[ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION]
[89A.(1) Except in a suit under the [Artha Rin Adalat Ain, 2003 (Act No. 8 of 2003)], after filing of written statement, if all the contesting parties are in attendance in the Court in person or by their respective pleaders, [the Court shall], by adjourning the hearing, mediate in order to settle the dispute or disputes in the suit, or refer the dispute or disputes in the suit [to the concerned Legal Aid Officer appointed under the Legal Aid Act, 2000 (Act No. 6 of 2000), or] to the engaged pleaders of the parties, or to the party or parties, where no pleader or pleaders have been engaged, or to a mediator from the panel as may be prepared by the District Judge under sub-section (10), for undertaking efforts for settlement through mediation. [***}
(2) When the reference under sub-section (1) is made through the pleaders, the pleaders shall, by their mutual agreement in consultation with their respective clients, appoint another pleader, not engaged by the parties in the suit, or a retired judge, or a mediator from the panel as may be prepared by the District Judge under sub-section (10), or any other person whom they may seem to be suitable, to act as a mediator for settlement: Provided that, nothing in this sub-section shall be deemed to prohibit appointment of more than one person to act as mediator:
Provided further that, a person holding an office of profit in the service of the Republic shall not be eligible for appointment as mediator.
[(3) While referring a dispute or disputes in the suit for mediation under sub-section (1), it shall be for the pleaders, their respective clients and the mediator to mutually agree on and determine the fees and the procedure to be followed for the purpose of settlement through mediation; and when the Court [ or Legal Aid Officer] shall mediate, it shall determine the procedure to be followed, and shall not charge any fee for mediation:
Provided that if the pleaders, their respective clients and the mediator fail to determine the fees, the Court shall fix the fees and the fees so fixed shall be binding upon the parties.]
[(4) Within ten days from the date of reference under sub-section (1), the parties shall inform the Court in writing whom they have appointed as mediator, and if the parties fail to appoint the mediator during this time, the Court shall, within seven days, appoint a mediator from the panel as mentioned in sub-section (10) and the mediation under this section shall be concluded within 60 (sixty) days from the day on which the Court is so informed, [or the dispute or disputes are referred to Legal Aid Officer, or a mediator is appointed by the Court], as the case may be, unless the Court of its own motion or upon a joint prayer of the parties, extends the time for a further period of not exceeding 30 (thirty) days.]
[(5) The [ Legal Aid Officer or mediator, as the case may be,] shall, without violating the confidentiality of the parties to the mediation proceedings, submit to the court a report of result of the mediation proceedings; and if the result is of compromise of the dispute or disputes in the suit, the terms of such compromise shall be reduced into writing in the form of an agreement, bearing signatures or left thumb impressions of the parties as executants, and signatures of the pleaders, if any, and the [ Legal Aid Officer or mediator, as the case may be,] as witnesses; and the Court shall, within seven days from receiving the said report, pass an order or a decree in accordance with relevant provisions of Order XXIII of the Code.]
(6) When the Court itself mediates, it shall [prepare a report and pass an order in the manner] to that as stated in sub-section (5).
(7) When the mediation fails to produce any compromise, the Court shall, subject to the provision of sub-section (9), proceed with hearing of the suit from the stage at which the suit stood before the decision to mediate or reference for mediation under sub-section (1), and in accordance with provisions of the Code in a manner as if there had been no decision to mediate or reference for mediation as aforesaid.
(8) The proceedings of mediation under this section shall be confidential and any communication made, evidence adduced, admission, statement or comment made and conversation held between the parties, their pleaders, representatives [, Legal Aid Officer] and the mediator, shall be deemed privileged and shall not be referred to and admissible in evidence in any subsequent hearing of the same suit or any other proceeding.
(9) When a mediation initiative led by the Court itself fails to resolve the dispute or disputes in the suit, the same court shall not hear the suit, if the Court continues to be presided by the same judge who led the mediation initiative; and in that instance, the suit shall be heard by another court of competent jurisdiction.
(10) For the purposes of this section, the District Judge shall, in consultation with the President of the District Bar Association, prepare a panel of mediators (to be updated from time to time) consisting of pleaders, retired judges, persons known to be trained in the art of dispute resolution, and such other person or persons, except persons holding office of profit in the service of the Republic, as may be deemed appropriate for the purpose, and shall inform all the Civil Courts under his administrative jurisdiction about the panel:
Provided that, a mediator under this sub-section, shall not act as a mediator between the parties, if he had ever been engaged by either of the parties as a pleader in any suit in any Court.
(11) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Court-fees Act, 1870
(Act No. VII of 1870), where a dispute or disputes in a suit are settled on compromise under this section, the Court shall issue a certificate directing refund of the court fees paid by the parties in respect of the plaint or written statement; and the parties shall be entitled to such refund within 60 (sixty) days of the issuance of the certificate.
(12) No appeal or revision shall lie against any order or decree passed by the Court in pursuance of settlement between the parties under this section.
(13) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to otherwise limit the option of the parties regarding withdrawal, adjustment and compromise of the suit under Order XXIII of the Code.
Explanation-(1) "Mediation" under this section shall mean flexible, informal, non-binding, confidential, non-adversarial and consensual dispute resolution process in which the mediator shall facilitate compromise of disputes in the suit between the parties without directing or dictating the terms of such compromise.
(2) "Compromise" under this section shall include also compromise in part of the disputes in the suit.