DRC: an alternate source for conflict resolution?

KP is the region where elders have been playing a key role in decision making and dispute resolution at the family level as well as the community level

The formation of conflicts over rights, resources, faiths, gender, and responsibilities are natural and have been happening since time immemorial. Conflicts are natural and at no point we can totally do away with them. Human history has recorded three modes of conflict resolution, dispute resolution by violence or the use of forced dispute resolution by adjudication and dispute resolution by informal amicable means. The third form of it is known in the law as alternate dispute resolution. Muslim jurists have termed it as Sulah and Tehikm.

ADR refers to an amicable solution of disputes outside the court room resulting in a win-win situation for the parties. The different techniques used are mediation, arbitration, conciliation, and negotiation. Christianity also talks about ADR as a process that gives priority to restoring relationships with the ultimate goal of reconciliation between the disputing parties. In Hinduism there are dispute resolution talks about two layers of disputes, the layer of internal disputes and the layer of external disputes. A resolution would ultimately lead to internal and external peace

Tracing back the history of ADR in our society, Jirga-Punchayat have existed for centuries and have been accessed by the masses for the disputes to be resolved in remote rural and tribal areas. We are well aware that the delay in civil and criminal cases have become chronic as the cases hardly get decided even after decades causing distrust and frustration for the litigants. Apart from delay the complexities, the costs, the over-burdened courts are the main reasons that punchayat and Jirgas say still means a lot to the masses. Though they have been engaged in critical human rights violations particularly the women rights and are definitely influenced politically.

KP is the region where elders have been playing a key role in decision making and dispute resolution at the family level as well as the community level. The recent Initiative of Dispute Resolution Councils is a ray of hope for the poor and needy. Alternate dispute resolution mechanism, of access to easy and no cost justice. The DRCS are not only providing amicable solution to petty disputes of civil nature but also involving community in conflict resolution. They are slowly and gradually reducing the burden over courts secondly the police department is able to focus on major issue of terrorism and security.

Dispute resolution councils started function back in 2015 as result of proper legislation by provincial assembly, attaining a legal cover and it was an initiative of ex IGKP Nasir Khan Durrani. The DRCs were also incorporated in 2017 police act as a mechanism of dispute resolution.

The recent Initiative of Dispute Resolution Councils is a ray of hope for the poor and needy

Currently 41 Dispute resolution councils are functional in 24 districts of KP. Looking at the figures of the cases resolved it is around 13 660 were reported in the with 9713 resolved 1828 for legal action and 2119 in progress in the year 2017 which sounds a reasonable number if the performance of DRCS is to be analyzed If we look at the structure of a each DRC consists of 21 panelists.

These panelists as we mentioned earlier are well reputed members of the society and they are from all walks of life like retired civil servants, educationists, lawyers, civil society members etc who volunteer themselves for mediation in Dispute Resolution. The most important fact about the panelists s that they are totally unfamiliar to the applicants so the chances to influence a while decision making are zero, as it is observed in Jirgas and Punchayats. Secondly, the decision making is through a proper procedure of listening to both the parties, fact finding collecting evidence and then coming up to a win win situation with the consent of both the parties. In case a reservation is recorded about a decision a lager panel is formed to look into the case and review the decision.

Looking at the positive aspects and contributions of this mechanism its an easy access to justice for petty issues of the community with no cost and quick and speedy decision making and with inclusion of community. Secondly, it provides a very respectable and secure environment totally different from family and civil courts particularly in family cases and in case of females. Thirdly the access to a DRC is very simple and easy doing away with complicated procedures of existing judicial system with no cost. Dispute Resolution Councils take decisions independently and ensuring transparency for both the parties involved. DRC are mostly located within the premises of police stations which is an administrative requirement keeping in view the security of panelists and the applicants, but the decision making is totally independent without the intervention of police officials.

Since the system is in a formative phase there is room of improvement as well. The decisions taken by the DRC bound the parties ethically but not legally. At times after the decision is taken within the DRC one of the party backs out and the implementation of the said decision stays with a question mark. The implementation of the decisions needs some legal support to strengthen the trust of the masses upon this mechanism.

A systematic and rigorous awareness campaign about this no cost ADR mechanism and the eligibility criteria to be a panelist can be beneficial for the masses plus the outreach to remote rural areas particularly as these are the areas where disputes of land, money inheritance share and domestic violence are frequent and need to be resolved as early as possible. Access to just is the basic need of poor and needy and I believe DRC can be the solution for this basic need.

The writer has experience in the field of education and is currently working as a resource person in the development sector

Published in Daily Times, January 11th 2018.