Emphasising that mediation was a major instrument of dispute settlement, Himachal Pradesh High Court judges today asked the judicial officials to be "sensitive" about it, saying it could be used as a tool to reduce pendency of large number of cases. Inaugurating a one-day conference on Mediation, held in HP HC by the HP Judicial Academy for Law Officers of the State, Justice Sanjay Karol made an appeal\u00a0to them to be "sensitive" about mediation as it was a major instrument of dispute in ancient time and incidents of its use can be traced in Ramayana and Mahabharata. He said the year 2015 was a milestone in mediation as out of 1,051 referred cases, 339 got settled. Speaking on the occasion, \u00a0said mediation is a voluntary and party-centred negotiation process, where a third party assists the disputing parties in amicably resolving their disputes by using specialised communication and negotiation techniques. "We have a long tradition of gram panchayats where the panchs used to mediate between the disputing parties to help them in resolving their disputes. "However, with the passage of time and the arrival of adversarial litigation, mediation took a back seat and parties started litigating before the neutral third person," he said. He said at present, with the increase in number of litigations, the pendency of cases in the courts has increased. Justice Sharma said in US, mediation has helped in reducing the pendency considerably. "So much so that mediation is considered as a recognised tool to settle the dispute between the parties prior to filing of a case and even during the trial. Focus on mediation has reduced the pendency of cases considerably and relieving the courts of unnecessary burden and leaving them free to decide cases of public importance which require the expertise of the court," he said. Justice Sharma said same model can be replicated in India not only to reduce the burden of cases but also to bring an end to the culture of litigation and inculcate the culture of settlement, thereby help in reducing the litigation in the short as well as long run. "The time has come for the judges to shed their traditional neutrality and to adopt a pro-active role," he said. Stressing that the law officers must remember that their duty was not only to decide the list of cases brought before them but to settle the dispute forever, Justice Sharma said "It is not possible in traditional adversarial litigation as society has changed a lot in the recent years and time has come for the judiciary to change as well." "The change is not only necessary for the judges of the new century but is also the legislative mandate under section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure," he said.