Covid-19 impact: Niti Aayog proposes online dispute resolution mechanism

Anticipating a surge in disputes across India owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, NITI Aayog has proposed that the government come up with a COVID-19 related scheme for dispute resolution through online dispute resolution mechanism.

“Owing to the COVID-19 induced pandemic, the numbers of disputes across India are likely to see a rise in numbers,” the Aayog said in its draft online dispute resolution (ODR) policy for India. These disputes, it said, can be across various sectors and include non-payment of wages, termination of employment, surge in tenancy and consumer disputes and a host of commercial disputes. Aayog has sought comments on the draft report.

“To address this upsurge, the government can introduce a COVID-19 related scheme that recommends resolution of these disputes through ODR,” it has proposed.

As part of the scheme, the government can introduce a tiered dispute resolution framework for all disputes below a certain monetary limit. “These cases can be resolved through negotiation, mediation and arbitration in a time-bound manner,” it said.

The report suggests government introduce temporary schemes with reduced legal service fee or free legal aid for workers to cater to a large number of displaced workers from the lower economic strata. “Government can collaborate and co-opt existing expertise and resources from grass-root organisations and private sector ODR service providers.,” it said.

Besides, it has suggested government introduce a 24*7 legal help desk for commercial and employment disputes with aim to educate the public regarding their rights and obligations under law and incentivising service providers to provide service in rural areas.

According to the report, the department of legal affairs (DoLA) has already taken a step towards identifying all existing ADR and ODR institutions.

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The Aayof is of the view that the integration of ICT into dispute resolution processes provides immense potential to overcome challenges typically associated with courts and those that have come to plague the ADR systems as well. “Some of the key benefits of ODR include cost effectiveness, increased access to justice, convenient and quick dispute resolution and remove unconscious bias, amongst others,” it said

By its very nature, ODR does not require parties to travel long distances or rent a facility to conduct the dispute resolution. Further, ODR has the potential to reduce legal costs by way of reduced time for resolution and by doing away with the need for legal advice in select category of cases.



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