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Boosting online dispute resolution in India

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) held a virtual meeting with key stakeholders to advance online dispute resolution (ODR) in India.

ODR is the resolving of disputes, particularly small and medium-value cases, using digital technology and techniques of alternate dispute resolution (ADR), such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.

While courts are becoming digitised 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 and affordably.

Senior judges of the Supreme Court, secretaries from key government ministries, leaders of the industry, legal experts, and general counsels of leading enterprises explored the opportunities and specifics of what lies ahead, a press release noted.

It said that the common theme was a multi-stakeholder agreement to work collaboratively to catalyse ODR in India.

The seminal meeting generated tremendous recognition of the opportunities that ODR presents in India. A multi-stakeholder exercise will be undertaken in the coming weeks to help achieve this in a sustainable, efficient, and collaborative manner for the transformation of justice delivery across various facets.

During the meeting, the NITI Aayog CEO, Amitabh Kant said, that the meeting is the start of a collaborative exercise that sets into motion the use of technology towards efficient and affordable access to justice in a post-pandemic response.

Justice DY Chandrachud said that artificial intelligence and blockchain have the potential to unlock disputes. The government has a pool of data on the National Judicial Data Grid, which can be analysed.

The e-committee has decided to adopt open APIs to boost creativity and entrepreneurial energy for justice services.

Highlighting the need for ODR during the pandemic, an official said that the government should target COVID-19-related disputes first (through ODR) because those are people who would like for their disputes to be resolved as quickly as possible. This is an important part of the economic revival.

Justice Indu Malhotra spoke of the nuanced specifics that could be considered for scaling ODR. Making ODR or ADR voluntary may defeat the purpose. It should be made mandatory for specified categories, and it should cover about three sessions so that parties don’t feel that it’s a mere formality.

ODR is convenient, accurate, time-saving, and cost-effective.

The Law Secretary, Anoop Kumar Mendiratta, noted that private ODR and ADR providers need to be complemented to ensure that online resolution can reach different industries, locations, and parts of the country and also support public institutions in a big way.

The future will have both offline courts, online courts, and ODR. The government must reimagine the whole process of justice delivery to work in the new system, and this will require good data.

COVID-19 has instilled an urgent need for ODR that requires decisive action, with the likelihood of a spurt in disputes before the courts-most notably in lending, credit, property, commerce, and retail.

In the coming months, ODR could be the mechanism that helps with achieving expedient resolution.

A recent media report quoted Kant saying that one of the most encouraging developments during COVID-19 pandemic is how progressive and innovative the Supreme Court has been in adopting technology.

The country’s courts are digitalising its processes in a sustainable and forward-thinking manner, and each arm of the Indian system is working towards a solution-driven future, he claimed.

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