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INAUGURATION OF SOHARTHM HON’BLE DR. JUSTICE A.R. LAKSHMANAN, CHAIRMAN, LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA, DEHRADUN
Date : 04-07-2007
Project Soharthm (Social Harmony through Mediation) conceived by Legal Assistance Forum (LAF) aims for ensuring social harmony in neighborhoods by using the simple mode of mediation/ conciliation for dispute resolution. It is a project to empower, educate, train and motivate Zmembers of the local self governing bodies (Panchayat and Municipality) in dispute resolution through mediation and conciliation within existing legal framework, either without or with minimum involvement of the Courts. This can be achieved by educating, training and guiding members of these self governing bodies.
The project Soharthm was formally announced by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Shivraj Patil, Member, National Human Rights Commission on 18th November, 2006 in the presence of Hon’ble Mr. Justice K.G.Balakrishnan, Chief Justice of India. National Legal Services Authority has agreed to be the technical partners in implementation and has forwarded the project to Government of India for financial approval.
 
On 4th July 2007 at Law College, Dehradun, Uttarakhand Hon’ble Dr. Justice A.R.Lakshmanan, Chairman, Law Commission of India inaugurated project Soharthm and the first workshop for training the prospective conciliators. The workshop was held in two sessions: a Working Session and a Plenary Session. 
Working session
Working session started with the welcome address by Sh. G.P. Sharma, Managing Director, Law College, Dehradun. Mr. Sharma expressed his happiness in welcoming the gathering of about 250 people including about 200 members of 21 Gram Panchayats in Dehradun district, Academicians, media persons and law students. He appreciated the activities of Legal Assistance Forum and introduced the panelists and subjects that they are dealing with.
Mrs.Beena Bahuguna, Ex-President, Gram Panchayat, Nalapani, Dehradun gave a general introduction to the workshop. Mrs.Beena Bahuguna had to the villages to inform them about the workshop and mobilize their presence.
Mr. Vijay Hansaria, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court and President, LAF, in his presidential address, introduced Project Soharthm explained how it will act as a healer of disputes among common man. He said that India has the tradition of dispute resolution mechanism by ‘panch’ or as they are called ‘panch parmeshwar’, i.e. ‘Mediator God’. Our panchs or panchayat members, who have now a Constitutional mandate after the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 to provide social justice, can play a pivotal role in dispute resolution by applying the existing legal provision.
The Participants of the workshop were given training on three topics as part of the project.
  1. ‘Conciliation Mechanism’ under the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996.
  2. ‘Compounding of offences’ under Section 320 of Cr.P.C.
  3. ‘Plea Bargaining’ under Chapter XXIA of Cr.P.C.
Mr. P.I.Jose, Advocate, Supreme Court and Secretary, LAF trained the participants on various aspects of conciliation process. He familiarized the audience on various steps involved in settlement of disputes and preparation of a legally binding settlement agreement.
Mr. K.S.Bhati, Advocate, Supreme Court, and Treasurer LAF elucidated the topic Compounding of offences under section 320 of the Cr.P.C. He explained in detail about resolving a criminal dispute by mutual consent of parties even if it is pending before a court of law.
Mr. Jayesh K.U., Advocate, Supreme Court and Coordinator, Project Soharthm introduced the topic Plea Bargaining under Chapter XXIA of Cr.P.C. and enlightened the participants on using this novel method for speedy conclusion of criminal trials.

Ms. Minakshi Sarma, Jt. Secretary and Ms. Sneha Kalita, Executive Member actively participated.

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