In 2015, a group of students from the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata entered a competition called Startup Weekend, organised by Google. They designed an online mediation platform for consumer disputes, which came to be recognised as the competition’s most socially innovative platform.
Since then, they have continued their endeavour to promote mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism through their platform, ODRways. The venture has also received strong support from the legal fraternity of India, with former Law Minister Salman Khurshid among the endorsees.
Pranjal Sinha, a third year student, gave us a little more insight into the project.
“There is a lot of resistance against mediation, although it has proven to be successful in the past. Mediation services need to be more accessible to the people of India.
In order to do that, you have to put mediators on a common platform.”
To this end, they have developed an online platform called “DOMAIN” (Directory of Mediators in India), exclusively for Indian mediators. The platform will serve as the first national directory of mediators in India in a customized layout, making it easier for common man in India to engage with relevant mediators to resolve disputes. Currently, listings are free for the first six months.
The team is coming up with ways through which these mediators can communicate with parties more easily.
“We are also trying to promote mediation as a dispute resolution method. In our college, we are organising a six-day mediation camp in which we aim to settle 4000 consumer and banking matters. We also want to conduct these mediation camps in other law schools.”
Pranjal and his team also want to dispel the perception that mediation is not a viable career choice for law graduates.
“No law student really thinks of mediation as a profession. That is largely because the mediation community is fragmented and it does not get publicity.
But once you become a certified mediator, it is possible to have a career in [mediation].”
He also highlighted the importance of online mediation in today’s booming startup environment.
“A lot of e-commerce companies are coming up and they need a method of dispute resolution because they can’t afford to go to courts. The court process also takes time, money and energy for the consumers. That is where the concept of online mediation comes in.”