by the provisions contained in different enactments, including those in the Code of Civil Procedure. The first Indian Arbitration Act was enacted in 1899, which was replaced by the Arbitration Act, 1940 which in turn was replaced by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996.

The mediation of informal nature was being adopted at the village level to resolve petty disputes from times immemorial. Thanks to the innovative measures taken by the judiciary in some States, resolution of court litigation through Lok Adalats became quite popular during 1970s and '80s. With the advent of Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, Lok Adalats and Legal Aid Schemes have received statutory recognition and become an integral and important part of the justice delivery system.

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