NITI Aayog Pushes for Online Dispute Resolution for Speedy Access to Justice
- NITI Aayog released the report ‘Designing the Future of Dispute Resolution: The ODR Policy Plan for India’, to scale dispute avoidance, containment and resolution online.
- This report is a culmination of the action plan made by a committee constituted at the peak of the Covid crisis by NITI Aayog on ODR in 2020 and chaired by Supreme Court Justice (Retd) AK Sikri.
- This report recommends measures at three levels to tackle challenges in adopting ODR framework in India.
As per report the three levels to tackle challenges in adopting ODR framework in India are as follows:
At the structural level, it suggests actions to increase digital literacy, improve access to digital infrastructure and train professionals as neutrals to deliver ODR services.
At the behavioural level, the report recommends adoption of ODR to address disputes involving Government departments and ministries.
At the regulatory level, the report recommends a soft-touch approach to regulate ODR platforms and services.
- This involves laying down design and ethical principles to guide ODR service providers to self-regulate while fostering growth and innovations in the ecosystem.
- This report also stresses on strengthening the existing legislative framework for ODR by introducing necessary amendments to statutes.
- This report offers a phased implementation framework for ODR in India.
What is ODR?
- ODR is the resolution of disputes, particularly small- and medium-value cases, using digital technology and techniques of ADR, such as arbitration, conciliation and mediation.
- It refers to the process of using technology for dispute avoidance, containment and resolution outside the traditional court system.
- As a dispute resolution avenue it can be provided both as an extension of the public court system and outside of it.
- World over, the potential of dispute resolution mechanisms, especially through technology, is being recognized.
- Increasingly, ODR has received impetus across Government, businesses and even the judicial processes to tide over the constraints due to Covid-19.
Why Do We Need ODR?
- The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a large section of society unable to receive timely access to justice.The pandemic also led to a deluge of disputes further burdening the already lengthy court processes.
- As the premier policy think tank of Government of India, NITI Aayog undertook a transformative initiative to use technology and innovation to help bring affordable, effective and timely justice to those who needed it the most.
- ODR has the potential to help reduce the burden on the court and efficiently resolve several categories of cases.
- It may also be integrated to support the judiciary through technology integration in court-annexed Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) centres, via e-lokadalats and also be introduced within Government departments for internal disputes.
BENEFITS OF ODR
- Cost effective
- ODR offers a costeffective mode of dispute resolution for the disputants as well as the Neutrals.
- By its very nature, ODR does not require parties to travel long distances or rent a facility to conduct the dispute resolution.
- Further, ODR has the potential to reduce legal costs, by way of reduced time for resolution and by doing away with the need for legal advice in select categories of cases.
- Convenient and quick
- ODR can address such delays by providing a faster and more convenient process for resolution of disputes.
- In itself, ADR employs simpler procedures and a fixed timeline for processes leading to efficient dispute resolution.
- ODR eliminates the need for travel and synchronisation of schedules.
- This reliance on asynchronous communication, allows parties to submit their arguments intermittently, or follow a ‘documents-only’ process.
- Allows for customisable processes
- ODR’s integration with such non-traditional ODR processes and use of artificial intelligence can lead to limitless possibilities in terms of the types of models that can be developed.
- Thus, ODR can allow for multi-door dispute resolution through curated and customised process for certain classes of cases.
- Encourages dispute resolution
- ODR can contribute significantly to improve access to a variety of dispute resolution processes by addressing major concerns such as lack of access to physical courts or ADR centres, cost of dispute resolution as well as the barriers due to disabilities."