(This article is written by Astitva Kumar, a research associate at ICMCR.)
Legal technology start-ups have been attempting to improve India’s justice delivery systems for a few years now. In 2019, a non-profit organisation, Agami, in cooperation with ICICI Bank, organised a ‘E-ADR Challenge.’ This provided a significant incentive. Currently, there are a number of start-ups in the country that follow a range of business models and continue to innovate on a daily basis in order to provide accessible and inexpensive ODR services to individuals, corporations, state governments, and the court. Collaboration between the business sector and the judiciary has proven to be quite effective in settling conflicts, as seen in the instance of e-Lok Adalats. The Department of Legal Affairs has recently sought proposals from institutes providing ADR/ODR services in the country to host such a list of service providers on its website, which is a positive gesture to provide recognition and validity to such start-ups.
Online Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution in India
ODR is still a developing idea. ODR, at its most basic level, refers to the use of ICT tools to help parties resolve their conflicts. Negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, or a mix of the three, are the most common methods used. It is frequently seen as the internet version of alternative dispute resolution in this regard (ADR). This comprises the use of simple to complex communication technology such as audio-visual tools ranging from telephones to smart phones to LED screens, spreadsheets, e-mail, and messaging programmes, with the goal of enabling dispute resolution without the parties having to physically meet. In India, online dispute resolution is still in its infancy, but it is gaining popularity as time goes on. Convenience, trust, and competence are the three pillars of ODR. E-mediation, e-negotiation, e-arbitration, e-conciliation, conciliation-mediation, and fast track arbitration are examples of projects that focus on parties adapting adjudicatory or non-adjudicatory procedures have binding or not binding decisions. The remedy will be implemented once the ODR service providers have assigned a panel to the parties. The parties demand a simple, planned, and scheduled procedure that can be followed throughout. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the Singapore International Arbitration Center are three well-known established institutions that have achieved enough and made headlines for online dispute settlements (SIAC).
India is ready for ODR since it has the necessary legislation in place. Numerous support legislations give legal backing for the ADR part of ODR (such as the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 or the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908) as well as the technological aspect of ODR (albeit in a piecemeal approach) (such as the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Information and Technology Act, 2000).
Top Online Dispute Resolution Startups
- Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution Excellence: ADRE is India’s leading Online Arbitration Platform and ecosystem, providing a ground-breaking and painless alternative to settle disputes. Their goal is to make conflict resolution more cost-effective, efficient, straightforward, and result-oriented. They’ve created CADRE guidelines to take the complexity and dependency out of the dispute resolution process. They’ve made sure that technology in conflict resolution makes life easier, so our platform is simple to use and user-friendly. Professionals from a variety of fields have been taught and qualified as arbitrators by them. When the first party approaches, the procedure begins, and the other party is notified of the situation. If they want to proceed, an arbitrator will be assigned to lead them through the process, specifically saying that the outcome will be binding on them. The parties are also notified of the information and timetables via emails and Whatsapp. The parties are impliedly forbidden from meeting without their consent. If they choose, a video conference may be set up for them to converse face to face. The decision is made in a matter of 20-25 days. Bangalore, Karnataka, is home to CADRE’s headquarters. CADRE’s marketing approach comprises webinars, brochures, training material, data tools, online learning modules, fact sheets, and briefing papers, among other formats.
- Centre for Online Dispute Resolution: CORD, a Nomology Technology Private Limited enterprise, is being constructed by a team with extensive legal and technological experience. CORD makes arbitration and mediation more accessible, inexpensive, and efficient by utilising technology. CORD provides end-to-end conflict resolution and hearing management services in a modular format, allowing parties to use them as needed. With its online arbitration, mediation, and conciliation procedure, CORD provides the most accessible method of settling conflicts. It has features such as the ability to register a single case or thousands of instances at once. Select an appropriate arbitrator or mediator from a broad expert panel. Allow a person to be free of all administrative parts of their case. With an end-to-end digital process, you may become more environmentally responsible. CODR was co-founded in 2019 by Vikas Mahendra, a partner at legal firm Keystone Partners. Its purpose is to ensure that the entire process is fair and transparent while still respecting confidentiality.
- SAMA: Sama is a whole new approach to handle conflicts between companies and their customers, employers and workers, landlords and renters, professionals and clients, or anybody else – completely online, quickly and affordably. Sama ensures that when the week finishes, the conflict stops as well, thanks to smart technology and a network of trained individuals. This initiative is the result of a collaboration between industry players and impact sector leaders such as Agami, Ashoka, Omidyar Network, Trilegal, Vahura, and others, who chose ODRways (now Sama), a mediation services platform founded in 2015, as the team to build an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform for the future. In practically every place, Sama can assist in the resolution of a wide range of dispute kinds and sizes. Their mission is to provide individuals with a secure, rapid, cost-effective, and compassionate way to resolve conflicts to their satisfaction using real-world solutions rather than going to court and wasting time. SAMA was formed in 2015 by Vikram Kumar, Pranjal Sinha, and Akshetha Ashok. The Department of Justice has approved it. Its areas of expertise include legal consultation, arbitration, mediation, and the provision of legal services. Among its achievements are the following: SAMA was utilised by the ICICI bank as an ODR platform to resolve around 10,000 disputes totaling roughly Rs. 20 lakhs. Bangalore, Karnataka, is home to SAMA’s headquarters. Snapdeal, an e-commerce marketplace, will team up with online dispute resolution (ODR) platform Sama in June 2021 to settle consumer complaints, with a 50% success rate in a recent test. Snapdeal and Sama assisted in the settlement of a hundred cases in the pilot, with a 50 percent total success rate. The pilot programme, called “Sama Suljhao Manch,” managed to close some disputes which ordinarily take anywhere between 2-3 years, within 15 days.
- AGAMI: Agami promotes concepts that are beneficial to the legal system. Agami accomplishes this through recognising and reframing challenges, curating leaders, and facilitating collective action. The Agami Prize, the Agami Summit, Agami Challenges, and projects to produce open resources are some of their activities that work together to inspire, enlighten, and encourage innovation and changemaking in and around law and justice. Agami promotes concepts that are beneficial to the legal system. Ideas that have the potential to improve access to justice and the rule of law considerably. Its goal is to use ODR to resolve one million conflicts by the year 2022. It strives to deliver justice in a reasonable amount of time. Its core team is made up of professionals from many disciplines who want to spread the word about ODR. AGAMI has raised about 5 crores in funding thus far.
- Presolv360: Presolv360 is a platform that employs a novel technique to resolving commercial disputes at a little expense. This is accomplished by combining technology, human skill, and creativity to produce a timely, effective, and enforceable result. It was started in 2017 by Aman Sanghavi, Bhaven Shah, and Namita Shah. The company’s headquarters are in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Its expertise covers all commercial cases, including dispute prevention, dispute protection, dispute resolution, dispute management, alternative dispute resolution, communication, negotiation, neutral evaluation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation prevention, as well as an integrated tech platform, cloud-based solution, and end-to-end dispute management software called Presolv360. Edgecraft Solutions Private Limited, an Indian business registered under the Companies Act of 2013, is the owner of Presolv360.
- Peacegate: IIAM’s digital endeavour is called PEACEGATE. PeaceGate is an ADR ERP software that combines all aspects of ADR into a single database, application, and user interface, including the resolution process, communication and filing systems, back-office support, accounting assistance, registry and secretarial assistance, neutral selection, professional management of neutrals, up-gradation and disciplinary process of neutrals, and ADR lawyer selection. It integrates the most up-to-date procedures, techniques, and professionalism in the field of ADR. PeaceGate will also assist mediators in conducting mediation according to the agreed procedure, including issuing reports, certifications, and even drafting settlement agreements. The App will also allow the parties to provide feedback on the mediator and the process, as well as to initiate the conduct assessment process if they have a complaint against the mediator due to ethical problems or a violation of the code of conduct. A Directory of Arbitrators, Mediators, and Mediation Advocates/Consultants is also included in the app.
- Sehmati: The Delhi Dispute Resolution Society (Regd.) is the first initiative of its kind in the country, spearheaded by the Department of Law, Justice & Legislative Affairs, to introduce Alternative Dispute Resolution processes, particularly Mediation and Conciliation, to matters pending before courts, consumer forums, and other bodies, as well as pre-litigation cases and community mediation. Parties are urged to attend the many Mediation Centres that have been set up in various sections of Delhi for amicable resolution of their problems before resorting to legal recourse through courts, police, and other means. SEHMATI is the Delhi Dispute Resolution Society’s online mediation platform (Regd.). Google Meet video conferencing sessions are used to provide mediation services. Cases that are already outstanding in Delhi Government Mediation Centres, as well as new cases, are taken on to assist in the resolution of conflicts between parties who are unable to attend the Mediation Centre in person.
- ODRways: Pranjal Sinha and Vikram Kumar co-founded ODRways, the first of its type online mediators platform, with the goal of making mediation a main technique of conflict resolution in India. The website seeks to make mediation services easily available to the ordinary man of India, with mediators in 21 cities around the country. On their online platform, users can submit a disagreement and be linked to a mediator within 24 hours. The portal has received over 100 instances in less than four months since its introduction. The online mediation tool may be used to resolve issues ranging from family problems to property and business matters without having to leave the house. The initiative has received support from judges, lawyers, and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) organisations such as the Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA), Center of Advanced Mediation Practice (CAMP), and Delhi Dispute Resolution Society (DDRS), among others, and has been recognised as the ‘Socially Most Innovative platform in 2015’ by Google and listed in the ‘Top 10 Social Ideas of 2016’ in the Tata Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. In August 2017, the Ministry of Law and Justice of the Government of India included ODRways to a list of 12 Alternative Dispute Resolution agencies across India that would assist government departments in decreasing their court case load.
ODR has found success not just among private service providers, but also among corporations that have set up in-house ODR Platforms to resolve conflicts. Even the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), in response to concerns about Ease of Doing Business, advocated that ADR be strengthened, as well as the judiciary be digitised, in order to create a business-friendly atmosphere in India. The examples above demonstrate that private innovation and company enthusiasm to embrace ODR go hand in together. This movement toward ODR is motivated by both necessity and the potential to develop a dispute resolution ecosystem that benefits all parties.
 Agami, ‘Creating Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) solutions to resolve millions of disputes outside the courts’ accessed 28 September 2020
 Hosting of List of Institutions Offering Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (Including ODR) on the Website of Department of Legal Affairs
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