Opinion by Kewal Singh Ahuja
Lawyer, Accredited Mediator & Investment Arbitrator
Alternate Dispute Redressal Mechanism not only provides a speedy legal solution in times like Covid19 but also heels the wound of pandemic
In the second week of August as the world officially completed five months of Corona Pandemic, we also had our worst fears coming true, of crumbling of other sectors; economy, education, business to name few-UK officially coming into recession is not one but many such headlines coming daily.
Covid19, the biggest health crises ever, was not just that, everyone knew it since the beginning of it. As we try to start and rise again besides also dealing with still growing corona virus load the bigger picture of the crises is being exposed in front of us now-the legal aspect of restoring the loss.
Legal challenges in corona crises
World couldn’t wait to open up and get back to work and the biggest challenge today, beside adopting the #New Normal of Corona protocol is also how to build that broken chain of functionality of economy and business of work.
Restoration of broken contracts and breach of trust is not just limited to the economic and business relationships but also extend towards piecing together the emotional wreckages.
Legal route thus becomes an inevitable path of every restoration-business as well as the relationship. But the unexpected trajectory of the legal dispute which might be witnessed post covid19 needs an alternative mechanism of dispute redressal (ADR) to mitigate the challenges posed by the unprecedented crises. ADR, which is slightly deviated from the traditional legal route for justice.
Justice delivery system in India during the lockdown due to Covid 19 was limited to only the “urgent hearing matters” through the online procedures. Courts only worked approximately one fourth of its capacity. After five months of virtual litigations as the courts plan to get back to usual functioning it is important to see how the legal system deal with the challenges of post covid19 litigations.
Let’s be absolutely clear that these are not only the functional and procedural challenges of courts in post Covid situation. Corona is an unprecedented time posing many such litigations challenges which have not been defined in the codes of legal procedures.
Every picture and each story of corona crises unfortunately is a potential litigating situation. Impact of corona cannot be remedied through traditional legal procedures only. People have lost their dignity and self-respect beside being physically affected. Not only financial but emotional loss too needs to be restored. For this we need a holistic legal approach.
Challenges before Courts in Covid19
Courts will have not one but many new challenges while dealing with covid19 centric litigations
- Big problem would be to cover the back log of cases of lockdown periods. As the courts only heard the “urgent hearing matters”.
- Backlog of cases of lockdown period would add to a flood of around 43 lakh pending cases in 25 High Courts of India (as informed to Rajya Sabha in June 2019). Out of which 8.35 lakh cases are more than 10 years old.
- Courts would have to deal with pressure due to rush of new covid19 related litigations
- Biggest challenge would be a speedy trial and delivery of justice when the courts are already hard pressed for various reason-one being the large number of vacancy of judges.
Cause of litigation during covid19
Recovery and restoration of business and economy will be the biggest problem for the world while also dealing with the health crises due to corona virus. Crashing of economies and the recession, as predicted by World Economic Outlook might trigger a chain of unstoppable crises due wave of legal disputes.
An April estimate of World Economic Outlook projected a decline in the global growth of minus three per cent in 2020. The trends since have supported the estimate making the current economic crises due to corona as the worst recession since great depression, even worst, then the 2008 Global financial crises.
Even the biggest economies like America is crumbling and is estimated to be facing a slowing down of around $8 trillion economic activities in next one decade till 2030. According to World Bank Estimate, “the base line forecast envisions a 5.2 per cent contraction in global GDP in 2020”.
What would be the result of this slowdown? “Business might find hard to service debt, heightened risk aversion could lead to climbing borrowing costs and bankruptcies and default could result in financial crises in many countries”, predicts the World Bank.
This would directly result in the growing number of litigation and increased burden on the courts. Ostrich psyche-to think that people will avoid litigation due to cash crunch, would do more harm than good in this situation.
Many, rather than avoid the litigation, would want to recover the cost and the loss. Hope in the justice system is the last resort in such unprecedented situations as Covid 19 and this would definitely lead to growing litigations. This is the very right guaranteed to the citizen of India under various constitutional provisions.
What are the options in such times for the citizens?
Alternate Dispute Resolution in covid19
Indeed, these are financially difficult times. But the lack of money should not become an impediment in justice delivery system. The courts in such times should encourage Alternate Dispute Redressal Mechanism to ensure speedy trials and faster recovery of the losses. This would also immensely ensure the faith in the justice delivery system of the courts while also minimising the burden of courts.
Benefits of mechanism of ADR are unlimited. The crises due to pandemic have not only affected health wise and economically, it has caused trust deficit and the breech of it within the individual human units and also between the individuals and the State. Breach of trust by individual and the state, in many cases has also been the cause of loss of dignity and self -respect during corona crises.
As compared to traditional legal system-where one party wins and other loose, ADR provides Innovative solutions of resolving the disputes.
ADR, specially mediation is a great tool and a process in restoring relationships amongst business entities. Mechanism of ADR, therefore, should be promoted as an option to deal with the litigations due to Covid 19.
(The views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion, beliefs and view point of the owners of asiannewsmakers.com)