ADR in India: Development and Scope
The concept of ADR is not novel to the Indian society. The study of legal literature enables us to know that settlement of disputes by arbitration or other mechanisms has been practiced in India from the distant past for resolving disputes concerning family, trade, or a social group. The study of ancient legal history unveils the role of private persons (arbitrators) in Panchayats, Puga, Sreni, and Kula.
Among many systems followed in India, the Panchayat system is the most significant one. ‘Pancha’ means five, and accordingly, Panchayats consisted of five elderly persons in the village led by the village headman. The Panchayat system is an early form of self-governance in India, which also performed the main function of dispute resolution. As time passed on, the King started to appoint the village headman, and he started to receive advice from the headman regarding the administration. Gradually, a system of appeal was developed, wherein the parties were allowed to appeal to the King against the decisions of Panchayats. Today Panchayat system has received the constitutional sanction to resolve disputes regarding specific subject matters.
ADR in British India: Statutory Developments
Though there are early instances of the use of different types of ADR in India, legal developments in this field started in the nineteenth century. One of the first legally recognized ADR mechanisms in India is arbitration. The origin of the law of arbitration in India owes to Act VIII of 1859, which codified the procedure of civil courts.
In the year 1899, the British government passed Arbitration Act, which was based on the model of the English Act of 1899. In the year of 1925, the Civil Justice Committee recommended several changes in the arbitration law. On the basis of the recommendations by the Civil Justice Committee the Indian Legislature passed the Arbitration Act of 1940. The 1940 Act as its preamble indicates was a consolidating and amending Act and was an exhaustive code in so far as the law relating to arbitration was concerned. Though there was a possibility of arbitration without the intervention of a court, most of the arbitration was with the intervention of a court.