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The Government of India introduced its unique portal for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) on April 21st, 2018 at the Construction Industry Arbitration Council’s (CIAC’s) National Conference on ODR Mechanism held in New Delhi.

The Vice President of India, M Venkaiah Naidu, unveiled the first-of-its-kind portal in the presence of various dignitaries from the Central government and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

The designing and development of the new techno-legal mechanism was being undertaken by a High-Power Committee of the government with Akhilesh Srivastava, Chief General Manager (CGM) of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), as its lead member. The new technology has been inducted in the justice system to expedite the legal process of government departments and provide litigants with a digital alternative to the court room.

The initiative to integrate technology in Law & Justice is a part of the Union government’s ongoing campaign to digitalise the public sector. According to a Ministry of Law & Justice notification, there are over thirty million (three crores) cases pending in courts across the country.

The notification advises government departments and organisations against approaching the court for settling their disputes; and instead, its advices them to resolve those issues using electronic alternatives. This will reduce government litigation and allow courts to focus on providing people with swift access to the justice system.

Up until now, ODR mechanisms in the world have been providing only a few functionalities and haven’t been able to take over the judiciary’s job of settling government, commercial, and trade disputes entirely. The only ODR system that can be deemed complete is in the European Union (by the European Commission).

India, however, has managed to change the trend; the law ministry handed over to the CIAC the task of overseeing the development of a full-fledged cyber suite that can act as a viable alternative. The techno-legal cyber suite increases access to information and justice, particularly in emerging economies, conflict zones, and remote regions where people do not have the privilege of judicial systems to resolve their disputes.

In the words of the CIAC, “The National Conference will explore innovative applications of information and communications technologies to improve the administration of dispute resolution, and their direct benefits to our civil, societal, and commercial life in general. It will provide the opportunity to familiarize with pilot projects, platforms and initiatives undertaken in India and worldwide and to exchange views about the ethics and future of ODR.” 

According to its chief developer Akhilesh Srivastava, using ODR for commercial and public-sector arbitration will enhance and expedite trade within India, and between the country and the rest of the world. Due to this, the new mechanism will strengthen India’s legal framework, increase its Ease of Doing Business index, and project India as an investor-friendly nation, thus attracting more foreign investments.

CGM Srivastava, who also is working on several other government-funded projects in sectors including Highways, predicts a surge in employment opportunities for software engineering, law, and business graduates as the techno-legal suite is set to get further technological upgrades.

During the CIAC forum, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu called ODR a logical and natural iteration in the evolution of the law system. After the VP’s address, the conference discussed in length everything about ODR, the new portal, its ethics, its limitations, and its future. Dignitaries from the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Commerce, and Ministry of Commerce & Industry along with delegates from Engineering Council of India (ECI) along with people from other non-government organisations (such as academics) attended the forum.



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