Culture may be defined as "the shared assumptions, values, and beliefs of a group of people which result in characteristic behaviours". While culture may change and adapt through contact with outsiders, the deep structure of a culture, including values and beliefs, tends to persist from generation to generation.

Impact of Culture on Dispute Resolution:

  1. Culture dictates how we frame our interactions, including disputes and how we resolve them. Parties approach disputes with different mindsets, informed by underlying cultural forces. Cultural fluency defines the way parties communicate, frame conflicts and approach and understand different identities and roles.
  2. All laws and the law-makers reflect the cultural ethos of the society. A traditional and conservative society has stricter norms and harsher penalties for their violation, while a more contemporary society has a more relaxed set of norms and laws that govern the citizen's life. For instance, an outcry against excessive violence and sex in films leading to stricter censorship laws is just an expression of culture prevailing upon the laws.
  3. The Indian legal system has grown and evolved with the lives and aspirations of its diverse people and cultures. It is inspired and strengthened by age-old concepts and precepts of justice, equity, and good conscience, which are, indeed, the hallmarks of common law.
    1. The cultural dimensions of the law are especially important for marginalized groups, as law can act as a barrier to political and social inclusion or offer protection from discrimination. For example, the Indian legal system, through Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India, provides for protection of cultural and educational rights.
    2. The laws of India relating to matrimonial disputes emphasize the need, and indeed the duty, of the presiding judge to ensure that all avenues for reconciliation have been exhausted before granting a divorce. This is because Indian culture abhors a broken family and this is reflected in the matrimonial laws.
  4. Culture is found to have direct effects on a court's ability to achieve legal ideals, such as timeliness, access and fairness, and managerial effectiveness, but this empirical relationship does not presume any one culture is more desirable than another. A reason why some cultures might come closer than others is because judges and managers in some courts act to avoid the limitations associated with their present culture.
  5. Although an individual's culture does not necessarily determine the attitude and behaviour he will bring to the table, it can provide valuable guidelines as to which negotiation strategies are likely to work and which are likely to end in failure.
  6. Values composing a court's culture shape the how, why, and when of decisions made by judges and the activities conducted by staff members. Because these individuals are responsible for putting policies and procedures into place, they are the key ingredients for ideas to take hold. For this reason, cultural values are more important to assess as indicators of the current state of affairs than virtually any other aspect of a court, such as structure, organization, process or resources.
  7. Thus, the culture, tradition, and values of a society not only form the foundation of the laws that govern it, but changes in values and traditions with the passage of time also influence and bring about fresh legislation reflecting the changed ethos of a society, underlining the ever-present link between culture and law.

For example: The courts have now adopted a new approach for interpretation of commercial contracts i.e. the concept of Relational contract wherein the attempt has been made to weave implied good faith into the contract along with the express terms.

The concept of relational contracts which dates back to 1889 wherein Lord Bowen in the judgment titled The Moorcock1 propounded the 'business efficacy' test, as per which a proposed term would be implied if it is necessary to give business efficacy to the transaction as must have been intended at all events by both parties who are business men. Recently, the principle of implying good faith terms into a commercial contract to boost business efficacy has been recognized by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the case titled Nabha Power Limited vs Punjab State Power Corporation2 in the form of Penta principles which include:

  1. reasonable and equitable;
  2. necessary to give business efficacy to the contract;
  3. it goes without saying, i.e., The Officious Bystander Test;
  4. capable of clear expression; and
  5. must not contradict any express term of the contract which are centralized around the business efficacy of a contract.

Therefore, a cultural shift in the interpretation of contracts can be evidently seen in this scenario.


1 [1889] 14 PD 64

2 (2018) 11 SCC 508

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