Various reports of the time have recapitulated the resurgence and strengthening of the conventional systems of dispute resolution concomitant with the call to forge ahead alternative mechanisms. Given the current situation of COVID-19, technology-driven and virtual platforms have become all the more important.
Law Commission has argued that the millions of pending cases put together with the lagging uptake of technological best practices has impeded judicial productivity, leading to “disappointment and dissatisfaction among justice-seekers.” (report on Strategic Plan for Implementation of ICT in Indian Judiciary, 2005)
On the other hand, in Babu vs Raghunathji, 1976, the Supreme Court corresponded the principle of ‘social justice’ with ‘legal justice’, which conveyed that justice should be cheap and accessible and should be effective in administering justice.
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Arbitration and IT
Arbitration is a quasi-judicial adjudicatory process where the arbitrators appointed by the Court or by the parties decide the dispute between the parties. The disputes are becoming increasingly complex, adding to the cost constraints and the escalating demands for a speedy resolution of disputes. The remedy seems to be resorting to the use of technology in the arbitration to expedite the process of dispute resolution. What one must acknowledge is how operating with Information Technology (IT) tools drastically brings down the process cost and boosts the resolution speed yet manages to retain the vital level of justice. We know that the use of information technology in arbitration is rudimentary, but is quite well enticing the audience with the newfangled benefits. And “securing liberation from stranglehold of the `court-annexed bureaucracy”.(phrase quoted by the Law Commission of India).
Arbitration in India is regulated by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. It is based on the 1985 UNCITRAL. The act contains provisions ranging from appointment of arbitrators, fast track procedure for arbitration, quick enforcement of contracts to the time for disposal of cases by a court. On the other hand, we can rely on the Information Technology Act, 2000 to address issues like fraud, online theft, data protection, or impersonification, which may prompt in our course of arbitration or related work.
Major institutions of arbitration like the International Chamber of Commerce, World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration, and Mediation Center work on various projects. For example- provide case management websites, virtual case rooms, and other IT tools. Conveying IT tools appropriate internationally. ODR, the quintessence of a worldwide process, is as such an outcome of computers and networks.
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The benefits of using technology in arbitration
IT eases in handling the tremendous amount of records in today’s arbitration. Adding on it proves beneficial to parties who are less economically empowered. But the undeniable fact is- technology in arbitration processes is still used beneath its potential. We should welcome the information technology age by adapting ourselves to the latest developments. However, we must make sure IT doesn’t hamper the procedural guarantees provided by the traditional arbitral process. Also, not affect the justice delivered.
Certainly, the purpose of information technology in arbitration at the core is always the same. The rapid completion of the task, which is cheaper, simple, and conveniently accessible. Subsequently, it talks about the efficiency which imprints during the process. The use of technology in arbitration brings out organizational settings for dispute resolution. Above all, the judicious use of arbitration leads to integration and even unity among parties. And with the use of information technology in arbitration, we can get the maximum benefit out of it.
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Primary means of technology in arbitration that we can use:
- Transfer of messages and files
- To generate new documents
- Systematic handling of documents and records
- To manage cases on management websites
- Referring to precedents
- To compare work for standardization
- Virtual discussions and presentations
One misconception we hold- relying on IT is a revolution! However, it is just a follow-up step in the series of how computers creep into the law. Ranging from the use of electronic devices to online drafting, shared calendering to e-mail, videoconferencing to online legal research. And digital storage of records to building software, electronic communication to data transfer. These are all instruments of technology in arbitration we commonly use.
Consequently, nothing comes up without the presence of reluctance or criticism. Therefore, clubbing technology and arbitration raise concerns. Experts of opinion cite the security of concerned parties and data to resist using technology in arbitration. Even unencrypted e-mails are unsafe for users. Eyebrows are raised when we talk about the interception of mail and web-based transfers. It’s also a task for us to deal with when it comes to the intrusion of data storage tools of IT. It becomes a great deal when we are victims of internet breakdowns during some important ongoing operation. Additionally, several viruses and spyware infecting our computers cannot be neglected. Our old working habits to work without IT tools are somewhat difficult to overcome at times.
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When promoting IT in arbitration, it is important to acknowledge that automation should not be maintained in every dispute and equal care is to be taken to maintain neutrality during the resolution process. Each element in IT-enabled arbitration weighs with equal importance. Accuracy is the key for any reliable function, especially when dealing with technology, as there is no room for the slightest glitch. Self-interest and opposing motivations do interfere with productively resolving conflict. There are many seemingly benign beliefs and cognitions that also interfere with effective conflict resolution but often go undetected.
To conclude, we can say that the contribution of technology to the field of law is immense. Collaborating it with arbitration would be a boon. Arbitration in India is gaining importance given the overburdened and stressed Indian Judiciary with a tremendous amount of pending cases. A formal and structured arbitration mechanism is salient for expeditious resolution of disputes. The conflicting parties can enter the process of arbitration at any time, anywhere with the opposing party using technology. The active flow of data digitally and remotely resolving disputes had so far been a great venture. More so useful in the unpredictable circumstances due to pandemic-led exigencies. Not to forget, justice is not something to compromise in the name of judicial efficiency. Hence, it is important to operate technology-backed arbitration processes cautiously.