[Pramod Rao is Group General Counsel, ICICI Bank. This post represents his personal views]
Resolving disputes civilly among individuals, or among individuals and enterprises, is a hallmark of a civilized society. Adoption of uniform, standard procedures and processes for dispute resolution provides the required confidence to citizenry, consumers and commercial enterprises that contracts and bargains arrived at will be fairly adjudged and enforced. The judiciary strives towards the same, as do alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as arbitration and mediation or conciliation.
In today’s age, technology has provided a further impetus to dispute resolution: by enabling online dispute resolution (ODR). ODR combines technology platforms which provide audio, video, chat or document upload facility (or all of them) with arbitration, mediation or conciliation or a combination of all of them. This is administered by independent institutions, which operate the platform and empanel the neutrals – arbitrators, mediators or conciliators – and connect the disputing parties with such neutrals for enabling resolution of disputes.
In India, ODR also captured the imagination of the policy makers. Niti Aayog held a couple of conferences (here and here) and also constituted an expert committee. The committee report titled ‘Designing the Future of Dispute Resolution: the ODR Policy Plan for India’ is a seminal recognition of the potential and the possibilities offered by ODR. A further resource guide published is the ODR Handbook: it provides an easy reference of the cases and examples of enterprises and organizations harnessing ODR as well as details of ODR institutions in India. The Reserve Bank of India has also embraced online dispute resolution and stipulated the adoption of ODR for resolving grievances and disputes arising in digital payment transactions.
ODR is also emerging as the choice of digital platforms and ecosystems taking shape in India. Sahamati, which anchors the account aggregator ecosystem ,has adopted ODR, details of which are described here.
The future of dispute resolution indeed appears to be driven by technology: be it automated dispute resolution or online dispute resolution by harnessing arbitration, mediation or conciliation (or a combination thereof). One looks forward to greater participation by the citizenry, consumers and commercial enterprises, all being beneficiaries of an efficient, efficacious, low cost and speedy dispute resolution system which ODR provides.
– Pramod Rao