Going to court and settling disputes remains a scary thought for most of us. Even as we respect and honour the judicial system, the presumption always is — unfair perhaps — that settling any civil dispute in court should be the last option. This is not because we do not trust the courts, but due to the fact that the system continues to be clogged with pending cases.
Even a cursory glance at pending cases will reveal that in most disputes, ego is usually the main impediment to settlement. As the case drags on, parties begin feeling that they would have been better-off if they had either gone for mediation or opted for out-of-the-court settlement.
If the parties agree, the judge refers them to a court-appointed mediator, usually a lawyer. At the UT district courts, a lawyer usually charges `2,500 for mediation, considered to be valid for a month, during which time two-three sittings with parties are held.
In an attempt to capture this ‘market’, where mediation could help settle disputes between two sets of people, especially in cases that are not before court, Chandigarh-based lawyer Rajinder Sharma has launched an online platform by the name of YesSettle.
“The idea is to ensure that people can settle disputes online. We provide advice and a mediator, if required — from any profession — depending upon the case. Most companies do not want litigation and we handle that as well,” says Sharma, who has been in the legal field for 22 years.
How will he generate revenue?
“As yet, we are free. However, the mediation is paid. Initially, we will also charge `2,500 from users and keep around 20% as our fee,” says Sharma, adding that as of now disputes settled through mediation were not binding in the country. “However, settlements arrived at through mediation are binding in several countries like the UK and others,” he adds.
To be their client, you can sign in their web portal and give the nature of the dispute and write a short and clear settlement proposal.
After vetting, Sharma and his team will send the notification to the other party on email and mobile (given by the user).
On acceptance of the notification, the proposal becomes visible for further negotiation and refinement.
Sharma allays concerns over security of data by saying that once a dispute is solved or there is no settlement, in spite of several meetings (chats) over the portal, any information stored by them would be deleted, after a month.
However, he would need to be better than the benchmark in data security, especially as his ‘product’ is associated with expertise and law, something open to interpretation. This would be a key challenge that needs to be handled sensitively.
Of course, the site is a commercial venture (Sharma has invested around `2 lakh), but if one can sell and buy grocery and clothes on the net, then getting disputes mediated by those with relevant experience could be worthwhile.
Already, consultation from doctors is a field that has taken small steps to going online as has grievance redress of consumers. Sharma’s venture is just another example of the ever-increasing influence of the World Wide Web.