ISLAMABAD - Shirking from the state’s responsibility to provide timely justice to all its citizens, the National Assembly yesterday shifted part of judicial system’s burden to the medieval mechanism of local arbitration by the citizens themselves.

The assembly passed the government-moved ‘The Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Bill, 2017’, which provides legal cover to the informal systems of panchayat and Jirga. Under this new legislation, the out-of-court dispute settlement system will deal with 23 types of cases.

Mover of the bill, Law Minister Zahid Hamid tried to sell it as a good solution to the problem of long delays in delivery of justice by the ill-performing courts of the country. He termed the legislation ‘important and historic’, and according to the manifesto of the ruling PML-N.

He added that after its successful implementation in Islamabad, the panchayat system would be extended to the whole country.

But opposition lawmakers, who otherwise also participated in the legislative process, feared that non-representation of women in the system may make it a futile exercise.

The objects and reasons of the bill suggest ‘ADR methods such as conciliation, arbitration, mediation and panchayat can be used effectively for settlement of disputes to overcome delays, provide inexpensive justice and reduce the tremendous burden on courts.

“There is a huge backlog of cases in both subordinate and superior courts and it is necessary to find simpler and faster alternates which can supplement the traditional legal system,” according to the bill.

The ADR means a process in which parties resort to the method of resolving the dispute other than adjudicated by courts and includes arbitration, mediation, conciliation, neutral evaluation and dispute resolution through panchayat[/jirga].

‘Arbitration’, described in the bill, is a process by which parties submit a dispute for decision by a neutral person [or a group of persons] appointed by mutual consent or under a statutory provision.

‘Conciliation’ means a process in which a neutral person [or body] encourages the parties to resolve their civil commercial dispute voluntarily - including by advising on a possible solution.

‘Panchayat or jirga’ means the conciliatory body by whatever name called including ‘Musalihat Anjuman’ constituted by any law for the time being.

The law minister lauded PTI MNA Arif Alvi for introducing amendments to the bill.

Earlier speaking on the issue, PTI MNA Shireen Mazari said that there was a need for proper representation of women in the newly introduced bill. “There is nothing for the protection of women in this bill. This flaw needs to be resolved,” she said.

PPP lawmaker Nafeesa Shah said that there was a need for women representation in the system proposed in the bill. “For divorce, family disputes and other related matters, woman representation in the bill is necessary,” she said.

PTI MNA Shafqat Mehmood lauded the alternate system for justice but he feared that “political pressure may cause hindrance” in the successful implementation of the system.

The government side managed to pass the bill when only 28 MNAs from both sides of the aisles were present in the house.

Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada, at the fag end of proceedings, laid before the house ‘Annual report of the Council of Common Interests’ (for the year 2015-16).

Earlier, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Qadir Baloch said rehabilitation and reconstruction work is being carried out in Fata at a cost of Rs80 billion. He was responding to a calling attention notice moved by Qaisar Jamal and others regarding non-inclusion of NA-47 in the (RRU) for rehabilitation and reconstruction works.

 

NA legalises panchayat system