Online dispute resolution can help deal with the pendency in courts, but needs other reforms as well

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August 14, 2020 6:00 AM

A Vidhi Legal and JALDI paper states that if India has to reduce stress on the judicial process and fast-track justice delivery, it has little choice but to look towards Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) mechanisms.

The Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, dealt a blow to the already stressed judicial process. The Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, dealt a blow to the already stressed judicial process.

In 2005, when the action plan for implementation of ICT in the Indian judiciary was released, the idea was that, within five years of implementation, the judiciary would have state-of-the-art ICT infrastructure. The plan, way ahead of its time, talked about video-conferencing solutions, e-filings, etc. Although the government initially seemed quick on its heels, and within two years, had announced Phase I of the e-courts project, it has been 13 years since, and the judiciary doesn’t have the promised ICT infrastructure. The Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, dealt a blow to the already stressed judicial process. A Vidhi Legal and JALDI paper states that if India has to reduce stress on the judicial process and fast-track justice delivery, it has little choice but to look towards Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) mechanisms.

The report highlights examples from other countries, which have been successful in leveraging ODR for consumer disputes, insurance claims, intellectual property rights, family disputes, e-commerce, small claims and disputes involving SMEs. For instance, Cybersettle in North America has been able to settle 200,000 claims.

In Europe, consumer settlement is done via ODR, and South Korea has adopted a similar approach for e-commerce. While technology is no panacea, the report highlights that India will also need to standardise the process, build a strong monitoring system and ensure clear enforceability of mediation awards. Given other reforms are time-consuming, technology up-gradation can be a good starting point. In the UK, for instance, technology along with administrative reforms—courts appoint a CEO—has helped improve the system. At present, India has 33.47 million cases pending in district courts, 4.46 million in High Courts; additionally, there is a 21.4% vacancy in district courts and 35.6% in High Courts.

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