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The most common response given by the people for any legal dispute is that- “I will see you in court”. The only solution they know to settle the dispute is to file a case in court and get the judgment. The reason behind this limited response is the lack of knowledge about other dispute resolution mechanisms prevailing in the country. There exist Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms like Mediation, Arbitration, and Negotiation, which have many advantages over traditional court resolution. The online version of this Alternate Dispute Resolution is called Online Dispute Resolution, where dispute is resolved through technology tools like video conferencing, emails, chat rooms etc.
In its simplest form, ODR is e-ADR, in which exchanges take place over the internet using technology. In essence, ODR has more benefits than traditional offline ADR processes since participants do not need to be present in person and resolution can occur through asynchronous communication. This implies that the parties and the neutral party don't have to communicate at the same time and may record their responses at their leisure. As a result, technology has been labeled the "fourth party" in ODR.
ADVANTAGES OF ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Online Dispute Resolution has a plethora of advantages over the conventional court system.
1. The disputes can be resolved online, saving the time and money of traveling to the appropriate jurisdiction.
2. Since there is no need for physical presence, any economic inability or physical disability cannot become a barrier to justice.
3. Justice is delivered at doorsteps also ensuring speedy delivery of justice. Unlike the conventional court proceedings, where
4. There is no geographical limit as it can be accessed from any corner of the world.
5. It has a more informal and casual setup.
SCOPE OF ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
With almost everything going online, there is a great scope of ODR mechanisms. The current COVID-19 pandemic has imposed travel restrictions but ODR comes as a savior in these tough times. With the conventional court proceedings also going virtual, this is the best time ODR can reach the maximum. It will add fuel to the justice delivery system in India and will boost up the justice delivery rate. Indian judiciary has an abundance of pending cases, plenty of which can be resolved by ODR. The promotion and enhancement of a technology-driven dispute resolution mechanism would significantly reduce the strain on Indian courts while also boosting the efficiency of the Indian legal ecosystem.
With the advent of the Digital India program, technology is reaching not only urban and suburban areas but also remote and rural areas. The gap between technology and access to justice can be efficiently filled by ODR in these rural areas. The constitutional aim of providing justice and equity to all citizens irrespective of geographical location can be accomplished.
ODR also has an environmental impact, since Indian courts utilize 11 billion sheets of paper each year. Every year, this usage costs the environment 1.3 million trees and 109 billion liters of water. A seamless transition to a digital platform would also assist the environment, making our judicial and extrajudicial systems more environmentally friendly and reducing climate change and other challenges.
LEGAL BACKING FOR ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Indian Evidence Act, 1872 under Section 65-A and 65-B allows for the recognition of electronic evidence. The IT Act, under Section 4, 5, 10-A, and 11-15, allows recognition of digital signatures to provide validity to online contracts. The conjoint reading of these provisions with the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 makes it evident that the Indian laws provide for the legality and technical viability of the ODR mechanisms.
The Supreme Court also favored online dispute resolution in Meters and Instruments Private Limited & Anr. vs. Kanchan Mehta and said 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 the physical presence of the parties by simplifying procedures where seriously disputed questions are not required to be adjudicated."
Adding a wheel of ODR to the current justice system will greatly aid in the accessibility of justice to all and speedy delivery of justice. It is time to go for a beneficial transformation, which will be fruitful for both, the judiciary and the citizens. In our aim to be technology-friendly, eco-friendly, and justice friendly, it is Online Dispute Resolution to help us in achieving all three.
There is a need for awareness among the masses about the tools of Online Dispute Resolution so that they can save their time and money by addressing their disputes efficiently. Along with the promotion of technology in the Digital India program, the advantages and uses of that technology in dispute resolution should also be done. These tough times of COVID-19 brings with it the opportunity for some extremely beneficial things to excel, Online Dispute Resolution is one such thing.
 2017 TaxPub (CL) 0840 (SC)