Mission Mediation: Collaborative Justice Makes Business Sense

Jonathan Rodrigues is a lawyer and mediator, currently leading the online mediation vertical at CAMP Mediation in Bangalore. He is the co-founder of The PACT and a visiting faculty at MNLU Mumbai. He studied Psychology and Law at Goa University, before pursuing his LL.M. in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK.

What attracted you to mediation as an alternative means for dispute resolution?
As a student of psychology, I was attending Law College thinking there is more to disputes than what meets the eye. I couldn’t stop thinking about the ‘people’ linked to the ‘problem’ and what was probably going through their minds. Do people chase ‘retribution’ in the name of ‘justice’? Or are people seeking something more satisfying – peace, resolution, settlement, closure? Mediation is nothing but collaborative justice. A lawyer by education and a mediator by practice, I find it professionally thrilling and morally satisfying to steer disputing participants to a resolution via dialogue. Whether it’s a sophisticated commercial dispute or a complex personal or community dispute, I have the confidence in guiding the ‘people’ concerned to find their own mutually-acceptable solution to the ‘problem’.

How do you propose to create awareness about the practice of mediation in Goa?
Goa has huge potential to lead the nation’s economic reboot in the post-pandemic era. It was ranked as a ‘front-runner’ in the SDG India Index 2019-20 showing its true potential to lead from the front and set trends that inspire the nation. Goan business leaders can lead the way in helping diffuse the concept of collaborative justice in the society. Via CAMP Mediation, I am looking forward to collaborating with visionary business leaders in Goa in creating platforms for awareness, through workshops, webinars, etc., and designing pre-litigation mediation mechanisms to settle disputes amicably, quickly and economically.
Similarly, there is immense scope in working with corporates and companies to create awareness about workplace conflict resolution, to encourage disputants to try mediation, before filing complaints with the ICC or Labour Courts. Keeping up with the national trend, Goan business firms could also explore the possibility of inserting a ‘mediation clause’ in their contracts, to give themselves a window of opportunity to resolve out-of-court before pursuing lengthy litigation battles. Nationally, we also work closely with legal teams of major companies in identifying what kind of cases are suitable for mediation and assist them in reaching out to the other side, inviting both parties to give mediation a try.

What industries / sectors in Goa do you feel have the scope to explore mediation?
There is tremendous scope for mediation in the real-estate, construction, tourism and hospitality sectors in Goa, besides the MSME sector. Introducing a window for mediation would allow these sectors to focus on innovation and business, instead of spending their resources on stressful and uncertain courtroom battles. Goa slipped 5 places backwards to 24th last year on the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) rankings and that is not a positive reputation for a small State with so much potential. Importantly, mediation can help achieve sustainable development, bridging the gap between environment and economy. Every social movement should have a voice, but these voices would be better heard in a mediation setting, where representatives from either side can sit at the table and find constructive, amicable solutions that help the youth and the State government build a better Goa.

What are the statistics that make mediation more attractive, time / cost effective vis-a-vis traditional litigation?
I did a TEDx Talk in 2019 to reason out why mediation makes the best first-option to resolve disputes, before pursuing arbitration or litigation. It is a fact that the average lifespan of a mediation case is around 15-25 hours, while the average lifespan of a civil court case is around 12-15 years.
We are comparing ‘hours’ with ‘years’, so I rest my case. Consequent to the vast difference in timelines, parties end up spending 1/10th of what they would shell out on court proceedings, if it were pursued up to the Supreme Court. Additionally, there are psychological, mental and emotional strains on personal, professional and business relationships. Agreed, not every case can be mediated or should be mediated; and similarly, not every case needs to be litigated. Therefore, I invite the business community in Goa to try mediation today and witness for themselves, if it makes financial, social and professional sense for their business.
Today, we don’t need to travel to Bangalore, Delhi or Bombay to find the best mediation services; the entire process from the convening to the settlement agreement is made accessible on a safe, secure CAMP-CREK online platform.
Mediation is the future of dispute resolution in India, and this has been recently recognised by legislative amendments and even a proposed model mediation law, which is on its way to parliament.

Any case studies or experiences in your realm of work that you wish to share with our readers?
This case is from the last decade, where a former employer pressed IP infringement suit against past employees. For a new startup, the dreams came crushing without any real ascertainment of IP infringement. But, with the help of a trained mediator and experts at CAMP Mediation, parties saw value in moving forward. As a part of the settlement package, ex-employees carved out their IP with which they could restart their venture; monetary compensation was agreed for former employer. Dreams were fuelled and recharged, a win-win for all – all cases filed were withdrawn.
In another interesting case from 2020, sustained payment defaults by purchaser in a supply contract, resulted in a winding up petition. In the safety of a mediation process, the mediator helped parties build trust and understand temporary cash constraints and specific supply issues. Facilitated by the trained mediator from CAMP Mediation, parties were able to appreciate the value in continuing their business relationship and at the same time find a creative way to settle past claims. In this instance as well, all filed cases were withdrawn

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