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ODR: A STEP TOWARDS E-JUDICIARY

Updated: Jan 4

By

Pratibha Nanda, IV Year of B.A.,LLB(Hons), from Rayat College of Law, Railmajra, affiliated to Panjab University , chandigarh


INTRODUCTION

Technology is the biggest boon to our society if used judicially. We have never thought that this would become the immense part of our lives. There are a plethora of works sorted by technology, one of which is in the field of judiciary. There is no finer test to check the excellence of a government than the efficiency of its judicial system. Technology being the 4th party has helped our judiciary by providing an alternative medium to resolve the dispute. The disputes are now resolved through online mode known as ODR (Online dispute resolution). It is an approach of dispute resolution which uses the technology to facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties. It primarily involves negotiation, mediation or arbitration, or a combination of all the three. In short, it is equivalent to the online mode of Alternative Dispute Resolution. This helps the parties to proceed with their case online without much time gap. After the invention of this technique, the burden on the courts has been reduced, and this comes out to be a boon to the society.


ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

“Online Dispute Resolution”: the literal interpretation of the topic signifies that it is the technique to resolve the disputes between the parties with the help of the digital platform. As stated earlier, it is equivalent to the online mode of ADR. Dispute is the disagreement between the parties. In our society everyone has a different mindset and where there are two mindset, it is natural that there will be a conflict. Looking towards the amicable settlement between the parties and saving the relationship, our legislature came up with the technique of alternative dispute resolution. The main object of proposing ADR was to reduce the overburdened courts and fasten up the case proceedings. Through the courts became relaxed, we have not found the solution for fastening the cases as the parties were not punctual on the date of the proceeding, or due to some of the reasons they could not present for the case which led to the adjournment of the case. So for this the technique of ODR was apt as this technique provides the virtual platform for dispute resolution, and hence we don’t have to wait for the party to come.

Considering the present scenario, the world is facing the situation of pandemic, which has restricted our normal activities. The only remedy for this virus is the social distancing. Although the Courts are allowed for online filling and hearing of cases, one cannot neglect the fact that our courts are already overburdened and heavily clogged with tons of cases. An improvised and well-organized solution is required to relieve the pressure on courts, and the answer to this can be online Dispute Resolution or ODR.


CHARACTERISTICS OF ODR

One of the best things is that these alternative techniques are based on an interest-based model. This means that these techniques focus on saving the interest of both the parties. The amicable settlement is the best gift by these techniques which involves consent of both the parties either by the aid of a mediator or by negotiating on their own terms. Therefore, instead of going to the court, we can continue the case proceedings sitting at our home only. Following laid is some of the characteristics of online dispute resolution which attract the clients for peaceful resolution:


1. Voluntary: ODR works on the desire of the parties i.e. when parties themselves want to go for settlement so that the relation and interest of both can be saved, they prefer ODR. And the best part is the solution which is up to the parties—if they want to abide, they can go with it, and if they are not satisfied, they will not be forced to go with it.


2. Flexible and Informal: The proceeding under ODR is very informal and casual. Unlike the litigation, it does not contain a hefty proceeding and is free from the court rules. The parties have to join the online meeting and participate in their case. It generally provides the parties to be friendly with the 3rd neutral party so that they can come across some solution and understand their situation.


3. Trust and Confidential: The proceeding and the meetings either joint or separate with the parties remains confidential to the four walls of the Centre. Even if the party moves for litigation, the 3rd party does not disclose the facts accepted by the parties themselves.


4. Time and cost Management: ODR is well known for its time saving benefit as this digital platform has made it easy to go with the proceedings and has saved the time by not waiting for the other party to present physically. Parties can join the virtual court with being physically present. Even this saves the traveling as well as other expenses used in litigation.


5. Data storage: As the proceedings goes virtually, so the data presented in the form of evidence or other information is being stored which will help in future need, and the best thing is that it saves the document from being spoiled. The major issue with the proceeding is the spoiling of the document which has been sorted by ODR.


6. Environment friendly: ODR also entails environmental impact – 11 billion sheets of paper are used every year in Indian courts. A swift yet smooth transition to digital platform would also benefit the environment, make our judicial and extra judicial system more eco-friendly, thereby, curbing climate change and many more issues.


NEED OF AN HOUR

This is a known fact that the Courts in India are overburdened and the backlog of cases is one of the drawbacks of the Indian judiciary. Number of pending cases raised gradually over the last past years. According to written replies submitted by the Ministry of Law and Justice in Parliament, in the time gap Feb. 1 and Aug. 31, 2020, the Supreme Court has seen a 3.6% rise in pending cases to62,054.


The Union minister (law & justice) told the Parliament on September 22, 2020 that 62,054 cases were pending at the Supreme Court, 51, 57,378 at High Courts (HC) and 3,45,71,854 at the district courts.

If this scenario of pendency continues, then we will definitely demonstrate “Justice delayed is justice denied”.


Taking the current example of this pandemic, where everything has been slowed down, how can we expect the fast disposal of the cases and never know the future situation. Though there were virtual courts, but that will put up the burden and will not reduce the same.


Though 25 lakh cases were heard virtually by courts across the country in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The key statistic is that the number of cases filed exceed the disposal capacity. The pandemic has, of course, accelerated this trend. Between February and August, pending cases have risen by 3.6% at the Supreme Court, 12.4% at the HCs. In the district courts, cases have risen by 6.6% between January and September.


The technique of ODR can effectively dispose of the case not by the way of litigation but by other ways for amicable settlement of the dispute. It utilizes the digital platform and acts as a bridge between the parties facilitating low cost, friendly and amicable settlement. Not at the time of this pandemic, but this can be continued post pandemic as it only aids the court to reduce their burden and help the parties to get away from long proceedings.


ODR has the potential to boost equity, fairness within the dispute resolution ecosystem in India. The convenience brought by ODR has been exhibited by e-Lok Adalats in several states like Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Gujarat and shortly Kerala where disputes were resolved simply over WhatsApp audio/video calls.


So all the states should take this initiative and should take a step forward towards alternative methods using technology rather than the practice of litigation.

In times of the Digital era, when there was rampant advancement of technology not in urban and sub-urban cities but also in remote villages, it is fair to say that with effective use of such technology, access to justice can be ensured to each and every Indian irrespective of their geographical limitation.


JUDICIAL VIEWS SUPPORTING ODR

From time to time even courts have realized that there need to be some alternative to reduce their work and run the machinery efficiently. The Supreme Court of India in Meter Sand Instruments Private Limited &Anr. Vs. Kanchan Mehta, that

"Use of modern technology needs to be considered not only for paperless courts but also to reduce overcrowding of courts. There appears to be a need to consider categories of cases which can be partly or entirely concluded "online" Without physical presence of the parties by simplifying procedures where seriously disputed questions are not required to be adjudicated."


Hon’ble Justice DY Chandrachud, Judge, Supreme Court of India, remarked on Technology and Access to Justice that we need a fundamental change in mindset – dispute resolution to be seen not as a court where justice is administered, but as a service which is availed of. ODR to have a multi-pronged, multi-sectoral initiative that focuses on: Dispute resolution, Dispute containment, Dispute avoidance.


Hon’ble Justice Indu Malhotra, Judge, Supreme Court of India, on the Potential and Possibilities of Online Dispute Resolution said that ODR which was at an infancy stage in India, has now acquired greater importance due to COVID19 providing expeditious resolution of disputes.


SUGGESTIONS

*Looking towards the plethora of advantages of the mechanism of online dispute resolution, we must encourage the parties to go for an alternative other than the litigation. Online dispute resolution has efficient dispute resolving power wherein it reduces the burden of the courts and aid in fast-track justice.

*There must be judicial service at all the levels like Gram Nyayalas, Lok adalats, Mediation Centre’s which must go through digital mode utilizing the technology.

*There must be a proper awareness campaigns or proper advertisements of the technique so that it may get place in the society and get out the maximum participation.

* Even the government must arrange the proper network so that the proceedings can go smoothly without any technical glitch; otherwise there would be no difference between the litigation and online proceedings.

* Even the judicial officers must be given the proper training for the online proceeding and data storage apps.


CONCLUSION

ODR being the efficient method is the boon in today’s time. The potential of ODR for dispute avoidance, containment and resolution are the most comprehensive benefits which focus on voluntary amicable settlement of the dispute. The system acts as a bridge between the parties to achieve their interests and help the Indian judiciary to overcome its disadvantage of backlog of cases. One must go for this alternative to preserve their relationship and support amicable settlement.