LEGAL REFEREE ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION CODE OF CONDUCT

The Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution recognizes technology based dispute resolution across a wide spectrum; from complaint diagnosis to promoting communication between parties, to settlement of disputes.

The Legal Referee recognizes and honors that the use of technology in dispute resolution is aimed at increasing parties’ access to justice. However, the Legal Referee provides an option for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) in the form of negotiation and/or mediation and/or Arbitration for those who do not have the means to interact through Information and Technology or with a limited knowledge of technology and alternative dispute resolution in India in the form of negotiation and/or mediation for those who could profit from use of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).

The Code of Conduct sets forth the minimum principles and standards that underlie professional responsibilities and conduct for the Online Dispute Resolution in India and the third-parties empanelled with the Legal Referee. The principles and standards aim to serve three primary goals – to guide the conduct of mediators, to inform the parties and to promote public confidence in Online Dispute Resolution as a process to resolving disputes.
The Code does not exhaust the moral and ethical consideration that should guide the Online Dispute Resolution. Rather, it provides a framework for high ethical practices considered essential in the conduct of mediation.

ACCESSIBILITY
1. The online mediation shall at every stage of the dispute resolution reflect an ease of use to all system users. The platform shall provide for adequate help content and tutorials readily available to users and keep the user interfaces as simple and intuitive as possible.
2. Parties shall be able to download and print all the information contained in the online mediation, including such information related to their individual cases.

TRANSPARENCY AND FAIRNESS
1. The Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution shall be transparent in terms of the governing structure, contact information such as e-mail address of the Centre and telephone numbers, applicable law which serves as the basis for decision making, background information about mediators empanelled with the Legal Referee Online Mediation, the identities and affiliations of the technology associates of the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution and the security efforts undertaken by the platform to safeguard user data and identity and general statistics on the dispute resolutions through the Legal Referee.
2. The Centre shall be unbiased towards any individual/corporate participant in the process and shall not offer any systemic benefit to one party over another.

SECURITY
1. The Legal Referee shall take all such measures to ensure that any confidential communications in the context of the dispute resolution are appropriately secure from unauthorised access, and to authenticate the identity of the parties in the process of online communications.

PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY
1. All the information contained and distributed shall observe the data protection law and confidential requirements established for the time being in force in India.
2. The Legal Referee Online Mediation shall make reasonable efforts to maintain high level of privacy and confidentiality with respect to access to case files and other data.
3. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall maintain the confidentiality of all information obtained by the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties or required by applicable law.
• If the parties agree that the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, may disclose information, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, may do so.
• A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should not communicate to any non-participant any information about how the parties acted in the mediation. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, may report, if required, whether parties appeared at a scheduled proceedings and whether or not the parties reached a resolution.
• If a mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, participates in teaching, research or evaluation of Online Dispute Resolution, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should protect the anonymity of the parties and abide by their reasonable expectations regarding confidentiality.
4. A mediator who meets with any persons in private session during Online Dispute Resolution shall not convey directly or indirectly to any other person, any information that was obtained during that private session without the consent of the disclosing person.
5. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall promote understanding among the parties of the extent to which the parties will maintain the confidentiality of information they obtain in mediation.

SELF-DETERMINATION
1. Dispute resolution through the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution shall be conducted based on the principle of party self-determination.
2. For this purpose, the online platform shall provide adequate information to the parties to dispute with respect to the options of conciliation, mediation and arbitration available to resolve their disputes through the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution, participation in and withdrawal from the process is voluntary in nature with regard to ODR, such that the parties make free and informed choices as to the process and outcome.
3. Where the parties choose to resolve their dispute through Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall inform the parties, at or prior to the start of Online Dispute Resolution, that resolution of disputes through mediation is a voluntary arrangement of the Parties. The mediator shall also inform the Parties about their relevant background and experience, applicable code of conduct and its availability for access, the process that will apply in the unlikely event of a party believing that the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, has not met the standards stated in the Code of Conduct.
4. Where appropriate, the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution or its mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should make the parties aware of the importance of consulting other professionals to help them to make informed choices.
5. If at any time the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, believes that any party to the Online Dispute Resolution is unable to understand the process or participate fully in it, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, will limit the scope of the mediation process in a manner consistent with the party’s ability to participate, and/or recommend that the party obtain appropriate assistance in order to continue with the process.

INDEPENDENCE AND IMPARTIALITY
1. The Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution acts as an independent body and shall not have any unofficial representation on Board. The service providers of Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution shall be independent neutral third parties, without any type of professional or personal relationship with any of the parties.
2. Impartiality means freedom from favoritism, bias or prejudice both in conduct and appearance. The Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution and its mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, involved in the dispute resolution process shall conduct the online dispute resolution in an impartial manner and avoid any such conduct that gives the appearance of partiality.
3. Neither the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, nor any personnel of the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution or persons associated with it should neither give nor accept a gift, favour, loan or other item of value that raises a question as to the actual or perceived impartiality.
4. If at any time prior to or during the dispute resolution, the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution or its mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, is unable to conduct the process in an impartial or prejudicial manner, the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution or the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall inform the parties and withdraw from providing such services.

COMPETENCE
1. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, must be competent and knowledgeable in the process of their relevant fields. Relevant factors include proper training and continuous updating of their education and practice in mediation/arbitration/conciliation skills, having regard to any relevant standards or accreditation schemes.
2. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, with special qualification or expertise in the area of Consumer Laws, land law, intellectual property laws or other specialized in India or with a proven record of handling those disputes shall be given preference while nominating arbitrators/mediators/conciliators for the panel.
3. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, empanelled with the Centre are expected to periodically engage in various forms of continued education to refine and improve their knowledge and skills in Online Dispute Resolution.
4. If a mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, during the course of an Online Dispute Resolution determines that the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, cannot conduct the process competently, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall discuss that determination with the parties as soon as is practicable and take appropriate steps to address the situation, including, but not limited to, withdrawing or requesting appropriate assistance.
5. If the ability to conduct Online Dispute Resolution is impaired due to medical grounds or by drugs, alcohol, medication or otherwise, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall not conduct the Online Dispute Resolution.

APPOINTMENT
1. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, must confer with the parties regarding suitable dates on which the Online Dispute Resolution may take place. mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, must verify that they have the appropriate background and competence to conduct Online Dispute Resolution in a given case before accepting the appointment. Upon request, they must disclose information concerning their background and experience to the parties.

PARTICIPATION IN ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
2. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall respect the right of each party to decide the extent of his/her participation in the Online Dispute Resolution including the right to withdraw from the dispute resolution at any time upon notice to the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, that the party intends to do so; and
3. The mediator shall refrain from coercing any Party to make a decision or to continue to participate in the mediation. However, this does not prohibit the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, from encouraging a Party to continue with the Online Dispute Resolution or persuade a Party to understand the value of continued participation.
4. If the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, senses that a Party is participating involuntarily then he/she will carefully explore the issue and strive to ensure that the concerns of the hesitant Party regarding the Online Dispute Resolution process are addressed.
5. In the event that any Party suffers from a mental or a physical impairment, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should not continue with the process or accept any decision of such a Party until the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, is convinced that informed consent of such a Party or his/her authorised representative has been obtained for participation and for any decision made during the process for the purposes of arriving at a settlement.
6. The Parties to the online dispute resolution shall ensure that they do not use offensive and abusive language at any stage during the course of the online dispute resolution process.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND DISCLOSURE
1. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall make reasonable effort to determine whether there are any facts that a reasonable individual would consider likely to create a potential or actual conflict of interest for a mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be.
2. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall disclose, as soon as practicable, all such actual and potential conflicts of interest. After disclosure, if the parties agree, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, may proceed with the Online Dispute Resolution.
3. If a mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, subsequently knows any such fact/s after accepting a Online Dispute Resolution that raises a question with respect to that service creating a potential or actual conflict of interest, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall disclose it to the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution as quickly as practicable. After disclosure, if all parties agree, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, may proceed with the dispute resolution process.
4. If the Parties request appointment of a different mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, or if the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, declines the mediation, the Centre shall appoint another mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, from the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution Panel.

ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESS
1. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall conduct the proceedings in compliance with the Rules.
2. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should only accept cases when the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, can satisfy the reasonable expectation of the parties concerning the timing of Online Dispute Resolution.
3. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should ensure that all Parties and Participants understand the Online Dispute Resolution process at the time of commencement of the Online Dispute Resolution process.
4. If a party appears to have difficulty comprehending the online dispute resolution process, issues, or settlement options, or difficulty participating in arbitration, mediation or conciliation, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should explore the circumstances and potential accommodations, modifications or adjustments that would make possible the party’s capacity to comprehend, participate and exercise self-determination.
5. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, must review and study all the documents and briefs submitted before the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution and make sure he/she is well prepared for the Online Dispute Resolution.
6. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall not knowingly misrepresent any material fact or circumstance in the course of the dispute resolution and shall encourage honesty and candor between and among all the Parties and the Participants.
7. If a mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, is made aware of domestic abuse or violence among the parties, the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall take appropriate steps including, if necessary, postponing, withdrawing from or terminating the Online Dispute Resolution.
8. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall be truthful and not misleading when advertising, soliciting or otherwise communicating their qualifications, experience, services and fees.
9. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should not include any promises as to the outcome in communications, including business cards, stationery, or computer-based communications.
10. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall not solicit in a manner that gives an appearance of partiality for or against a party or otherwise undermines the integrity of the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution process.
11. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall not make any unilateral arrangements with any of the Parties or Participants with respect to remuneration or otherwise exploit information acquired through the Online Dispute Resolution process for personal gain.
12. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, should not guarantee any results from Online Dispute Resolution.
13. The mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, may consult the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution for any clarifications with respect to any professional conduct in his capacity as a mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be.

COMPLAINT
1. A party to Online Dispute Resolution who believes that there is a lack with compliance of the Code of Conduct by the mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall submit a complaint to the Legal Referee through the its electronic resource.
Withdrawal from Online Dispute Resolution
2. A mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, shall withdraw from the Online Dispute Resolution process on one or more of the following circumstances:
• Party or parties to Online Dispute Resolution request for removal of mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be,.
• Where the process of Online Dispute Resolution is being used to further any such acts contrary to law or public interest.
• mediator, arbitrator or conciliator, as the case may be, is unable to uphold the Code of Conduct;
• Where the mediator or conciliator, as the case may be, believes or is of the opinion that the Parties are not able to voluntarily arrive at a settlement.
2. Any such withdrawal shall be made to the Legal Referee Online Dispute Resolution.

AMENDMENTS
1. The Code of Conduct may be amended or modified by the Legal Referee at any time without notice.