The President of India has given her assent leading to the notification of the Mediation Act, 2023. This Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 20 December, 2023 and was later referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice. The report from the Committee was submitted to the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha in July, 2022 and passed by both the houses in August of 2022.
This is a huge push for alternate dispute redressal in India and the Act requires disputing parties to resolve civil or commercial disputes by mediation before resorting to any court or tribunal.
Parties can withdraw after two session of mediation and the process must be completed within 180 days, with the possibiliy to extend the same by another 180 days by mutual agreement between the parties.
There is a provision in the Act for the establishment of the Mediation Council of India, that shall register mediators, recognize service providers in the mediation space and mediation institutes among other things.
Any individual can be appointed as a mediator and if the parties cannot reach an agreement, they can seek the help from mediation service provider that shall appoint a mediator from the panel of mediators. The agreements from such successful mediation shall be legally binding and enforceable as the judgment of Courts.
It had made participation in pre-litigation mandatory and this has been criticised, besides the role of the Mediation Council that lacks adequate representation from experienced practitioners unlike the bodies such as Bar Council of India. The Council would also need prior approval from the Central Government for its regulations and this can make the process biases, according to critics.
The other concern for practitioners is that there is no provisions for enforcement of settlement agreements from the International Mediations that is conducted outside India.