The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most businesses to change their modus operandi, and the field of law has not been a stranger to it. It has forced the courts to take up electronic means to deliver justice and enable general legal procedures. The world of alternative dispute resolution has also set its boat afloat in taking up electronic modes to facilitate dispute resolution. The concept of virtual mediation is still underway to see any significant amendments in this particular aspect.
Existing Legal Framework for Indian Mediation Cases
It is unknown that mediation is a popularly used method of negotiating between two or more parties to arrive at a common means of operation and avoid court hassles. The formal courts often recommend this procedure themselves, especially in marital or family-related disputes, to encourage the parties to resolve conflicts before moving to the court to file the case formally.
For the same purpose, the legal framework recognizes the need for mediation as long as contract-like conditions are being fulll by the nature of the case. Like the result of arbitration, mediation and conciliation cases need to have agreements that fulfill the requirements of s.73 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 2015 before they can receive the status of a successful mediation which can further become a decree and be enforced by a court.
Virtual Mediation in Light of COVID-19.
Although online dispute resolution methods are not new in practice, the popularity with which ODR is now used can be owed to the government-mandated lockdowns that have been ordered time and again, owing to the onset of a global pandemic.
The scope of virtual mediation seems to be broadening as in the time of need, the respective judicial authorities concerned with alternative dispute resolution methods have been permitted and making their efforts to ensure that virtual mediation is as effective as in-person mediation procedures, the evidence of which lies in the use of electronic devices and available technology.
The procedures now openly take place through video conferencing between the parties and mediators, and to maintain the effect of an agreement being entered mutually, the parties are now being asked to make use of apps like DocuSign to provide their signature digitally, furthermore, to ensure complete confidentiality, professionalism, and data security, mediators are now asked to ensure their qualifications and neutrality before taking up their duties in what is known as a “pre-mediation dialogue” so that the parties are comfortable before proceeding with the virtual method.
While the transition from mediation to virtual mediation may seem smooth, there seem to be ample grounds for improvement to be made as technology cannot be incorporated in a traditionally ‘offline’ procedure with such great ease. For the same reason, more attention needs to be paid to how digital transformation can revolutionize the process of dispute resolution, simply because the dire situation caused by the pandemic calls for a solution that resonates with the cavity above.
This Article Does Not Intend To Hurt The Sentiments Of Any Individual Community, Sect, Or Religion Etcetera. This Article Is Based Purely On The Authors Personal Views And Opinions In The Exercise Of The Fundamental Right Guaranteed Under Article 19(1)(A) And Other Related Laws Being Force In India, For The Time Being. Further, despite all efforts made to ensure the accuracy and correctness of the information published, White Code VIA Mediation and Arbitration Centre shall not be responsible for any errors caused due to human error or otherwise.