Top mediator quits Singapore mediation panel over ex-Chief Justice’s appointment

Senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a leading name in the Indian mediation practice, has resigned from the panel of the Singapore International Mediation Centre through a scathing e-mail written to the SIMC. In his e-mail, Panchu mentioned the appointment of former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice NV Ramana to the panel as the reason behind his resignation.


In December 2021, India’s first International Arbitration and Mediation Centre was jointly inaugurated by the then CJI NV Ramana and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao in Hyderabad. The Telangana government offered to extend the required infrastructure and other facilities, along with financial assistance, to set up a world-class international arbitration centre and mediation centre in Hyderabad.

Speaking at the inauguration, Justice Ramana said he was confident that the IAMC will lead the way for arbitration and mediation in the country and will become the premier centre not only in India, but across Asia and the world.

About six months later, in June 2022, Panchu, in an op-ed published in The Wire, condemned the manner in which the IAMC was set up, stating that India’s mediation process was facing the threat of being “captured by retired judges”.

He also accused Justice Ramana of using his judicial office to benefit himself and his former colleagues by way of post-retirement benefits.

This kicked off a war of words amongst lawyers and former judges on the allegations raised by Panchu and the setting up of the IAMC itself.

In August, Justice Ramana, now retired, was appointed as a member of the International Mediator Panel of SIMC. Chairman of SIMC George Lim presented the former CJI with the letter of appointment in Singapore. Following this, Panchu (who was a member of the same panel) tendered his resignation in a strongly worded e-mail, raising questions about Justice Ramana’s appointment.


In a short, but scathing e-mail written to the SIMC Secretariat, Panchu said the former CJI “has caused great damage to the cause of mediation and judicial propriety by starting, as a virtually private venture, the International Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Hyderabad when he was heading the country’s judiciary”.

Additionally, he has questioned the appointment of Justice Ramana as an “expert mediator”, alleging that there was no known record of any mediation conducted by him. He also raised allegations of misuse of office against the former CJI.

Speaking to India Today on his resignation, Panchu said, “It is deeply saddening that it is the former head of India’s judiciary who is at the heart of this controversy. Apart from the individual, it raises serious systemic questions.”


The IAMC was constituted by way of a trust deed that was drafted in August 2021. Justice Ramana was the author of the trust deed. Justice Ramana, established the IAMC as a Public Charitable Trust, considering the need for alternate dispute resolution processes for effective justice delivery in the country.

The board, appointed by Justice Ramana, consists of two life trustees — Justice Nageswara Rao (who was then a sitting Supreme Court judge) and retired Justice RV Raveendran (former Supreme Court judge). Both have been appointed for life or until they voluntarily resign from office. It also consists of two ex-officio trustees who are the Chief Justice of Telangana High Court and the law minister of the state.

Justice Hima Kohli, who was then Chief Justice of Telangana High Court and A Indrakaran Reddy, Telangana’s Law Minister were appointed as the ex-officio trustees. Justice Ramana, himself, is not on the board.

The trust deed also specifically mentions a clause on the irrevocability of the trust stating that “in the event of dissolution, all assets of the trust shall be transferred to an association of persons or trust or society having similar objects of the trust”.

It is pertinent to note that the IAMC’s trust deed does not specify any role for the author post-creation of the trust. A donor, author or founder of a trust can, generally, include himself as a trustee. However, this is not the case with the IAMC.


Mediation is an alternate form of dispute resolution in India where an impartial third party neutrally assists disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialised communication and negotiation techniques. It’s a voluntary, “party-centered” process of arriving at a resolution. Cases across domains from commercial, transactional, workplace-related, family matters etc. can be referred for mediation.

Any person who undergoes the required 40 hours of training as stipulated by the Mediation and Conciliation Project Committee of the Supreme Court can be a mediator. He or she also needs to have at least ten mediations resulting in a settlement and at least twenty mediations in all to be eligible to be accredited as a “qualified mediator”.

A mediation is different from a court proceeding to the extent that it is an informal process with no strict or binding rules of procedure. It is completely confidential and allows the parties to interact on a one-on-one basis in the presence of a mediator who is impartial, neutral and manages the interactions between the two parties.

(No response was received from Justice Ramana at the time of publishing this story. The story will be updated with his comments as and when he responds.)

Edited By:

Prateek Chakraborty

Published On:

Sep 6, 2023

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