Online Dispute Resolution: An Indian Perspective

E-commerce is growing at a fast speed in India as India is seen as a producing a sizeable and profitable market for e-commerce business. However, e-commerce laws in India are still not clear to most of the e-commerce entrepreneurs. As a result most of the e-commerce websites are not following the laws of India and are inadvertently (without knowledge) violating the laws of India. Regulatory authorities of India have started questioning the operations of e-commerce websites of India and many of them are facing potential legal actions.
The tussle is not merely between the regulatory authorities and e-commerce website owners but it also extends to disputes between e-commerce websites and their consumers. Most of the consumers are not aware about their digital rights while dealing with such e-commerce companies and websites. At the same time there is lack of forums and dispute resolutions platforms for digital consumers in India where they can agitate their claims. In short, e-commerce dispute resolution in India is still to be managed by Indian Government.
With the rapid development of the Internet and electronic commerce, dispute resolution mechanisms are needed to help resolve disputes between parties located anywhere in the world in a manner that is fair, expeditious and cost effective. ADRs are evolving with new technologies, making it possible to solve a dispute through electronic mechanisms of which Online dispute resolution (ODR) has been labelled “a logical and natural step” for the resolution of disputes that arise on the Internet without the physical presence of the parties involved.
This paper presents the ODR phenomenon with a specific focus on policy-making and regulatory problems in India. It argues that the current regulatory framework for online dispute resolution is, to a large extent, defective. Existing deficiencies result not only from a lack of comprehensive ODR law, but also from the weaknesses of the other modalities of regulation: market, norms and technology. Arguably, the current “hands-off” approach to regulating ODR has been unsuccessful, and it is time to re-examine that position.

Online Dispute Resolution- Application and Challenges

Alternative Dispute Resolution means resolving the conflicts between the parties concerned outside the periphery of the courts. But the ADR is something which is not new to India. It has been prevalent in the country since beginning time. Legal history indicates that there were many ways through which people obtained justice which were easy, convincible and helped in reducing the burden of the king. This type of system was prevalent in resolving issues related to families and other domestic affairs and also minor issues relating to property. The oldest written source which provided the codes of law and the method to resolve the conflicts among the people. The Punch system in the ancient time, which can also be described as earlier form of ADR, helped in maintaining the stability by resolving the conflicts which can be resolved by negotiating with the involved parties.
Alternative Dispute Resolution came to be used explicitly with the overloading burden on the courts as each judge in the court has been assigned to resolve many cases in a day. Thus, filing a case in the court is a time consuming task and it takes a lot of time in resolving a dispute. Now, with the coming of new techniques in ADR such as mediation, arbitration and conciliation, most of the disputes are settled outside the courts. With the coming of internet as a platform of political, financial and social activities, the ADR has also taken a step ahead in form of Online Dispute Resolution as Section 89 of Civil Procedure Code clearly mentions the terms of it. This concept is certainly evolving in India as in the case of Salem Advocate Bar vs. Union of India (2003) gave rules for proper functioning of ADR.
The paper talks about the application of ADR in various fields and what are the challenges of the same in the country. Is it effective enough? How well the country has accepted it?