Arbitration & conciliation

ADR is generally classified into at least four types: negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, and arbitration. (Sometimes a fifth type, conciliation, is included as well, but for present purposes it can be regarded as a form of mediation. See conciliation for further details.) ADR can be used alongside existing legal systems such as sharia courts within common law jurisdictions such as the UK.

The process of arbitration can start only if there exists a valid Arbitration Agreement between the parties prior to the emergence of the dispute. As per Section 7, such an agreement must be in writing. The contract regarding which the dispute exists, must either contain an arbitration clause or must refer to a separate document signed by the parties containing the arbitration agreement.

The existence of an arbitration agreement can also be inferred by written correspondence such as letters, talex, or telegrams which provide a record of the agreement. An exchange of statement of claim and defence in which existence of an arbitration agreement is alleged by one party and not denied by other is also considered as valid written arbitration agreement.

Any party to the dispute can start the process of appointing arbitrator and if the other party does not cooperate, the party can approach the office of Chief Justice for appointment of an arbitrator. There are only two grounds upon which a party can challenge the appointment of an arbitrator – reasonable doubt in the impartiality of the arbitrator and the lack of proper qualification of the arbitrator as required by the arbitration agreement. A sole arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators so appointed constitute the Arbitration Tribunal.

Except for some interim measures, there is very little scope for judicial intervention in the arbitration process. The arbitration tribunal has jurisdiction over its own jurisdiction. Thus, if a party wants to challenge the jurisdiction of the arbitration tribunal, it can do so only before the tribunal itself. If the tribunal rejects the request, there is little the party can do except to approach a court after the tribunal makes an award. Section 34 provides certain grounds upon which a party can appeal to the principal civil court of original jurisdiction for setting aside the award.

Once the period for filing an appeal for setting aside an award is over, or if such an appeal is rejected, the award is binding on the parties and is considered as a decree of the court.

Conciliation is a less formal form of arbitration. This process does not require an existence of any prior agreement. Any party can request the other party to appoint a conciliator. One conciliator is preferred but two or three are also allowed. In case of multiple conciliators, all must act jointly. If a party rejects an offer to conciliate, there can be no conciliation.

Parties may submit statements to the conciliator describing the general nature of the dispute and the points at issue. Each party sends a copy of the statement to the other. The conciliator may request further details, may ask to meet the parties, or communicate with the parties orally or in writing. Parties may even submit suggestions for the settlement of the dispute to the conciliator.

When it appears to the conciliator that elements of settlement exist, he may draw up the terms of settlement and send it to the parties for their acceptance. If both the parties sign the settlement document, it shall be final and binding on both.

Note that in USA, this process is similar to Mediation. However, in India, Mediation is different from Conciliation and is a completely informal type of ADR mechanism.

Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process whereby the parties to a dispute (including future interest disputes) agree to utilize the services of a conciliator, who then meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences. They do this by lowering tensions, improving communications, interpreting issues, providing technical assistance, exploring potential solutions and bringing about a negotiated settlement.

Conciliation differs from arbitration in that the conciliation process, in and of itself, has no legal standing, and the conciliator usually has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, usually writes no decision, and makes no award.

Conciliation differs from mediation in that the main goal is to conciliate, most of the time by seeking concessions. In mediation, the mediator tries to guide the discussion in a way that optimizes parties needs, takes feelings into account and reframes representations.

In conciliation the parties seldom, if ever, actually face each other across the table in the presence of the conciliator.

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