Reimagining the future of dispute resolution via India’s first E-ADR Challenge
Kolkata-based ODRWays, which is led by students from West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, recently won India’s first E-Alternate Dispute Resolution (E-ADR) Challenge to build an ADR platform to resolve disputes at scale.
Alternate dispute resolution mechanisms – while widely advocated as an alternative to traditional court trials for their cost-effective and speedier means of dispute resolution – is still not common in India. To be clear, India’s innovation-driven startup ecosystem, which has transformed life as we know it, has also so far evaded the field of law and justice.
In fact, over three crores of legal cases continue to be pending resolution in the country’s legal system.
To find a solution to this problem, the E-ADR Challenge – launched by HumLab and ICICI Bank in association with Vayam – invited innovators, technologists, legal experts, and social and business leaders to come together to form teams that can propose comprehensive technology-driven solutions to create an E-ADR institution.
Sachin Malhan, Co-founder and CEO at HumLab, which seeks to create an innovation ecosystem in the legal industry, says,
“We need to reframe our understanding of how disputes should be dealt with and this initiative (E-ADR Challenge) could help us reimagine that and develop a system for the future.”
As part of the challenge, an elite jury comprising Justice Srikrishna, Aavishkaar Ventures Manager Director Vineet Rai, Societal Platform Chief Curator Sanjay Purohit, and Ashoka Fellow Sonali Ojha selected team ODRWays – a Kolkata-based organisation that has done remarkable work in pushing for the adoption of ADR methods and leveraged technology to bring together ADR professionals, disputants and key stakeholders for the adoption of effective resolution tools.
Team ODRWays includes Pranjal Sinha as CEO, Akshetha Ashok as COO, and Vikram Kumar as CTO. It will now receive the support of the jury to develop itself through collaborations and the appropriate mentorship from an institution that can bring a suite of dispute resolution capabilities to businesses and society, and ultimately help reduce the pressure on the courts. As part of this initiative, ICICI Bank plans to send 10,000 of its disputes for resolution by the EDR Institution, following its launch.
ICICI General Group GC Pramod Rao, who was instrumental in conceptualising the E-ADR Challenge, says,
“In India’s current context, with the judiciary being overburdened and understaffed, the disputants clearly need cost effective, speedier solutions. Exploring alternate dispute resolution mechanisms in this context, bolstered by the policy level support/changes in Arbitration Act, advent of both bandwidth and technology, and finally availability of legal talent in good numbers, makes it an excellent platform for the society, corporates and consumers alike to explore and benefit from.”
Speaking about the need for effective ADR platforms, Sitesh Mukherjee, Partner and Head Disputes, Trilegal, says, "Traditional modes of dispute resolution have become somewhat unsuitable for millions of individuals and small businesses who are transacting with each other sitting in different parts of the globe, sometimes on cloud-based trans-national platforms. Alternate dispute resolution platforms could be designed to meet the needs of this huge segment of B2B and B2C transactions. Such ADR platforms must be cost effective as well as efficacious.”
The Challenge was launched in February this year, and saw the participation of 16 teams from around the world, including the US, UK, Brazil, and the Middle East. It had the support of expert partners Vayam, law firm Trilegal, impact investor Omidyar Network, social innovation network Ashoka, and Centre for Advanced Mediation Practice (CAMP).