Pre-litigation mediation centres to address marital disputes
To prevent the breakup of marriages and families, the Bangalore Mediation Centre (BMC) is setting up a pre-litigation mediation centre (PLMC), the first of its kind in the country.
Several matrimonial disputes reach courts, without any attempt to save the relationships. With thousands of marriages being dissolved every year, the BMC, following the Supreme Court order of February 22, 2013, has now stepped in to save the institution of marriage. Plans are now on to start PLMCs across the State and, the first one would come up in Bangalore.
Says Justice K L Manjunath, judge, Karnataka High Court and president, Bangalore Mediation Centre: “The centres will be a reality in two months. The process to set up the PLMC has already begun. We held a meeting of six master trainers two weeks ago. A committee comprising senior mediators has been constituted, which will be soon submitting a report,” he told Deccan Herald.
The PLMCs will explore the possibilities of reconcilation of the couple on the verge of divorce, seeking maintenence or rights of child. The BMC, which receives about 65 per cent of the matrimony cases, says that 64 per cent of them are resolved through mediation.
“If these matters are prolonged, the relationship will turn bitter and beyond repair. This has been observed by the Supreme Court too. We have already written to district judges to sensitise all judicial officers in the respective districts on PLMC. We will start with the PLMC in Bangalore, before having such facilities across the State,” said an official from the BMC.
The BMC will also organise workshops for judges, police officers and officials from Women and Child Welfare department.
Supreme Court orderThe Supreme Court directions came in the Srinivasa Rao vs Deepa case. Hearing the petition by Rao, a government official from Andhra Pradesh, the division bench comprising Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Aftab Alam directed the state judiciaries to set up PLMCs.
Rao, who had married Deepa on April 25, 1999, got separated from her two days later on April 27, 1999. He moved the apex court against the Andhra Pradesh High Court verdict allowing his wife’s plea of seeking restitution of conjugal rights. The Supreme Court observed that the relationship would not have soured if there was pre-litigation counselling for the couple. “If the parties were sent to a mediation centre or if they had access to a pre-litigation clinic, perhaps bitterness would not have escalated. Things would not have come to such a pass so early.”
The apex court said that before litigations are heard by courts, they must be referred to mediation centres. “When disputes are taken up by family court or by court of first instance for hearing, they must be referred to mediation centres.”
The bench also suggested that even offences punishable under section 498 ‘A’ of Indian Penal Code can be referred to mediation when the courts feel they can be settled through mediation and, if the parties are willing for settlement.