Overviewing Virtual Justice: Exploring Online Dispute Resolution
Nov. 09, 2023 • VIBHANSHU SRIVASTAVA (student)
In the digital age, Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) stands as a transformative force, reshaping the landscape of conflict resolution in India. This blog delves into the historical evolution, diverse modes, benefits, and challenges of ODR in the Indian context.
Techniques for resolving disputes range from those in which the parties have complete control over the process to those in which the process and the result are controlled by a third party. Information and communication technology (ICT) can be used to supplement these primary dispute resolution methods. Online dispute resolution is a type of dispute resolution that involves the use of technology to help parties resolve their differences. ODR can involve various forms of communication, including email, videoconferencing, and online platforms. It is frequently regarded as the Internet's version of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ODR is a broad field that can be used to resolve a variety of conflicts, from interpersonal conflicts like consumer-to-consumer (C2C) disputes or marital separations to court conflicts and interstate conflicts.
ODR- History & Origin
ODR was developed as a way to settle disputes that arose online and for which conventional dispute resolution methods were ineffective or unavailable as a result of the synergy between ADR and ICT. The development of ODR happened through various stages-
- Early Development: In the late 1990s and early 2000s, as e-commerce expanded and more disputes started to arise in online transactions, the idea of online dispute resolution began to take shape. As the use of online commerce increased, so did the demand for quick and convenient ways to settle disputes that arose online.
- UNCITRAL: The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) played a significant role in the development of ODR. The Model Law on Electronic Commerce, which established a legal framework for electronic contracts and communications, was created by UNCITRAL in 1996. The foundation for incorporating ODR into legal systems around the world was laid by this framework.
- Growth and Acceptance: Throughout the 2000s, ODR platforms and systems started to gain popularity in several industries, such as e-commerce, online marketplaces, and programmes for alternative dispute resolution. ODR's supporting technology also advanced, enabling more complex communication and document exchange techniques.
- Role of Businesses and Governments: Businesses began integrating ODR systems into their websites and online services after realising the benefits of ODR in quickly and cheaply resolving customer disputes. In addition, some governments and legal systems started integrating online dispute resolution (ODR) into their judicial procedures, providing online platforms for settling specific types of disputes.
Methods of ODR
The ODR utilises the conventional ADR mechanisms while simultaneously modifying them to better suit the demands of the modern world. These techniques can be thoroughly examined as:
- Online mediation- It is a voluntary mediation process that is conducted over the Internet with the help of a third-party human. The mediator only serves as a facilitator for the resolution of disputes; they do not have any decision-making authority.
- Online arbitration- It is arbitration that takes place online and enlists a third party to help. The online arbitrator needs to be an impartial third party who aids in dispute resolution.
- Automated negotiations- These are one type of assisted negotiation, but they are also known as blind bidding negotiations and are very helpful when there are only financial claims at issue in a dispute. After each round of negotiations, each party makes a secret bid. The disputes are automatically resolved by the system.
- Assisted negotiations- A consensus is reached through assisted negotiation, which is the traditional, direct negotiation of the parties with the aid of technological tools, making dispute resolution simple. The technology assists by posing various questions to the parties, providing possible responses, and sending reminders as well.
Challenges to ODR in India
The development of ODR in India is hampered by several factors:
- Admissibility: The adjudicatory process geographically determines the arbitration's location, which is a key element on which various legal implications depend. It appears initially difficult to determine the location of proceedings if they are conducted entirely electronically and the parties and impartial parties are in different locations. Some researchers concluded that virtual arbitration is not necessary as a result of this finding.
- Efficiency: The legal system is convoluted, pricey, and difficult to use. The ADR and ODR guiding principles must be established in an effective system. A platform and software are essential to make dispute resolution effective and efficient.
- ICT Infrastructure Challenge: One of the main issues with the ODR is that many countries, including India, lack a viable internet infrastructure, which is the ODR's most important requirement. Although it has been policy to prioritise internet accessibility, and it has been frequently discussed as a "basic right," for the ODR process to be successful, there needs to be a well-developed ODR platform, legal experts, and software to have an ideal online dispute resolution mechanism.
- Professional trainers must be available: Training must be designed to provide or improve the communication skills, tools, and techniques that a trainee needs to become a professional in consensual dispute resolution. Following these trainings, there should be independent, graded evaluations. Untrained professionals run the risk of failing to close the communication gap between the parties, which will lower satisfaction and, in turn, decrease interest in and support for mediation in India.
- Privacy and Security: There are always going to be risks associated with the introduction of technology. Information shared through ODR solutions may be more vulnerable to exposure than with more conventional in-person ADR because no tool is completely safe. For parties to be able to resolve a dispute, trust is necessary, and that trust extends to the instruments and procedures they are using. These issues require special consideration from ODR solution developers.
Benefits of ODR in India
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) in India offers several significant benefits, contributing to a more efficient, accessible, and inclusive justice system-
- Decreased Cost: One of the main benefits of alternative dispute resolution is already cost savings. ADR enables parties to settle their differences more quickly and cheaply than through expensive and time-consuming litigation. AI and technological tools can facilitate more effective conflict resolution by assisting parties in understanding their options and positions.
- Accuracy: Better accuracy may result from ODR's increased convenience. In short, ODR facilitates improved information access, which aids parties and decision-makers in arriving at more accurate conclusions. Additionally, ODR can assist in avoiding implicit biases based on socioeconomic status and race.
- Enhanced Access to Justice: ODR makes it possible for people to access the legal system more easily in several ways. As was previously mentioned, the high volume of disputes resulting from e-commerce transactions led to the development of ODR. Companies have integrated online dispute resolution (ODR) systems into their websites to provide customers with a quick and easy way to resolve disputes, as an alternative to depending on more conventional methods. ODR tools are now being used by courts as well. ODR's convenience makes interacting with the court system much simpler for users.
- Less Infrastructure: It is intended that there would be less reliance on physical structures as a result of digitising the courts. In this way, the court estate may be reduced. Furthermore, since the data would be kept up to date online, less back office space would be needed, enabling the consolidation of courts within a town to create multi-court centres.
- Better Legal Environment: ODR can help with containment, settlement, and dispute prevention. When more people use it, India will rank higher for ease of doing business, having a better legal environment, and stricter enforcement of contracts. ODR and Digital Courts (techniques used in the public court system) have benefits that, when combined, have the potential to alter the entire structure of the legal system.
In India, Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a big step towards improving the accessibility, effectiveness, and inclusivity of the legal system. ODR platforms hold the potential to completely transform the nation's dispute resolution process as technology develops. ODR can provide a practical and affordable substitute for traditional litigation, enabling people and companies to pursue justice for their complaints—especially those located in rural or underprivileged areas.
However, there needs to be a general understanding and education about these platforms for ODR to realise its full potential in India. People must be aware of the advantages of ONLINE dispute resolution (ODR) over traditional legal procedures, including its speed, affordability, and convenience. ODR can play a vital role in transforming the landscape of dispute resolution in the country, making it more accessible, transparent, and equitable for all.
The author affirms that this article is an entirely original work, never before submitted for publication at any journal, blog, or other publication avenue. Any unintentional resemblance to previously published material is purely coincidental. This article is intended solely for academic and scholarly discussion. The author takes personal responsibility for any potential infringement of intellectual property rights belonging to any individuals, organizations, governments, or institutions.