This article is written by Shreya Tandon, a law student from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS), IP University. This is a comprehensive article that talks about the importance of online dispute resolution and lists down the Top ODR startups of India.
Table of Contents
Conflict of interest is part of human life. Human conflicts are inexorable because society is a multifarious web of social relations. In human affairs disputes are likely to arise, we cannot avoid disputes, but an attempt must be made to resolve them.
Currently, due to the pandemic, not only India but the whole world’s economies are at a stake now. COVID has impacted each one of our lives differently. In one way lives of people might have stopped but on the other hand, the work of the judiciary seems to be never-ending, and with this comes the problems faced by the courts to resolve the previous as well as upcoming issues due to changing situations. Although courts have taken measures for settling disputes online through virtual courts in which the litigants can file the complaint electronically and pay the fees online and there is no need for them to appear in court unless it is required, still, one cannot ignore the fact that existing justice system is not able to cope up with the ever-increasing burden of civil litigation. Keeping in mind the current scenario, the near future seems far away from being normal, so an efficient way to resolve such disputes is a need of the hour.
With the emergence of the Information Technology Act, 2000, e-commerce, and e-governance in India, technology has given birth to an efficient and sensible mode of dealing with issues that further aim at reducing the burden of already burdened courts and the government. Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is one such mechanism. It works on settling petty disputes online with the help of technology and the adaptation of techniques associated with Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In this process, the online facilitator that is authenticated judicial person such as a lawyer or mediators is given the responsibility of bringing the interests and claims of both the parties together with the help of ADR methods such as mediation, arbitration, or negotiation. It is not only less forbidding but also increases the probability to access justice.
Regulations and procedure for application of ODR
The online dispute resolution in India is at the infancy stage and is gaining acceptance with passing time. The three pillars of ODR are convenience, trust, and expertise. The initiatives to bring e-mediation, e-negotiation, e-arbitration, e-conciliation, conciliation-mediation, and fast track arbitration are one such instance that focuses on parties to adapt adjudicatory or non-adjudicatory procedures to have binding and non-binding decisions. The procedure for ODR is stated below:
- As to safeguard the authentication of information, parties with the help of electronic signatures safeguard the information of the registered e-document.
- The remedy awaits till the ODR service providers provide the parties with a panel.
- A simple structured and scheduled procedure is expected by the parties that can be followed, throughout.
- The famous well-known established institutions that have achieved enough and have marked headlines for online dispute resolutions are the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and lastly, Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC).
- The main reason for filing complaints through the complainant is to seek compensation from the respondent. If the respondent wants to carry on the process, he may file a detailed reply as to the allegations imposed on him. The complainant may be any person, a merchant, a consumer, or even a customer.
- Negotiation takes place in the first place where communication is initiated and mutual agreement is done to carry forward the proceedings.
- There may or may not be any oral proceedings through video conferencing. This varies from case to case. Many times the dispute may be resolved through a designed software without the necessary presence of the third party. This is referred to as Algorithmic Dispute Resolution.
- ODR acts not as a judge who is deciding a dispute but as an administrator as well as an infrastructure provider.
- Within a specific time frame, the case can be re-opened by the party, which is not satisfied with the compensation. After it gets reopened, the procedure of arbitration will follow up.
- According to International and Domestic Arbitration Centre (IDAC) of India involves four basic steps for completion of arbitration proceedings, namely-
- Notice issued to the disputed parties.
- Arbitrators are appointed to carry out the proceedings.
- Execution of proceedings and hearings.
- Execution of award.
Advantages and disadvantages of ODR
It is important to speculate both sides of the coin. The pros and cons of ODR are as follows:
- It helps to relieve court congestion.
- It enhances community involvement in the dispute resolution mechanism.
- Parties to ODR can themselves negotiate their settlement with the help of independent mediatory. Thus, ODR sessions are flexible and non-afflicted with rigours of rules of procedures.
- It is the best alternative to exchange documents online through e-mediums. Since the venue of proceedings is pre-decided, that is through video calls, it becomes relatively cheaper as the documents need not be sent through posts and can be delivered online.
- ODR enables the recording of oral or visual communications, statements, and pleadings which solely are dependent upon digital records.
- It eases the process of storing data.
- Paves the more accessible way to acquire justice.
- It is a non-confrontational apparatus where the litigant is not expected to appear in courts, and the responsibility to resolve the dispute is adjudicated to ODR, which only gives insight to the merits of the case.
- Cost plays a major role in a civil or criminal case. ODR is an economically feasible process that reduces the undue cost spent on the litigating procedures.
- The process of ODR saves time as well as efforts. On one hand, where litigation proceedings last for centuries, and ADR sessions carry on for a long and take months to pass an award, the ODR mechanism takes only a few weeks to pass awards for the conflicting parties.
- The process is not as easy as it seems. It can cause misunderstanding between the parties and the adjudicating authority. It becomes difficult to judge the accountability of the witnesses and parties. The process lacks face to face interaction, thus it can hamper the credibility of parties that reside in different countries and commute in different languages.
- As the whole process takes over the internet, it lacks face to face interaction.
- ODR is only suitable for a limited range of subjects such as e-commerce, domain name, etc, and may not be suitable for grave disputes like trespass which requires discovery and claims, defamation, and so on.
- Adequate confidentiality cannot be ensured. Though data protection law is implemented it becomes difficult for the authorities when hackers try to hamper the information.
- It may give rise to jurisdictional issues. In the case of international law, four things are to be kept for consideration:
- Details and merits of parties.
- The redressal to obtain the claim.
- Law to be applied for arbitration proceedings.
- Conflict of respective country’s rules applicable to each of the foregoing laws.
Top ODR platforms
This article includes a descriptive analysis of the big-shot ODR platforms.
Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution Excellence (CADRE)
- Founder- Shalini Saxena and Kanchan Gupta.
- CADRE is a website based online program, which has simplified the arbitration rules and has made the process quicker and secure.
- It works with trained and specialized arbitrators who are well reversed with CADRE’s rules. One of their main duties is to ensure that the complete process does not make the client go empty-handed without money and remedy.
- The process commences when the first party approaches, subsequently the other is informed of the same. If they wish to proceed, an arbitrator is appointed, who will further guide them about the whole procedure explicitly stating that the result in whichever favour, will be binding upon them. Further, the parties are informed about the information and schedules through emails and Whatsapp. Impliedly, the parties are not allowed to meet each other without their consent. If they want, a video conference can be arranged for them to have a face to face interaction. The decision comes within a short span of 20-25 days.
- The headquarters of CADRE is situated in Bangalore, Karnataka.
- Area of specialization stands in online arbitration, debt recovery, and it also deals with disputes regarding tenant and rental contracts for an online home rental startup named NestAway.(NestAway is the fastest-growing new theme startup based on providing shelter to the bachelors and youth. It is the first Indian company which lets you book a bed and move in with your suitcase. Till now it has provided a home to 75,000 people)
- CADRE’s marketing strategy includes multiple formats such as webinars, brochures, training material, data tools, online learning modules, fact sheets, and briefing papers.
- SAMA was founded by Vikram Kumar, Pranjal Sinha and Akshetha Ashok in the year 2015.
- It is a new ODR platform that aims to resolve issues arising between landlord and tenant, employer and employees, businesses and customers, or clients and professionals in a cost-effective manner.
- It assures a speedy and affordable resolution that is cost-effective, and 100% neutral and government recognized.
- It is recognized by the Department of Justice.
- The advisory partner is Trilegal and the expert partner is the Centre for Advanced Mediation Practise (CAMP).
- It specializes in giving legal advice, arbitration, mediation, and providing legal services.
- Recent accomplishment– The ICICI bank used SAMA as an ODR platform to solve nearly 10,100 disputes worth about Rs. 20 lakhs.
- The headquarters of SAMA are situated in Bangalore, Karnataka.
Centre for Online Dispute Resolution(CODR)
- Vikas Mahendra, a partner with law firm Keystone Partners, co-founded CODR in 2019.
- It is a private institution that focuses on online cases end to end. It aims at reducing the complexity of the process and securing ends of justice by letting the client and their advocate to control the whole process.
- Its goal is to make the whole procedure unbiased and transparent while maintaining confidentiality.
- It specializes in mainly three fields-
- Relationship Property Agreement,
- Dispute Resolution, and
- Separation Agreements.
- It is a not for profit promoting ODR but not a service provider platform that was initiated in 2018.
- Its mission is to resolve one million disputes by the year 2022 through ODR.
- It aspires to provide justice in a feasible time period.
- Its core team is composed of people from diverse disciplines who aim at upbringing the concept of ODR.
- AGAMI has raised more than 5crores funds till date.
- Its work includes different initiatives that work collectively to inspire, inform and support innovation in and around law and justice – the Agami Prize, the Agami Summit, Agami Challenges, and so on.
- It was co-founded by Aman Sanghavi, Bhaven Shah, Namita Shah in 2017.
- Headquarters is situated in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
- Its expertise in the field of dispute prevention, dispute protection, dispute resolution, dispute management, alternative dispute resolution, communication, negotiation, neutral evaluation, mediation, arbitration, litigation prevention, integrated tech platform, cloud-based solution, and end-to-end dispute management software
- Presolv360 takes up all the commercial cases.
- Presolv360 is owned by Edgecraft Solutions Private Limited, an Indian company incorporated under the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.
- WeVaad is co-founded by Kritika Sethi.
- WeVaad is a leading independent online dispute resolution platform that conducts Institutional Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation for consumer disputes, outstanding loan/invoices disputes, employer-employee disputes, partnership disputes, e-commerce disputes, matrimonial disputes etc.
- It conducts the dispute resolution process on its platform at the convenience of the parties and completes it in a time bound manner.
This article talked about the needy incoming trend of the online dispute resolution process. The startups that are mentioned are completely inclined towards shifting the working culture of courts and advocates towards e-process. It aims at discouraging litigation and promotes the ADR methods with the help of technology.
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