The Mediation Bill, 2021: An Analysis Of Key Features And Issues

Posted On - 8 August, 2023 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva

Mediation As A Catalyst For Effective Dispute Resolution

In today’s complex and interconnected world, conflicts and disputes are an inevitable part of human interactions. Whether in business, family, community, or legal matters, disputes can often lead to protracted and costly battles in the traditional court system. In response to the increasing burden on courts and the need for more efficient methods of resolving disputes, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms have gained significant attention and popularity. One such mechanism that has emerged as a powerful catalyst for effective dispute resolution is mediation.

Mediation is a voluntary and collaborative process where parties in a dispute come together with the assistance of a neutral third party, the mediator, to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Unlike litigation or arbitration, mediation empowers the disputants to maintain control over the outcome and actively participate in finding a solution that meets their interests and needs. The mediator facilitates communication, identifies underlying issues, and guides the parties through constructive negotiations, fostering an environment of understanding and empathy.

The appeal of mediation lies in its adaptability to various contexts, be it in civil, commercial, family, community, or international disputes. By offering an informal and confidential platform for dialogue, mediation provides a safe space for parties to express their concerns, explore potential solutions, and craft agreements that suit their unique circumstances. Moreover, the mediation process promotes a sense of empowerment and ownership over the outcome, which can foster more sustainable and lasting resolutions.

Despite its numerous advantages, mediation in many jurisdictions, including our own, often operates without a comprehensive and uniform legislative framework. While some statutes and court rules do provide for court-referred or private mediations, the absence of a dedicated mediation law has resulted in fragmented practices and varying standards across the country. This lack of coherence not only hampers the growth of mediation as a mainstream dispute-resolution mechanism but also raises concerns about the consistency and quality of mediation services.

To address these issues and bolster the standing of mediation in the legal landscape, the parliament has taken a significant step forward. In 2021, a Mediation Bill was introduced with the aim of providing a comprehensive and robust framework to govern mediation processes in the country. The bill seeks to promote and institutionalize mediation as a credible alternative to court litigation, emphasizing the importance of early and consensual dispute resolution.

At present, the bill is under scrutiny and is being evaluated by the standing committees. If enacted, it could have a transformative impact on the way disputes are resolved in our nation. The potential benefits are manifold – reduced court backlog, faster case disposition, significant cost savings, and increased satisfaction among disputing parties. Moreover, the bill is expected to foster a culture of mediation, encouraging individuals and businesses to proactively seek mediation as a first step in dispute resolution.

This introductory chapter sets the stage for a comprehensive exploration of mediation, its principles, its application across various domains, and an in-depth analysis of the Mediation Bill, 2021. As we delve into the intricacies of this essential topic, we aim to shed light on how mediation can contribute to a more harmonious and efficient justice system, benefiting not only the parties involved but also society as a whole.

I. Highlights Of The Bill

  1. Mandatory Pre-Litigation Mediation:
    • Parties must attempt mediation before filing a civil or commercial dispute in court or certain tribunals.
    • Even if initial mediation fails, parties may request the court or tribunal to refer the case to mediation at any stage.
  2. Disputes Unsuitable for Mediation:
    • The bill lists disputes unfit for mediation, including those involving criminal prosecution or affecting third-party rights.
    • The central government has the authority to amend this list.
  3. Applicability:
    • The bill covers mediations involving only domestic parties or at least one foreign party in a commercial dispute (international mediation) conducted in India.
    • Parties can opt for the bill’s mediation process in their agreement.
  4. Mediation Process:
    • Mediation proceedings are confidential and must conclude within 180 days, extendable by an additional 180 days by mutual agreement.
    • Parties may withdraw from mediation after two sessions.
  5. Mediators:
    • Parties can appoint any person as a mediator by mutual agreement.
    • If no agreement is reached, parties may seek a mediator from a mediation service provider’s panel.
  6. Mediation Council of India:
    • The central government will establish the Mediation Council of India to regulate mediators.
    • The Council’s functions include registering mediators and recognizing mediation service providers and institutes.
  7. Binding Settlement Agreements:
    • Agreements resulting from mediation are legally binding and enforceable as court judgments.
    • Settlement agreements may be challenged in specific instances like fraud, corruption, impersonation, or involving disputes unsuitable for mediation.
  8. Community Mediation:
    • Community mediation attempts to resolve disputes that may affect local peace and harmony.
    • A panel of three mediators, including representatives of resident welfare associations, can conduct community mediation.

II. Key Issues And Analysis

  1. Mandatory Pre-Litigation Mediation:
    • The bill mandates mediation participation, raising concerns about the voluntary nature of mediation.
    • Potential benefits include reduced court burden and out-of-court settlements.
    • However, it may lead to procedural formalities and additional costs if parties unwillingly participate.
  2. Composition of the Mediation Council:
    • The bill lacks representation of practicing mediators in the Mediation Council, potentially hindering its effectiveness.
    • Similar regulatory bodies for professionals usually include experienced practitioners.
  3. Prior Approval Requirement for Council Regulations:
    • The Council’s requirement for central government approval before issuing regulations might limit its autonomy.
    • Such approval may not be necessary for professional regulatory bodies.
  4. Enforcement of International Mediated Settlements:
    • The bill only covers settlement agreements from international mediation conducted within India.
    • Settlements resulting from international mediation conducted abroad may face enforcement challenges in India.
  5. Four Registrations for Pre-Litigation Mediators:
    • Pre-litigation mediators need registration and empanelment from multiple bodies, which could be redundant and cumbersome.
    • The bill should consider streamlining the registration process for such mediators.


The Mediation Bill, 2021 seeks to establish mediation as a key dispute resolution mechanism in India. While its mandatory pre-litigation mediation provision has advantages, it must carefully address concerns about its voluntary nature. Moreover, the composition and functioning of the Mediation Council require further examination. Addressing these issues will ensure a robust and efficient mediation framework for civil and commercial disputes in the country.


What is mediation, and how does it differ from other dispute resolution methods?

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process in which parties involved in a dispute work with an impartial third party, known as a mediator, to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Unlike litigation, where a judge makes decisions, or arbitration, where an arbitrator imposes a binding decision, mediation relies on voluntary agreement. The mediator facilitates communication, helps parties explore their interests, and assists in finding common ground. Mediation is non-adversarial, confidential, and allows parties to maintain control over the outcome.

Is participation in pre-litigation mediation mandatory under the Mediation Bill, 2021?

Yes, the Mediation Bill, 2021 makes it mandatory for parties to attempt pre-litigation mediation before approaching any court or certain tribunals for civil or commercial disputes. Parties must engage in mediation before filing a case. Even if mediation does not lead to a settlement, parties can request the court or tribunal to refer the dispute to mediation at any stage of the proceedings.

What role does the Mediation Council of India play in the mediation process?

The Mediation Council of India is established by the central government under the Mediation Bill, 2021. It is responsible for regulating the profession of mediators and ensuring the effectiveness and quality of mediation services. The Council’s functions include registering mediators, recognizing mediation service providers and institutes, setting professional conduct standards for mediators and institutions, and grading mediation service providers. The Council aims to promote the growth and standardization of mediation practices in India.

King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys

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