Taking mediation to the masses

17 Oct 2013

imageMaya Bhowmic, General Secretary of Kishoreganj district Mahila Parisad speaking at a meeting with the Justices. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh.
Advocate Maya Bhowmic, General Secretary of Kishoreganj district Mahila Parisad, a women’s rights organization, was overwhelmed by the fact that for the first time ever she had the opportunity to interact with Justices of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

Meeting Supreme Court Justices face to face is extremely rare but with UNDP’s Judicial Strengthening (JUST) project such meetings will become more frequent as the Justices look to take their expertise out into the field to help train and mentor district judges and lawyers.

In an effort to strengthen the court system to reduce case backlogs, the JUST project took Supreme Court Justices and turned them into resources persons for mediation and other workshops, thereby bringing judicial minds from the very top of the system to district judges and lawyers that would otherwise have never had the opportunity to meet and interact with them.

JUST project supports the Judiciary in strengthening its capacity to administer the court system while also helping to reduce case backlogs. A reduction would provide a sustainable foundation to improve access to justice to the public, especially, vulnerable groups such as poor, women and children.

Advocate Maya Bhowmic said, ‘I hope after the training when the judge will declare the date for mediation he must show his willingness to solve it through mediation process.’

She further added, “The knowledge and skills we attained from the training with the Justices on mediation tools and techniques and the sessions on psychological aspects of mediation and case management will enable me to resolve cases through mediation and reunite broken families.” 

“A lawyer is the trusted legal expert of his client. If a lawyer is not fully aware of the benefits of mediation and he does not encourage his client for mediation then it will be difficult to make the exercise a success,” said Mr. Justice Md. Muzammel Hossain, Hon’ble Chief Justice of Bangladesh while attending the programme as a chief guest.

A set of recommendations also attained from the training will lead to further training on mediation for the judges and lawyers of the other pilot district courts and training of trainers (TOT).  They include general training techniques and methods to enhance training capacity of the judiciary to make similar events more participatory and interactive.

For the first time, JUST organized an in-depth training for the lawyers of Kishoreganj district where 43 lawyers attended. The course was titled ‘’Training of Lawyers on the Role of Mediation and Better Case Management in Dispensation of Quality Justice in Civil Cases’’. The training was held at Kishoreganj circuit house conference hall from 04 to 05 October 2013. Similar to other training events, judges from the Appellate and high court division of the Supreme Court accompanied the Chief justice to deliver the training courses.

The training offered an exceptional opportunity for lower court lawyers to interact with the Judges of the Appellate and High Court Division, a rare act even if one looks for global examples. Through the training, the young lawyers got an opportunity to clear out their doubts on the different aspects of mediation including stages of mediation, tools and techniques, role of mediators, best practices, case management mechanism, impediments and psychological aspects of mediation.

The project has successfully conducted three mediation awareness raising workshops at Kishorgonj, Rangamatiand and Dhaka District Courts followed by two TOT trainings for resolving the civil cases through mediation in order to reduce case backlogs and create a win-win situation for litigants.  The project hopes to train more than 200 judges and lawyers through its trained resource persons, graduates of TOTs and judges of the Supreme Court. If the training comes from a Supreme Court Justice, then it’s safe to say the participants are in good hands.