Definition of Online Dispute Resolution
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that takes place online with the convenience of high-speed internet. In a 2017 report released by UNCITRAL defines ODR as a mechanism that assists parties in resolving disputes in a simple, fast and flexible manner without the need for a physical presence at a meeting or a hearing. Exchange of documents in an ODR usually happens through emails and the actual proceedings may take place on video conferences. This is especially a very convenient mechanism for parties who have conflicting schedules.
ODR in India
The 2020 pandemic of COVID-19 led to a nationwide lockdown. It was during these times the demand for ODR proceedings in the country saw an all-time high. With the need to practice social distancing and proper hygiene measures, ODR came to the rescue of many parties. ODR proceedings ensure the perfect balance between quick dispute settlement without actual physical contact between parties.
Many notified personalities in the country have made positive comments towards using ODR as a mode for dispute resolution.
Niti Aayog ( an initiative by the Government of India) in collaboration with Agami and Omidyar Network India hosted the first-ever meeting to discuss the advancement of Online Dispute Resolution in India. Several senior judges of the Supreme Court, secretaries from Government ministries, industry leaders, legal practitioners, general counsels of leading enterprises participated and contributed to this discussion.
Nandan Nilekani the Co-founder and Non-Executive Chairperson, suggests ODR as a way to reduce the load on the judicial system. Particularly, in the near future especially post lockdown period where an increase in the number of commercial and financial disputes will be observed. It would be the right time for ODR systems to take charge. He further adds that ODR must aim to try various innovations within the private ODR framework and once successful integrate itself into formal court processes.
Justice DY Chandrachud, Judge, Supreme Court of India, lists several parameters that should be thought about by ODR platforms to ensure increasing popularity of ODR mechanisms within the country: ODR platforms must aim promote user confidence in the process, incorporate elements of design thinking to understand user needs for an ODR platform and employ data management tools to ensure predictability, consistency, transparency, and efficiency of this process.
ODR Platforms in India
In recent times, more and more ODR platforms have become operable in the country facilitating convenient and quick dispute resolution for many national and international companies. There are also instances of disputes between individuals have been resolved through ODR. These ODR platforms have made easy the process of dispute resolution by combining the already existing process of ADR with cutting edge technology, making the process feasible and time convenient altogether. The most popular ODR platforms in the country are:
- SAMA is an ODR platform that conducts dispute resolution in a fully online, fast and cost-effective manner.
- Centre for Online Dispute Resolution (CODR) is an ODR platform with a speciality of resolving relationship property dispute. This deals with the division of property after the end of a relationship.
- AGAMI launched its ODR initiative in December 2018 which works towards promoting ODR as a means for dispute resolution.
- The Centre for Alternate Dispute Resolution Excellence (CADRE) provides parties with a website based platform for ODR.
Modus operandi of these platforms: One of the parties to a dispute approaches the ODR platform which then takes up the responsibility to contact the opposite party. Once the opposite party agrees then an ODR professional is appointed by the platform. All communication usually happens through e-mails. The parties then make contact electronically via video calls. Once both the parties with the help of the ODR professional come to a settlement, a settlement agreement is drafted. After final acceptance of the agreement by both the parties, it will be become legally enforceable.
Future of ODR in India
ODR is currently at a nascent stage in India. This transformation to a technology-driven, paperless and seamless dispute resolution format is a welcome relief to all. ODR having a simple and effective mechanism has every probability to evolve into a form of mainstream dispute settlement mechanism. The future of ODR in India looks promising, time-saving and cost-effective.
ODR will ensure an increase in employment opportunities for legal professionals. It will allow them to carry out their profession from the convenience of their own home/office. It is the right time for interested law students to start building their careers towards becoming a qualified ODR professional. Most ODR platforms and also some other well-known educational websites offer a variety of short term and long term certificate courses on ODR.