New Delhi: The planning commission of India, NITI Aayog on Monday released the report ‘Designing the Future of Dispute Resolution: The ODR Policy Plan for India’, to measure dispute avoidance, containment and resolution online.
The roll out of the stated recommendations in the report can help make India a world leader in using technology and innovation through Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for effective access to justice for every individual.
The report is a culmination of the action plan made by a committee constituted at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis by NITI Aayog on ODR in 2020 and chaired by Supreme Court Justice (Retd) AK Sikri.
The report recommends measures at three levels to tackle challenges in adopting ODR framework in India. 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. The report also stresses on strengthening the existing legislative framework for ODR by introducing necessary amendments to statutes. The 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.
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-lokadalatsand also be introduced within Government departments for internal disputes.