Technology and legal system are interrelated though we do not frequently come across mass scale use of technology for legal and judicial purposes. But if technology is used in an appropriate manner, legal, judicial and law enforcement stakeholders can be significantly benefited from it. We have few projects where a collaborative and holistic techno legal environment is created for the legal, judicial and law enforcement stakeholders so that they can perform their duties in a timely, cost effective and hassle free manner.
But this article is not about those or other techno legal projects but it is about a popular method of dispute resolution named online dispute resolution (ODR). I know few people in India and other jurisdictions who have been working hard since 2004 in ODR field. This is the year we started exploring ODR for India and we added another concept to it and that is use of e-courts for Indian stakeholders.
So what is ODR and how it is used? ODR is the modern counterpart of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods like arbitration, mediation, conciliation, etc. In ODR, everything is managed in an online environment and from the ODR clause in an agreement to the final adjudication of any dispute, everything is managed in an online environment. ODR is simple to use, cost effective, time saving and has global access and impact. A person residing in United States may have a dispute with her Indian counterpart and the same can be resolved using ODR without any of the person even leaving her home.
Best part about ODR is that it does not need expensive technologies, software, hardware, etc. All that is needed is an online platform that can handle the queries, disputes and documents in a systematic and legal manner. We have been doing research on open source projects since 2004 and we can say with confidence that you can build a great ODR platform with the use of open source and free software. You do not need shiny software or hardware and all that you need is basic knowledge about computers and online platform.
Take the example of our ODR portal that is meant to cater the dispute resolution requirements of national and international stakeholders. It is simple to use and it is just like filling few line in an online form. ODR cannot be more convenient and more accessible than the ODR portals of PTLB Projects and Resolve Without Litigation (RWL). But every new change brings some sort of anxiety among the stakeholders and we at Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) are aware of the same. That is why we have not only launched a dedicated ODR Training blog in this regard but are also providing online skills development and training in the field of ODR to global stakeholders. However, there may still be some concerns about how to use ODR as a dispute resolution mechanism and to address those concerns we have launched a demo portal too. We are providing pro bono services through this demo portal to global stakeholders and we have also written an article how our ODR portals can help in strengthening of Access to Justice (A2J) to global stakeholders.
Now let us discuss the possible uses of ODR in India and other jurisdictions. Consider an example in this regard. Party A is residing in United States and Party B is residing in India. Both entered into a contract to collectively manage some commercial or professional services in India. There is an ODR clause in the agreement between the parties just like the traditional ADR clause. Let us assume that the parties have chosen the ODR portal of RWL and PTLB Projects in this regard. Now the moment a dispute arises between the parties and one of the parties intimate the portal about such dispute, our dispute resolution process would start. Depending upon the request of the parties, we can choose between mediation, conciliation or arbitration to resolve such dispute. We would ask for documents and other communications relevant to the resolving of the dispute. Strict privacy, data protection and cyber security norms would be applied to any sensitive or personal documents and we may ask for adoption of a secure method to share such documents. After analysing such documents and communications, we can draft a possible reconciliation document and if both the parties agree to the same, we can pass an arbitration award on those agreed terms. The award would be final and binding upon the parties and since we would always act as an impartial party, none would be prejudiced and face any disadvantage.
Consider another example. You are a bank and your agreement with your bank customer includes an ODR clause. Let us assume that he faced an unauthorised transaction and his account has been debited. We can handle this situation from the stage of analysing such unauthorised transaction to launching of a cyber crimes and cyber forensics investigation to ascertain the bona fide nature of claims of bank customer to finally adjudicate such claim of the customer. We have been doing this for years and we have helped many Indian bank customers to get back their money. So neither the bank nor the customer would be troubled and since we are very well versed with the guidelines and laws in this regard, including the norms set by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), we would not have any problem while using ODR for this purpose.
Take another example. You are a cyber insurance company and you have an ODR provision/clause at place. Your customer faced a cyber breach and you are not sure how to react to the insurance claim raised by such customer. We can investigate such cyber breach and ascertain the cause and consequences of the same. Once that is done, we can pass an award that can be either based on mutual understanding or in the absence of the same as per the applicable laws of India or other jurisdiction.
We do not wish to add more instances in this regard and you can use your imagination as to how ODR and e-courts can help you in resolving your future disputes. It all starts with a simple ODR clause in your agreements that empowers you to use our ODR portal to manage any future dispute between you and your clients/customers.
However, what we would like to add is that our techno legal projects like ODR, e-courts, TeleLaw, online skills development, etc are holistic and integrated at the base level. All projects are supporting each other and we would not face any difficulty if we have to switch between one platform to another. So if nothing is working for you at the ODR portal, we can always provide you with next possible option to resolve your disputes amicably and in a proper manner.