With the outbreak of COVID-19, a lot of restrictions are in place to cope with the crisis. There are several deaths during the pandemic and several unfortunate incidents taking place across the globe. Everyone is under trauma, and a lot of usual activities are on hold. Courts and arbitral institutions are advising arbitrators and parties to take arbitral hearings with the help of technology. During these tough times, a virtual hearing can be the best way. This can prove to be beneficial for those who are going through a period of financial uncertainty too. Here’s how it can help you to have a virtual hearing for your cases.
The Impact of Coronavirus and the Restrictions
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected world health and the economy severely. The death toll from across the globe is increasing. In short, it’s absolute mayhem everywhere. Normal lives are under jeopardy. Social distancing is now the norm, and social gatherings are a big no-no! That’s because social distancing seems to be the only way to fight coronavirus at this point. There’s a restriction on a lot of regular activities. Right from travel to legal proceedings, everything is on hold. Parties in an arbitral hearing, too, should follow the same.
International arbitration has become vulnerable to this disruption for apparent reasons. Parties, witnesses, arbitrators, and everyone who takes part in a hearing are at disparate locations. As traveling is not an option, bringing them together can only happen virtually.
Available Options for Parties Involved in Arbitration Proceedings
In-person hearing is next to impossible as far as the current situation is concerned. As a result, the parties are left with some options. They can push back every in-person hearing for an indefinite time or wait for things to become normal.
COVID-19 has affected cash flow and is taking a toll on their businesses. Such an option might not work in their best interest. Additionally, experts and doctors all around the globe are not yet certain on when this pandemic would pass. However, rescheduling a hearing becomes a tough call. The second option is that they can resolve whatever issues they have on paper and avoid coming together. Well, this might not seem appropriate for hearings, which require a witness to go through a cross-examination.
Even if you can resolve specific issues on paper, there might be a delay in the final judgment. There might be a reduction in the final award too. The third option is a virtual hearing, as discussed before. With the advancement of technology, conducting virtual hearings successfully is possible, if you keep all the above factors in mind. However, these hearings haven’t been appropriately utilized yet. But we can say that parties might take some time before settling on this one.
Courtroom proceedings have previously witnessed the use of technology. There are some jurisdictions where witnesses have furnished evidence from a different location with the help of a video link. You can conduct a virtual hearing on several platforms that are available nowadays.
Sharing documents is also allowed in many cases, and that is indeed helpful when coupled with an online review book. You can find private chat features as well as breakout rooms for conversations either in groups or at a one to one level.
The most attractive aspect of a virtual hearing is that it is comparatively cheaper, especially when you consider the expenses you have to incur by traveling. Virtual hearings, though, have certain cons. People might find it challenging to focus on it. The cross-examiner might not be comfortable as they are unable to have the witness in front of them. When the dispute is between parties who belong to different locations and have separate time zones, it might force them to sit through the hearing for hours, even if the time doesn’t suit them all correctly. That can cause imbalance. Internet speed and availability is a headache.
Virtual hearings might not be ideal for some people. However, it can be quite a viable option at a time when the world is reeling under the effects of the deadly pandemic caused due to the fatal COVID-19. It is essential to take practical decisions so that one can save the lives of people before it’s too late!