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This article is written by Srushti Joshi of Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


The text examines the legal framework and guiding principles that govern various alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures, including mediation, arbitration, conciliation, and Lok Adalat. It emphasises the crucial part ADR plays in advancing accessible and effective justice, with a focus on the legal system in India. The central theme of the Indian Constitution is Article 39-A, which emphasises the duty of the state to guarantee justice based on equality of opportunity, particularly by providing free legal assistance to those who need it. The article provides a thorough comparison of judicial procedures, arbitration, and mediation, highlighting their unique qualities, benefits, and suitability for various dispute types. It emphasises how mediation, with its cooperative and non-adversarial nature, stands out as an efficient way to maintain relationships, lessen emotional strain, and provide prompt, affordable solutions. The text also examines the distinctions between Lok Adalat, conciliation, and mediation, illuminating each method’s special functions and traits in the field of dispute resolution. It emphasises the value of discretion in mediation and Lok Adalat’s advisory role in resolving financial disputes. The debate over legal aid and access to justice highlights how crucial it is to make sure that no citizen’s ability to access justice is impeded by their financial situation or any other obstacle. The Legal Services Authority Act is emphasised as a crucial piece of legislation that offers free legal services to the socially and economically disadvantaged groups.


Negotiation, Mediation and Conciliation, Alternative dispute resolution (ADR), Arbitration, Lok Adalats, Access to Justice.


Any civilised society’s guiding principle and the foundation for social harmony and order is the pursuit of justice. Access to justice for all citizens in a country as diverse and complex as India is not only required by the constitution, it is also morally necessary. A testament to this commitment is Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, which requires the state to establish a legal framework that supports justice on the basis of equal opportunities and ensures that no citizen is denied access to justice because of financial hardships or other disabilities. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques have become potent weapons in the fight for accessible and effective justice within this framework. In-depth analysis of ADR’s complex web of practises, including mediation, arbitration, conciliation, and Lok Adalat, is provided in this paper, along with an examination of the legal principles that underpin each procedure. It makes its way through India’s legal system while providing This essay’s main goal is to shed light on the mediation’s transformative role in conflict resolution, which has become increasingly important in a variety of contexts, from family and workplace conflicts to business and community disputes. It examines the fundamentals of mediation as a cooperative and non-adversarial negotiation process, highlighting its capacity to give disputing parties more power, maintain relationships, and produce results that are timely, affordable, and mutually satisfying. A critical analysis of how these mechanisms interact with the larger objective of justice.


  1. to evaluate the value of mediation as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method for advancing accessible and efficient justice in the Indian legal system.
  2. analyse the unique benefits, suitability, and features of judicial, arbitral, and mediation processes for resolving various types of disputes, with a focus on how they affect the continuity of relationships, cost-effectiveness, and timeliness of resolution.
  3. To examine how legal aid and Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution can help ensure that all citizens, regardless of their financial situation, have equal access to justice. To assess how well the Legal Services Authority Act works in helping underprivileged groups receive free legal services.


Mediation is a collaborative and facilitated negotiation process that plays a vital role in resolving conflicts across various domains, from family and workplace disputes to commercial and community conflicts. Central to mediation is the involvement of a neutral third party, known as the mediator, who serves as a skilled and impartial facilitator. The mediator’s role is to create an environment where disputing parties can communicate openly, identify their underlying interests and concerns, and work together to craft mutually agreeable solutions. Unlike judicial processes or arbitration, mediation is non-adversarial and places decision-making power firmly in the hands of the parties themselves. It is a voluntary process that gives participants control over the result, prioritises confidentiality, and fosters a culture of trust and cooperation. Relationships are preserved, the emotional toll of conflicts is lessened, and mediation offers timely, cost-effective solutions that frequently produce more lasting and satisfying outcomes for all parties involved.[1]


Arbitration is a private forum process for adjudicating disputes that is governed by the terms of the AC Act. According to the aforementioned Act, only if the parties have an “arbitration agreement” can arbitration be mentioned. If the parties had previously agreed to arbitrate disputes, it was almost certainly in place before the lawsuit was filed. when it reaches the stage covered by Order 10 of the Code,[2] the issue would have been referred to Sections 8 and 11 of the AC Act may be used to invoke arbitration, and there would be no need to use arbitration in accordance with section 89 of the Code. Therefore, Section 89 assumes that there has never been an arbitration agreement before. Even if there were no prior conditions agreement to arbitrate, When the parties to the lawsuit are given the option of ADR processes by the court pursuant to section 89 of the Code, they may choose arbitration even if there was no prior arbitration agreement. Such a deal could by means of a joint memo, joint application, joint affidavit, or by record before the court of the order sheet signed by the parties that details the court’s agreement. There was once such the matter may be referred to arbitration under section if there is a written agreement signed by all parties, 89 of the Code; upon such reference, the arbitration shall be governed by the provisions of the AC Act; Additionally, as seen in Salem Bar-I.[3]


Conciliation is a non-adjudicatory ADR method that is additionally controlled by the rules of the AC Act. Only if both parties to the dispute agree to engage in negotiations with the aid of a third party or third parties, such as an arbitrator or mediator, can there be a valid reference to conciliation. either through an agreement or the invitation and acceptance procedure outlined in Section 62 of the AC Act then a conciliator or conciliator are appointed in accordance with section 64 of the AC Act. Suppose both parties Do not consent to conciliation; such a thing is impossible. Consequently, as in the scenario In the absence of arbitration, the court cannot order the parties to participate in conciliation pursuant to Section 89. an agreement between all parties[4]

When a dispute is referred to conciliation, unlike arbitration, it does not end up being permanently removed from the court’s process. If there is no agreement, the case is returned to court to frame issues and continue the litigation trial. The remaining three ADR procedures

The court must decide which of the other three ADR procedures (Lok Adalat, Mediation, and Judicial Settlement), which do not require the consent of all parties, should be used if the parties cannot agree on either arbitration or conciliation, both of which require the consent of all parties. if it is suitable and appropriate, it should refer the parties to an ADR process. If a mediation centre or qualified mediators are not available, the mediation process is not an option. The court will have to decide whether to refer a case to Lok Adalat or to judicial review settlement[5]

If mediation is an option, the range of options increases. If the case is complicated or drawn out, mediation will be the accepted solution. If the case is straightforward and the disputes can be resolved through the application of unambiguous legal rules, The selection of Lok Adalat will be preferred. If the court believes that a recommendation or advice from a Judge would be the best person to resolve the conflict; they can refer it to another Judge. the judge has wisely exercised its discretion in selecting the ADR process, taking into consideration the nature of disputes, party interests, and speedy dispute resolution.


Section 89 refers to five different ADR processes, including arbitration as one adjudicatory process and conciliation, mediation, judicial settlement, and Lok Adalat settlement as four other negotiatory (non-adjudicatory) processes. Section 89 of the Code’s goal, it is recommended to try and reach a settlement by using an appropriate ADR procedure before the Trial is held in this case. Rule 1A of Order 10 of the Code and Section 89 of the Code are not meant to replace or alter the terms of the 1996 Arbitration and Conciliation Act or the Legal Services Authorities Act. Two ADR procedures—arbitration and conciliation—will be governed by the AC Act’s rules, while two additional procedures—lok adalat settlement and mediation—will be governed by the Legal Services Authorities Act (see: amended definition in para. 18 above). Regarding the final ADR process, judicial resolution (See: Amended Definition in Paragraph 18), Section 89 clearly states that it is not governed by any legislation, and the court will make its own decisions. adhere to any protocol that may be outlined by the relevant rules.[6]

The court must provide the parties with the option to use any ADR procedure, according to Order 10 Rule 1A. This refers to a group decision or consensus regarding the ADR process, not a single option. Section 89, on the other hand, gives the choice of court as a reference. Of course, there isn’t any contradiction. The Code’s Section 89 provides the authority to refer to the ADR process, and Order 10’s Rules 1A to IC establishes the way that the aforementioned jurisdiction shall be exercised. The plan, as the court explains


A dispute is litigated in court, where a judge or jury renders a verdict based on the law and the evidence presented. Court proceedings are frequently complicated and drawn-out processes because they are very formal and adhere to strict legal rules and procedures. Typically, these proceedings are open to the public and anyone with an interest, and the court’s ruling is enforceable, obliging parties to comply. However, litigation can be an expensive and time-consuming option that takes months or even years to resolve due to the formalities and complexity. As the judge or jury will ultimately decide the case’s outcome, parties also have little influence over it. However, judicial procedures are appropriate for a variety of disputes, particularly those involving difficult legal questions or substantial public interest. On the other hand, arbitration involves a neutral third party, the arbitrator or panel of arbitrators, who, after weighing the relevant facts and arguments,[7] renders a binding decision. Arbitration still adheres to established rules and practises that have been agreed upon by the parties, despite being less formal than court proceedings. Arbitration proceedings are typically private, with the specifics of the dispute and the decision remaining confidential. Parties frequently have a voice in the selection of the arbitrator, allowing for more control over the process. One major benefit is that arbitration is frequently quicker and less expensive than litigation, making it a desirable choice for business disputes. An arbitration decision also has some degree of finality because the grounds for appealing it are restricted.

On the other hand, mediation is a facilitated negotiation process involving a neutral third party, the mediator, who aids the disputing parties in communicating and negotiating a resolution that would be acceptable to both parties. Compared to litigation or arbitration, it is a less formal and adversarial process, and participation is typically voluntary with the parties maintaining control over whether an agreement is reached. The mediator does not impose a legally-binding decision on the parties during the mediation process, which is confidential. Instead, the mediator may make non-binding suggestions or recommendations for solutions. This strategy makes mediation a practical and affordable option for resolving disagreements, particularly when parties want to maintain relationships, as in family or professional conflicts.


In mediation, a third neutral party tries to help the disputing parties come to an amicable resolution and a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution. It is the simplest method of dispute resolution in which a neutral third party serves as a mediator to help the parties work out a solution through dialogue and negotiation. Since the mediator is merely a tool to aid in the process of coming to a mutually agreeable settlement, the mediation is entirely under the control of the parties.

The recommendations of a mediator are not legally binding on either party. On the other hand, one of the most widely used ADR methods in India (particularly rural India) is Lok Adalat, also known as people’s adult. It serves as a forum for the resolution of cases that are in the Panchayat or pre-litigation stages in court. When it comes to resolving financial disputes, Lok Adalat is effective. It is also very effective in partition disputes, matrimonial disputes, and other types of disputes aside from financial ones.

Gujarat hosted the first Lok Adalat in 1999. This idea is a fresh contribution from India to the field of law. The Lok Adalat system, which is a recent addition to India’s justice system and is based on Gandhian principles, has so far been successful in giving victims an additional forum for a somewhat satisfactory resolution of disputes.

When comparing the two procedures, it becomes clear that mediation typically occurs in a private conference room with only the disputing parties and their representatives in attendance. While Lok Adalat proceedings are held in public on the court or agency grounds, mediation takes place in private. While Lok Adalat is focused on assessing liability to determine the financial charges, mediation focuses on reaching a mutually agreeable resolution to a dispute. The type of negotiation process known as mediation places a strong emphasis on cooperation, enhanced communication between the parties, and negotiation to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Lok Adalat is more of an advisory body that offers recommendations on how to resolve financial disputes and has a supplementary component of cooperation needed for negotiation. Since mediation is a private process, confidentiality is guaranteed, whereas Lok Adalat is a public process and cannot. It goes without saying that mediation, as a cutting-edge process, does not confine itself to conventional legal remedies. The Lok Adalat, on the other hand, has a very narrow focus because it primarily focuses on monetary damages. Being forms of ADR, mediation and Lok Adalats provide the disputing parties with a number of benefits over a drawn-out and expensive court process.


Article 39-A

The State is required by Article 39-A[8] to ensure that the functioning of a legal system that promotes justice based on equal opportunities and, in particular, grants free legal assistance, through appropriate legislation or schemes or in any other way, ensures that no citizen is denied access to justice because of their financial situation or other disabilities. All of this demonstrates that a state’s primary duty is to uphold justice, and that the ADR procedures aid in this effort. Therefore, there is a lot of legislation to help with justice, such as the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, Section 89 of the CPC, and the Legal Services Authority Act of 1987.[9]


In order to ensure that no citizen’s access to justice is limited because of their ability to pay for it or because of another factor, the Legal Services Authority Act provides free and competent legal services to the weaker segments of society. It also works to organise Lok Adalats to ensure that the functioning of the legal system fosters justice on an equal basis The categories of people who are eligible to receive free legal aid from the State under sections 12(a) to 12(h) are listed [10]in Section R of the aforementioned Act. According to Section 13 of the Act, individuals who meet all or any of the requirements listed in Section 12 are entitled to certain benefits. to receive legal services as long as the relevant authority is convinced that such Defendant or prosecutor has a prima facie case. Moreover, “Civil Rules of Practise and Circular Orders – 1980,” chapter XIX various rules, ranging from 229 to 306, for the provision of legal aid to those in need, including creating a panel of attorneys, paying attorneys on a free-will basis, assigning attorneys, etc. opportunity.


1.Niranjan Shankar Golikari v. Century Spinning & Manufacturing Co. Ltd.[11]

An employment dispute was involved in this case. The Supreme Court acknowledged the critical role that mediation and conciliation can play in resolving such disputes without drawn-out litigation. It emphasized the importance of using a non-adversarial approach to settle labor-management disputes and urged mediation.

2. Bhatia International v. Bulk Trading S.A. & Anr.[12]

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 was discussed by the Supreme Court in this case as it relates to international commercial arbitrations held outside of India. It was made clear that the Act would apply to these arbitrations unless the parties specifically excluded it. The practice of international arbitration in India has been significantly impacted by this case.

3. Guru Nanak Foundation v. Rattan Singh & Sons.[13]

This case served to highlight the value of mediation in resolving disputes, especially in the context of business and contract disputes. The Supreme Court emphasized that conciliation is a good alternative to litigation and that courts should encourage parties to consider it.

4. Salem Advocate Bar Association v. Union of India.[14]

The legality of Lok Adalats as a distinctive alternative dispute resolution method in India was confirmed by this case. According to the Supreme Court, Lok Adalats are a useful tool for amicably resolving disputes, particularly those involvingmoney. It emphasized the necessity of promoting these forums to facilitate quicker resolution.

5. Hussainara Khatoon & Ors. v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar[15]

The decision in this case established the right to unrestricted legal representation as a crucial component of the right to a fair trial. In order to ensure that justice is not withheld due to poverty, the Supreme Court emphasized that indigent accused people have a right to legal representation and that the state must provide legal aid.


In a multicultural and dynamic country like India, seeking justice is not only required by law but also a moral imperative. The legal framework, which is outlined in Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, emphasizes the state’s obligation to guarantee justice based on equal opportunities, regardless of an individual’s economic circumstance or other physical or mental limitations. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes have become potent tools in this situation, reshaping the administration of justice and offering equitable and accessible avenues for resolution.

 This in-depth analysis has sailed through the complex world of ADR, highlighting the mediation’s transformative potential as a model for cooperative, non-adversarial dispute resolution. The benefits of mediation in terms of party empowerment, relationship preservation, lowering emotional costs, and cost-effective, timely outcomes have raised the bar for resolving conflicts in a variety of fields. It has shown that justice need not be associated with protracted legal disputes but rather can be found in the honest discussions and amicable resolutions that mediation fosters.

The comparison of judicial procedures, arbitration, and mediation has also highlighted the distinct advantages and disadvantages of each process. Mediation encourages cooperation and outcome control, while arbitration provides privacy and efficiency. Judicial processes ensure formal and binding resolutions. These insights offer a nuanced understanding of how to select the best procedure for resolving various types of disputes, customising justice to the particular requirements of the circumstance.

[1] Carbonneau, Thomas E. “Arbitration, Fairness, and Justice: Developing Ground Rules.” 44 American Journal of Comparative Law 715 (1996).

1.Salem Advocate Bar Association v. Union of India, (2003) 1 SCC

[3]. Ibid.

[4] Riskin, Leonard L. “Understanding Mediators’ Orientations, Strategies, and Techniques: A Grid for the Perplexed.” 1 Harvard Negotiation Law Review 7 (1996).

[5] Menkel-Meadow, Carrie. “Whose Dispute Is It Anyway? A Philosophical and Democratic Defense of Settlement (and Mediation) in Litigation.” 98 Northwestern University Law Review 1245 (2004).

[6] Drahozal, Christopher R. “The Expanding Role of ADR in Complex Litigation.” 2003 Journal of Dispute Resolution 1 (2003).

[7] Macfarlane, Julie. “The New Lawyer: How Settlement is Transforming the Practice of Law.” 15 Harvard Negotiation Law Review 465 (2010).

[8] Pathak, Nikita. “Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution: A Beacon of Hope for Legal Aid and Access to Justice.” 7 Journal of Indian Law Institute 478 (2015).

[9] Bhat, Shameema. “Access to Justice and Legal Aid: A Study.” 3 International Journal of Legal Research and Governance 161 (2016).

[10] Paul, Samrat. “Legal Aid in India: Historical Evolution, Development, and Challenges.” 14 National Law University Delhi Law Review 41 (2016).

[11] Niranjan Shankar Golikari v. Century Spinning & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (AIR 1967 SC 1098).

[12] Bhatia International v. Bulk Trading S.A. & Anr. (2002) 4 SCC 105.

[13] Guru Nanak Foundation v. Rattan Singh & Sons (1981) 4 SCC 634.

[14] Salem Advocate Bar Association v. Union of India (2005) 6 SCC 344.

[15] Hussainara Khatoon & Ors. v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar (AIR 1979 SC 1369).


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