Report No. 77
The system of conciliation has also been tried in Pakistan. The Conciliation Courts Ordinance was promulgated in 1961. The Ordinance brought about important changes in regard to settlement and adjudication of petty civil and criminal cases. Primarily the role of the court is to conciliate between the parties and that is why it has been given the name of the Conciliation Court.
The Chairman has to constitute the Court every time a case is brought to him for settlement. Each of the parties to the dispute has to nominate two representatives out of whom one must be a member of the Union Council concerned. So, the constitution of the Court varies with each case. The system of settlement of petty disputes through local tribunals has also been extended to urban areas. The Report of the Pakistan Law Reforms Commission (1969-70) published in 1970 sheds light on the working of the conciliation courts. We can do no better than reproduce two paragraphs from that Report:1
"In spite of all the objections made against the system of local tribunals, we find that the Conciliation Courts have been playing a useful role in settling disputes amicably. By and large people are satisfied with the sense of participation the system gives them and in principle the institution of Conciliation Courts is not open to any serious objection. These Courts have not only provided relief to the ordinary courts but have also enabled the parties to get quicker and cheaper justice.
It will appear from Appendix I to this Chapter that each year quite a sizeable number of cases which otherwise would have come up before the regular courts both on the civil and the criminal side, have been dealt with by these Courts in both the wings of the country. In a developing society like ours where our financial resources are more needed for development projects, it will not be advisable to scrap this system as otherwise it would undoubtedly necessitate the setting up of more law courts and consequently an increase in the expenditure.
The Conciliation Courts have also saved the people from unnecessary litigation expenses because only a nominal fee is charged from the petitioner or the petition filed by him in a Conciliation Court. The parties are also saved from the expenses of engaging lawyers because the provisions of the Conciliation Courts Ordinance do not permit the appearance of legal practitioners in proceedings before a Conciliation Court. As the witnesses are available at hand, the parties do not have to incur any heavy expense for taking them to the Tehsil. Sub-divisional or the district headquarters where the courts are situated.
The criticisms levelled against the Conciliation Courts are based on comparison of these Courts with the ordinary law courts. This comparison is, however, not justifiable because the Conciliation Courts have been set up to give effect to the long established custom of settlement of disputes through mediation, arbitration and compromise, whereas the ordinary courts are primarily required to decide at matters brought before them in accordance with law. In the case of Conciliation Courts, adjudication of disputes is not the primary function.
A Conciliation Court has to adjudicate only where its efforts at conciliation have failed. In most of the cases, they do succeed in effecting conciliation between the parties. It was suggested to us that the jurisdiction of the Conciliation Court should be confined only to bringing about compromises between the parties and settling disputes through conciliation and in case of failure to let the matter to go to the regular courts for adjudication according to law.
This suggestion cannot he accepted, because a tribunal which is empowered to settle a dispute through conciliation only without having any power to decide it in few event of failure of conciliation cannot function successfully. No one would like to take a dispute before a tribunal which does not possess the power of finally determining it. It is for this reason that the village panchayats even in the earliest days enjoyed powers of deciding cases where the parties failed to reach at some settlement.
The decisions of these panchayats were always respected because the members of the panchayat enjoyed full and complete confidence of the parties. It is, therefore, not desirable to deprive the Conciliation Courts of their judicial powers and lo restrict or limit their function only to the settlement of disputes through conciliation."
1. Pakistan Law Reforms Commission Report.