Alternative Dispute Resolution in India Its Advantages and Legality

Published On: 21st March, 2024

Authored By: Raghvendra
The Law School, University of Jammu


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has emerged as a valuable and effective method for resolving conflicts outside of traditional court proceedings. This article explores the various forms of ADR, including mediation, arbitration, and conciliation, and examines their advantages over formal court proceedings. Analysis of the legal framework and practices surrounding ADR, considering its integration into legal systems in India is also covered. Overall, this article provides valuable insights into the significance and impact of ADR in modern dispute resolution.


In present times, people prefer to complete their work faster, by using new and innovative means in place of using old and time taking options. This resulted in a decreased attention span of the people which is visible in various day-to-day life examples, T-20 cricket matches are preferred to watch over long-duration test matches and reels, and short videos are enjoyed over long videos or movies, etc. This reduced attention span has affected the legal proceedings too in its own way. Nowadays, alternative dispute resolution methods are preferred instead of filing cases, going through a lot of paperwork, and attending lengthy trials in old-style court proceedings. Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR methods are speedy, confidential, and less expensive as well as improve the relationship of the parties instead of disturbing it. ADR methods are now used widely all over the world. In India, methods of ADR are also recognized by the judiciary in the form of the Arbitrations and Conciliation Act, of 1996. Although arbitration and conciliation are recognized in India, still Indian citizens are more dependent on long court proceedings instead of using speedy methods of ADR. Like any other provision, ADR also has both its advantages and disadvantages. Various methods of ADR are discussed in the following sections of this article.


The methods and processes of ADR might have been introduced by the British Empire in India in the modern age, but, if we dive into the knowledge contained in ancient Hindu texts and laws, we will find that the concept of ADR is not a totally foreign concept to India. A look at the ancient Hindu laws on arbitration and literary works of India such as Vedas, Sutra, Epics, and Dharmashastras, provide information about dispute resolution institutions prevailing in ancient India.

Village panchayats are a great example of alternative dispute resolution in the history of India. Village panchayat was one of the natural ways for the Hindus to resolve their disputes. Village panchayats can also be presented as good examples of mediation as villagers used to mediate the disputes in the panchayat meetings. Hindu civilization expressly encouraged the settlement of disputes by tribunals chosen by the parties themselves whose decision is to be accepted as final and conclusive between the parties. Apart from the courts established by the king, there were other tribunals recognized by the ancient Hindu laws and texts. The Smritis refers to three types of popular courts:

  • Puga- It is a board of persons belonging to different sects and tribes but residing in the same locality.
  • Sreni- It refers to an assembly of tradesmen and artisans belonging to different tribes but connected to each other in some way.
  • Kula- It’s an assembly of members of a clan, and also speaks of the authority of these courts to decide lawsuits.

During the Vedic age as well, popular assemblies called ‘sabhas’ acted as arbitrators in resolving disputes. The system of arbitration was popular in the Epic age (500-200 B.C.) which is evidenced by the practice of dispute resolution by the Pugas, Srenis, and Kulas, during the period of Dharmashastras.

In short, the process of ADR methods like arbitration and mediation existed and been practiced in India from ancient times in different forms.


Alternative Dispute Resolution includes different kinds of methods that are suitable for different kinds of situations and cases. Let’s take a look at all of these methods:

  • Arbitration: In this method, a neutral person called an “arbitrator” listens to the statements and evidence of both of the parties and then passes the verdict. Relatively, arbitration is less formal than a court trial and the rules of evidence are also decided by an agreement between them It is a less expensive alternative too. The decision of arbitration is known as an “arbitration award”. Usually, large corporations from the business world prefer arbitration rather than fighting long-term court cases. An agreement is signed by the parties before initiating an arbitration process, which decides the rules of evidence and how the process will go on. Arbitration decisions are usually binding on the parties, but in the case of non-binding arbitration decisions, the parties can request a trial if they consider the outcome of arbitration as inefficient.
  • Mediation: It is a process in which a party that is neutral to the case assists the two or more disputants to reach an outcome by providing suggestions to the parties. The neutral party is known as a mediator. The mediator helps both parties to communicate and uses negotiation techniques so that the parties can come to an agreement to solve the Unlike arbitration, the mediator does not have any authoritative power and does not pass a verdict in this method. A solution is found and agreed upon mutually by the parties which is generally non-binding. The parties can choose litigation as an option if they are not very satisfied with the result of the mediation process.
  • Negotiation: Another method of dispute resolution is negotiation. In this method, there is no third party to mediate or The parties work together to find mutually acceptable solutions to the conflicts. The parties may or may not be represented by their attorneys during the negotiation meetings. There are no legal provisions for negotiation in India, in other words, negotiation is not legally recognized in India. All the rules and compensations are decided mutually by the parties without any involvement of a neutral third party.
  • Conciliation: In conciliation, a third party known as the conciliator speaks with each of the parties individually in an effort to facilitate discussions between the parties and help them reach a mutually agreeable The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 governs conciliation in India as well. Conciliation is available under Section 61 for conflicts resulting from legal connections, whether or not they are contractual in nature.[1]
  • Lok Adalats: The principle of Lok Adalats is essential in a nation like India where a large portion of the population lacks literacy. Gujarat was the first state to do this This idea was integrated with consideration for a number of considerations, including social justice, and its primary goal was to lessen the overwhelming number of cases that the courts had to handle. Provisions are given for Lok Adalats under sections 19, 20, 21, and 22 of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987[2]. These are maintained by the State Legal Aid and Advice Boards with the help of District Legal Aid and Advice committees. The objective of the above-mentioned Act was to provide access to justice to all, whether someone is rich or poor.


The judgment passed by the means of ADR might not be as effective as the judgment passed by the court, but still, ADR has its own advantages over the formal adjudication process. Several qualities of ADR due to which it could be considered more efficient than formal court trials are that it is flexible, maintains a good relationship between the parties, and helps in maintaining privacy. It also helps in reducing the workload of the already overburdened courts. Some other advantages are also discussed in this article in detail:

  • Time and Money Saving: It is a widely held belief that the legal system, judges, juries, technical specialists, and substantive legal incantations all cause more harm than good. The use of legal actors and procedures is expensive, emotionally draining, and sometimes even counterproductive. However, the methods of ADR have the upper hand in saving both time and money Because of the not-so-formal environment and better communication between the parties, ADR is less expensive and time efficient.
  • Procedural flexibility: ADR proponents contend that having autonomy or control over procedural matters may lead to a more gratifying and successful settlement The ADR story emphasizes how gladiators who are only interested in adversarial resolutions can manipulate, exploit, and misuse strict and procedural norms. The issue, they argue, is that advocates are incentivized and trained to find every legal loophole, capitalize on every tactical error or overlook made by their opponent, and interpret the law or facts in a way that benefits their client.
  • Substantive Flexibility: With the help of a third-party facilitator, parties can create a customized solution that suits their needs without having to adhere to rigid precedents in less structured and more voluntary forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), like mediation, where participants hold the final Thus, rather than passing judgment, mediators assist the parties in resolving conflicts. Some find ADR appealing due to the system’s guarantee of better outcomes that will meet the participants’ actual needs. Due to the parties’ voluntary consent to the resolution, it actually doesn’t matter if these outcomes comply with the law or not. It goes without saying that the judge in a formal adjudication must adhere to the substantive law.
  • Broadening Access to Justice: ADR proponents highlight how the system can increase access to justice. ADR mechanisms can increase the accessibility of justice for those who lack the resources to deal with the formal rules of evidence and procedure in a courtroom or to get past its intimidating and confusing environment. The use of legal actors and procedures is expensive and stressful, and sometimes even Justice has essentially become a facade in many ways. The parties in disagreement are only given the impression that what is right and just is being decided by the august wisdom and high-minded discipline of the law. Even if adjudication gives disputes a mandated, unambiguous decision, the process of achieving justice is dehumanizing and filled with unfair interpretations of the truth.


Alternative Dispute Resolution is recognized and encouraged by the legal system in India. The Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996 provides a legal framework for ADR methods such as arbitration, mediation, and conciliation[3]. These methods are widely used in India to resolve various types of disputes, including commercial, civil, and family matters. The Act ensures that the decisions and awards made through ADR processes are legally binding and enforceable. It promotes the efficient and effective resolution of disputes outside of traditional court proceedings. Thus, ADR is indeed a legally recognized and accepted method of dispute resolution in India.

Lok Adalats are also a method of ADR which is also backed by the legal provision in India. The structure, working, and powers of Lok Adalats are governed by The Legal Service Authorities Act, of 1987.[4] This act was passed to ensure that every person can have access to justice irrespective of him being rich or poor; literate or illiterate; his race, caste, religion, etc.

The law in India recognizes conciliation as a successful process for settling conflicts including disagreements between staff members and management. For the purpose of resolving disputes, both arbitration and conciliation are required by the Industrial Dispute Act of 1947. The objective of the Industrial Disputes Act is to provide a framework for the prevention and resolution of disputes between employers and employees in India. It aims to promote industrial peace and harmony by establishing mechanisms for negotiation, conciliation, and arbitration. The Act sets out the rights and obligations of both employers and employees, regulates the process of collective bargaining, and provides for the settlement of disputes through various methods, including conciliation boards and labor courts.


A small trial, summary jury trial, mediation, arbitration, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution exist. However, the most widely used forms of ADR in India are

arbitration, mediation, Lok Adalats, and others. In India, litigation is still a major source of dispute resolution, but ADR has been steadily gaining favor with parties around the globe. But as these techniques for alternative dispute resolution have evolved, so has the idea that ADR is now essential to enhancing access to justice. As ADR techniques are practical, convenient, and lessen the load on the courts, they ought to be recognized legally. This includes bargaining.


[1] Section 61, Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996

[2] Section 19 to 22, The Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987

[3] The Arbitration And Conciliation Act, 1996

[4] The Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987

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