Mediation of disputes has a long history in Bhutan. It was the customary law before the advent of the modern Legal System. The monolithic stone pillar of Nabji-Korphu Lhakhang in Trongsa stands as a towering testimony of an age-old practice of mediation and negotiation for dispute resolution. Guru Padmasambhava was one of the known mediators of the past and is praised for his successful negotiation of peace between the two rival kings; Sindhu Raja and King Nouche. His Majesty, the First Druk Gyelpo, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuk was a pioneer in the field of negotiation for mediating disputes between British India and Tibet.
But what exactly is Mediation? Known as Nangkha Nangdrig, mediation is generally understood as an intervention of a third party Mediator or Barmi where the Mediator, assuming the role of a facilitator, tries to convince parties of the benefits of settling disputes internally, instead of seeking court intervention. This mechanism of dispute resolution ensures a win-win situation, resolving a conflict amicably.
Under the visionary leadership of the Hon. President of Bhutan National Legal Institute, Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuk, the institute endeavors to institutionalize the age-old practice of mediation in the Kingdom. The institute has successfully trained all the local government leaders on the subject matters of mediation and has witnessed a significant decrease in the number of case pendency in Courts. The Institute is now poised to bring mediation to Court in the form of Court-Annexed Mediation in Bhutan.
The main objectives of Court-Annexed Mediation are to:
- Enhance access to justice;
- Promote restorative justice;
- Preserve relationships between litigants which may become strained or destroyed by the adversarial nature of litigation;
- Facilitate an expeditious and cost-effective resolution of dispute between the litigants; and
- Strengthen community vitality and enhance the Gross National Happiness.
Trainings by Bhutan National Legal Institute
Bhutan National Legal Institute has conducted two phases of Court-Annexed Mediation training for the Bench Clerks. The first Phase included 30 participants from six Dzongkhags and two Dungkhags. It was held in Paro from 18 – 23 June 2019. The second Phase consisted of 28 Courts and a total of 50 participants. It was held in Thimphu from 19 – 24 August. During these six-day training, the participants were articulately explained the principles of mediation, the process and engaged in mediation role-play. A great emphasis was maintained on the professional ethics and conduct of the mediators and in harnessing the qualities of negotiation and dispute resolution. The Institute successfully trained at-least one senior Bench Clerk in every Courts in Bhutan.
Significance of Court-Annexed Mediation Unit
The inauguration of the first Court-Annexed Mediation Unit in Bhutan is a blessing for the Justice sector. It represents the first step towards accomplishing the vision of the Hon.a President of Bhutan National Legal Institute, Her Royal Highness, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuk in revitalizing and institutionalizing mediation in the Court System. The practice of mediation authorized by the courts has been present since the first inception of the courts. The laws mandated courts to provide mediation opportunities to the parties even after the registration of the cases, at any stage of hearing, however with the establishment of the unit, the practice will be strengthened and legitimized.
The benefits derived from Court-Annexed Mediation shall work in two dimensions; benefits to the Courts and benefits to the parties. The institution of Court-Annexed Mediation will allow the Courts to function efficiently through efficient use of judicial resources in cases where mediation has failed or cannot be mediated. It will garner Public trust and confidence in the judicial system and reduce the number of pendency of cases and cases going on appeal. It will help save the time and cost of the court.
The parties shall also benefit by saving their time and money. The outcome of Court-Annexed Mediation will fulfill the desires and aspiration of the parties, leaving them contended and satisfied. The reputation of the parties will be safeguarded through the confidentiality process and the relationships between the conflicted parties will be persevered, ultimately leading to a flourishing community.
The inauguration of the first Court-Annexed Mediation Unit was held in Punakha, Royal Court of Justice and the Hon. President of Bhutan National Legal Institute, Her Royal Highness, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuk, graced the program on 29 October 2019.
(Inauguration of First Court-Annexed Mediation Unit in Punakha, Royal Court of Justice)
- Parties Request for Mediation.
- Judicial Referral to Mediation
- Consent For Mediation
- Mediation Report
- Mediation Settlement Agreement Form