Agami NITI Aayog
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Online Dispute Resolution should be made mandatory for some cases: Justice Indu Malhotra at discussion held by NITI Aayog, Agami

Rintu Mariam Biju

NITI Aayog, in association with Agami and Omidyar Network India, conducted a virtual discussion on Saturday on the topic of advancing Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) in India.

The online discussion titled 'Catalyzing Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for Justice Delivery' saw the participation of judges of the Supreme Court, secretaries from key government ministries, legal experts, and General Counsel of leading enterprises.

The common theme of the discussion was a multi-stakeholder agreement to work collaboratively to ensure efforts are taken to scale online dispute resolution in India.

In his welcome address, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said,

"This historic meeting is the start of a collaborative exercise that sets into motion the use of technology towards efficient and affordable access to justice in our post-pandemic response."

Speaking on technology and access to justice, the Supreme Court's Justice DY Chandrachud remarked,

"Above all there needs to be a fundamental change in the mindset—look upon dispute resolution not as relatable to a place, namely a court, where justice is “administered” but as a service that is availed of."

Further stressing on the need of ODR during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul opined that COVID-19 related disputes should be resolved first via ODR because "those are people who would like for their disputes to be resolved quickly, particularly in this context. This would be crucial for economic revival", he said.

On the other hand, Justice Indu Malhotra spoke on the nuanced specifics that could be considered for scaling ODR.

"Making ODR or ADR voluntary may defeat the purpose. It should be made mandatory [for specified categories], and it should cover about three [sessions] so that parties don’t feel that it’s a mere formality."

Justice (Retd) A.K. Sikri brought forth the advantages of ODR—convenient, accurate, time-saving, and cost-saving.

Agami co-founder Sachin Malhan said that Indians never fell short when it came to entrepreneurship or problem-solving. "With clarity and encouragement many startups can scale access to justice and the ease-of-doing-business", Malhan added.

Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani envisioned a hybrid model for the future, where courts hold both virtual and physical sessions. "It will be a transformational change in the way the justice system works", he noted.

Other speakers for the session included Law Secretary Anoop Kumar Mendiratta, and pioneer of ODR Colin Rule, among others.

Read the press release here.

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