In a significant development for the Indian legal landscape, the Mediation Act, 2023, received the President of India's assent on September 15, 2023, and was subsequently notified in the Gazette of India. This transformative legislation aims to enhance the mediation process, streamline dispute resolution, and promote the use of mediation as an effective means of resolving conflicts. Let's delve into some key provisions of this landmark Act.
The journey of the Mediation Act, 2023, began in December 2021 when it was first introduced in Parliament as the "2021 Bill." It underwent a thorough evaluation and scrutiny process, during which it was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. This committee submitted its report to the Rajya Sabha chairperson on July 13, 2022. After due deliberation, the Act was passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 1, 2023, and the Lok Sabha on August 7, 2023.
Key Provisions of the Act
1. Limitations on Mediation (Section 6)
The Act provides guidance on which disputes or matters are suitable for mediation. Importantly, it stipulates that mediation shall not be conducted for disputes listed in the First Schedule of the Act. However, the Act allows for certain exceptions, permitting courts to refer disputes related to compoundable offenses, including some matrimonial offenses, to mediation. It's noteworthy that the outcome of such mediation is not considered a judgment or decree of the court.
2. Mediator Selection (Section 8)
The Act allows parties to select mediators of any nationality. For foreign mediators, specific qualifications, experience, and accreditation requirements may apply. Parties have the freedom to agree on a mediator's appointment and the related procedure. In cases where parties cannot agree, the Act outlines a process for the appointment of a mediator by a mediation service provider within a specified time frame
3. Challenging Mediated Settlement Agreements (Section 28)
To ensure the fairness and legitimacy of mediated settlement agreements, the Act permits parties to challenge such agreements on specific grounds, including fraud, corruption, impersonation, or if the dispute was unsuitable for mediation under Section 6. However, there is a time limit for challenging these agreements, and applications must be filed within ninety days of receiving a copy of the mediated settlement agreement, with an additional ninety-day extension granted under certain conditions.
4. Online Mediation (Section 30)
Acknowledging the role of technology in modern dispute resolution, the Act embraces online mediation. Parties can consent to online mediation at any stage of the process, utilizing electronic forms, computer
networks, secure chat rooms, or video and audio conferencing. The Act emphasizes the importance of maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of online mediation proceedings.
5. Community Mediation (Section 43)
Recognizing the need for localized conflict resolution, the Act introduces community mediation. It allows residents or families in an area or locality to settle disputes that may affect peace, harmony, and tranquillity. Parties can request the referral of their dispute to community mediation through relevant authorities. A panel of community mediators, including respected community members and mediation experts, facilitates the resolution process.
In conclusion, the Mediation Act, 2023, represents a significant leap forward in promoting mediation as a viable alternative to traditional litigation. Its provisions aim to make dispute resolution more accessible, efficient, and effective for all stakeholders involved. As this Act takes its place in India's legal framework, it is expected to usher in a new era of dispute resolution and contribute to the nation's commitment to ease the burden on its courts and ensure timely justice delivery.