The Constitution Of India is based on the notion of a welfare state. It is the state’s duty to ensure access to justice for its people by establishing judicial and non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms that provide prompt justice and protect their legal and constitutional rights. Ignorance, poverty and other social dysfunction should not become barriers to justice.
In the Preamble itself, our constitution promises to secure social, economic and political justice to all its citizens. The legal aid camps, family courts, village courts, mediation centers, women centers, commercial arbitration, consumer protection forums etc. are the different facets(aspects) of an effective alternative dispute resolution system.
In a country like India, it is extremely necessary to settle cases rapidly, but the courts alone cannot handle the huge backlog of cases. This can be effectively achieved by applying the mechanism of ADR. The COI contains various articles which are directly or indirectly related to ADR and the most important among them are Article 14, 21, 39A, 40 and 51d.
Article 14 of the constitution embodies the Rule of law which is the basic feature of the Indian constitution. It means that no man is above the law and all are equal in the eyes of law. Hence, article 14 makes it obligatory for the state to ensure equality before law and the legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all. Thus, access to justice, provision of legal aid for the poor and needy people, equal and speedy justice are the enriched goals of our constitution.
Article 21 which guarantees to all persons the right to life and personal liberty has been given a very wide interpretation by the SC to include the right to free legal aid and the right to speedy trial.
Case: Hussainara Khatun V. Home Secretary, Bihar (AIR 1979, SC 1369)
The SC observed that the Right to free legal services is an essential ingredient of reasonable, fair and just procedure for a person accused of an offence and it must be held implicit in the guarantee of Article 21. A procedure cannot be reasonable, fair or just unless it ensures a speedy trial for determination of the guilt of the person deprived of his liberty.
The explanation for this liberal interpretation is that Article 21 is intended to alleviate the mental anguish, expenses and burden that the person has to endure in litigation and which, combined with delay, result in deterioration of the capacity or ability of the accused to defend himself.
ARTICLE 39-A of the DPSPs promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. It imposes an imperative duty upon the state to provide free legal assistance to the poor so as to ensure that opportunities for justice are not denied to any citizen on account of economic or other disabilities.
Case: Center For Legal Research V. State Of Kerala (AIR 1986 SC 322)
The SC suggested that in order to achieve the objective of article 39A the state must encourage and support the participation of voluntary organizations and social action groups in operating the legal aid programs, the court observed that the social obligation of the equal justice and free legal aid has to be implemented by suitable legislation or by formulating scheme for free legal aid.
In the pursuance of this suggestion, the parliament passed the Legal Service Authorities Act, 1987.
Article 40 of the COI directs the state to take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such power and authority as may be necessary and also endow them to function as units of self-government. The constitution (73rd amendment) Act, 1992 has inserted Article 243-A to 243-O to implement the directive principles relating to panchayat contained in Article 40.
Article 51d of the COI directs the state to encourage settlement of international disputes of Arbitration. If any disputes arise in the course of any international commercial transactions to which India is a party, the government should try to resolve such disputes by arbitration.
Thus, it can be said that the constitution of India has given importance to resolution of disputes by alternative means which has been reflected in the various articles of the constitution.