ODR is the resolution of disputes, particularly small- and medium-value cases by using digital technology and techniques of alternate dispute resolution , like negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. While courts are becoming more and more digitized everyday through the efforts of the judiciary, more effective, scalable, and collaborative mechanisms of containment and resolution are urgently needed. ODR can help resolve disputes efficiently, swiftly and affordably.
Major challenges faced by online ADR
Arbitration proceedings have not been widely accepted in India. The ODR mechanism has not been able to build trust and confidence amongst people for obvious constraints of technology, awareness and apprehensive, sceptical approach of people.
- Further, a still spreading technology of access to internet connectivity in the remote areas impedes a quick and welcoming approach towards online arbitration proceedings in the Indian milieu.
- Most existing contracts lack ODR clauses, and amending the contracts, particularly in COVID, is all the more challenging.
- Infrastructural and institutional drawbacks curtail the rapid growth of ODR in almost all developing countries including India.
- Online arbitration is not found to be appropriate for criminal matters and matrimonial disputes.
- There is lack of physical existence and face-to-face interaction between the parties to the dispute.
- The uneven distribution of technology, internet and e-commerce opportunities in the developing countries further postpones the acceptance and recognition of ODR mechanism.
- Lack of proper training to lawyers impedes quick and healthy acceptance of the phenomenal dispute resolution mechanism and thus, there is a need to spread awareness through seminars, training, and campaigns to make lawyers and people legally conscious of the possible measures of dispute resolution.
Initiatives being taken
On June 6, 2020, Niti Aayog in partnership with Agami and Omidyar Network India hosted the first ever key stakeholder meeting to promote Online Dispute Resolution in India. Participants involved senior judges of the Supreme Court, secretaries from Government ministries, industry leaders, legal practitioners, general counsels of leading enterprises from various fields to discuss on the various aspects for development of online dispute resolution in India.
The main aim of the meeting was to explore Online Dispute Resolution to contain and resolve disputes, particularly small and medium value disputes, before they enter formal court processes as a way to enhance access to justice and ease of doing business, by seeing dispute resolution as being one of the key facets to revival of the economy post the pandemic crisis.
With a view to setting up an online ADR institution, HumLab, in association with Vayam and ICICI Bank, launched the E-Alternate Dispute Resolution Challenge 2019 .The challenge invites innovators and practitioners from all fields to set up an institution that will offer e-arbitration services, and will be an online aggregation platform for providers of mediation and conciliation.
Online ADR promises a future where disputes can be resolved swiftly, economically and efficiently. In a developing country like India, where we lack the basic infrastructure of internet in many remote areas, online ADR seems like a dream. However, bridging these gaps over time will truly lead to progress in dispute resolution mechanism in India.