Covid-19, or the current pandemic, has produced a digital, technologically-built society in which even dispute resolutions are handled online. As a result, online arbitration enters the scene. Online arbitration is a hybrid of conventional arbitration and technical improvements. It functions similarly to traditional arbitration, with the distinction that it takes place over the internet, combining the use of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act 1996 with the Information Technology Act 2000.
Online arbitration has certain appealing advantages, such as being less expensive than traditional redressal processes. It lowers travel and venue costs while also providing other economic benefits, such as avoiding costly litigation fees. It is also time-efficient and convenient. When parties choose online arbitration, they decrease the need for travel and schedule synchronization, which is especially important when there is a cross-border dispute. When arbitration is done online, papers are also exchanged digitally, reducing the significant paperwork that is required in traditional forms of arbitration. As a result, online arbitration is also ecologically friendly.
But, along with the benefits, it also brings home the challenges and hurdles on the way to the effective implementation of online arbitration in India. Some of these challenges are that, to begin with, there is a deficit in tech-friendly infrastructure in the country. Many people in the nation lack access to digital devices. So, first and foremost, establishing a digital infrastructure would entail giving people access to computers, smartphones, internet connections, and so on. To address the issue, the government implemented a National Digital Government Policy in 2018. The second issue is a lack of digital literacy. In India, digital literacy varies widely by age, race, and region. Only 38% of households in India are digitally literate. In urban areas, digital literacy is relatively higher at 61% relative to just 25% in rural areas. Only 38% of households in India are digitally literate. In urban areas, digital literacy is relatively higher at 61% relative to just 25% in rural areas. There is a critical need to implement policies and activities that increase people’s access to literacy and knowledge on an equal or near-equal basis.
Third, there is a lack of faith in online arbitration services. This mistrust derives from a variety of issues, including technical scepticism and concerns about decision-making enforcement. Potential users, like other developing technologies, are likely to be sceptical about online dispute resolution, particularly in terms of its application, given the lack of in-person contacts and data security and confidentiality. In order to reliably include online arbitration for large-scale conflicts, digital signatures, document encryption to assure confidentiality, and other procedures must be applied.
Online arbitration is revolutionizing the traditional arbitration system, and it will continue to do so in the future. However, in order to reap the benefits of online arbitration, it is necessary to overcome the obstacles. Encouragement of women and the elderly to use technology is one way to do this. The government might also push platforms to create accessible user interfaces for people with disabilities. Fortunately, the government has already started promoting digital literacy through the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA). To make the system even more accessible, some tech-friendly techniques can be used. For example, the World Intellectual Property Organisation has established an online, internet-based system to administer disputes. Similarly, the International Chamber of Commerce has sent a guideline to parties, tribunals, and counsel, advising them on feasible strategies to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on International Chamber of Commerce arbitration.
Justice has been delayed due to the pending litigation in the courts. As a result, online arbitration is considered not only a quick but also a convenient and cost-effective alternative to resolve a dispute. In fact, Indian Law Commission urged the use of technology to favour arbitration in 2014. In fact, in today’s world, the Indian Council of Arbitration uses technology and video conferences to conduct online arbitration sessions. Though there exist legal requirements for the adoption of online arbitration, the system is still in its early stages, with many obstacles to overcome before reaching the milestone of e-dispute redress via online arbitration.
This article has been written by Harmanpreet, IInd Year