Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has enormous potential to resolve social, economic, professional and commercial conflicts. Compared to its potentiality its usage has been negligible. The ADR's merits are manifold: It is cost-effective, time-saving, prompt and conclusive. Above all, it helps resolve disputes amicably. The country has been familiar with the variants of alternative conflict resolution like salish (an aberration now) or out-of-court settlement but ADR as such is now infinitely more advanced and sophisticated method of settling dispute in commercial and business world. If developed and practised in Bangladesh in parallel to the legal system, it may be hugely complementary to the Judiciary. This can happen in three important ways: Firstly, it can significantly reduce the case loads on the courts; second, through a demonstrative effect, ADR can prevent habitual litigants from forcing each other into legal trammels; third, it can foster calmer and productive social ecology.
The statistics speak volumes about the need for alternative dispute resolution. Around 3.3 million cases are pending with the courts. If the deck is not cleared off the critical mass of backlogs from here on, it is set to reach the staggering figure of 5.0 million by 2020. As if that was not enough, 55,000 cases had been pending with Artho Rin Adalats (loan courts) as of June 2017! Where there is only one judge for 2000 cases, it certainly impels an ADR role with an appropriate institutional base.
Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC) has been at it energetically; not content with merely popularising the concept and keeping it on focus-only last year it held a roundtable titled "Creating investment-friendly access; Can ADR be remedy in commercial disputes." On last Thursday through a dialogue attended by experts and stake-holders, the need for introducing ADR courses in legal education was underscored. Teaching and promoting ADR at undergraduate and university levels are considered important as it will help foster a culture where litigation would be looked down upon with preference shown to civilised conduct of business. Aiming mindset change at the receiving end could not bring in the desired transformation towards adoption of ADR. What is central to the mission is the legal education system providing space to alternative dispute resolution in the curricula out of a sense of a noble purpose. The study of law has a higher mission for what clearly is set to render the court system free to act as an antidote to justice delayed being justice denied.
The BIAC can be credited with having facilitated 269 hearings on ADR cases, organised 30 arbitration training courses, 17 mediation training courses and nine negotiation courses of which seven courses were conducted abroad. It took seven years to accomplish the array of tasks. In that time some 1,290 participants from the civil service, banks, legal fraternity, financial institutions, corporate houses and students of law have received training. Stepping up the preparatory phase is necessary. To be sure, the BIAC's pioneering work needs all the help it can get from the government and private sector. For it has to put in place the right infrastructure for the best practice of ADR methods to thrive in Bangladesh.
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