National assembly passes Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: National Assembly on Friday passed Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill 2017 to pave way to introducing Panchayat and Jirga system in Islamabad Capital Territory for out of court settlement of civil and criminal cases.


Passed unanimously by the House, the bill explaining elaborate mechanism for disposal of cases through mediation to avoid prolonged litigation and early resolution of disputes was moved to the House by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid.

Opposition parties discussed the bill in detail and submitted their proposals that were duly considered by the House to give final shape to the legislation; described by the Law Minister as another land mark piece of legislation after the Cost of Litigation Bill passed on Thursday.

“Ensuring speedy and inexpensive justice is priority of the PML-N government and this bill shall facilitate parties to resolve their disputes at Panchayat or Jirga level thus saving lot of money and time of the disputing parties,” the minister said.

He said 23 categories of civil and criminal cases have been mentioned in the bill that would enable `Neutrals’ to mediate among the parties for dispute resolution. This system of conciliation is already in practice in different areas in the form of Panchayat or Tribal Jirga. “But, now it is being legalized and the system will have an overview of the courts as far as certification of decisions of the `Neutrals’ would be concerned.”

He said the term `Neutrals’ is meant for those who will head the Panchayat or Jirga and would be appointed by the federal government in consultation with the respective High Courts.

This system, he said, would initially be installed in Islamabad Capital Territory as under the constitution, in case of very low level civil suits, it is jurisdiction of provinces.

However, if the provinces would also like to have this system they cans end resolutions to National Assembly enabling the House to extend this bill to the whole country.

Commenting on the bill, MNAs Dr Nafisa Shah, Shafqat Mahmood, S A Iqbal Qadri, Arif Alvi, Dr Shireen Mazari had raised certain questions regarding representation of women in dispute resolution system; appointment of Neutrals; jurisdiction; court fee; and cases of injury and damages.

The members had stressed to ensure participation of women, transparent appointment of Neutrals, proper definition of Panchayat or Jirga and other issues. However, members from every party supported this system as they regretted that present judicial system was not fully catering to the needs of disputing parties and in most instances, the cases linger on for decades.

In response to points raised by the members, the minister said, for numerous compoundable offenses, there is already a mechanism in the CrPC. This system will strengthen the already in place mechanism. “We are legalizing that mechanism which was in practice at community level. That system will now have a legal cover.”

He said the Neutrals to be appointed under this system will have sponsor mediation and play the role of facilitator and any decision by him or her shall be made after both the parties agree to it. Moreover, the Neutral would not be implementing authority as the implementation of that decision would be made through the courts.

“This system has to have a statutory basis working under certain law and settle civil and criminal matters as well as compoundable offenses. A similar system has also been proposed to tribal areas in under consideration FATA reforms,” he explained.

Explaining the point about appointment of Neutrals, the minister said, the government has already surrendered its discretion in their appointment and now High Courts would approve their appointment ensuring impartiality and transparency.

Clarifying further, the minister said, the Panchayat or Jirga, after settlement of a dispute wherein both the parties shall show consent, shall inform the court from where a decree will be issued.

“The Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism shall trigger only after both the parties agree to it.”

He said this law will not damage women rights; a court fee would be paid when parties shall agree to trigger ADR; there is no punishment attached to this system; and a double court fee shall be charged in case of unjustified ADR.

Source: APP

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