research paper on alternative dispute resolution in india

  • 28 Jul 2020
  • 5 mins read

ODR: The Future of Dispute Resolution in India

How can online dispute resolution (ODR) be integrated into the dispute resolution ecosystem in India?

Summary: The paper recommends a phased modular strategy for strengthening Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and mainstreaming ODR in India.

research paper on alternative dispute resolution in india

As of July 27, 2020, there are around 33.47 million cases pending before the District Judiciary and 4.46 million cases before the High Courts, according to the e-Courts website . In the High Courts, 35.6% seats for judges are vacant, while in the District Judiciary, this number is 21.4%. Similarly, the tribunals established to employ specialised expertise for technical matters and ease the burdens of courts are riddled with their own issues , leading to further delay in resolution of disputes. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms, namely arbitration, mediation, conciliation and Lok Adalats , seen as solution to the problems plaguing India’s traditional court system, though successful in parts, have also failed to take off at a larger scale.

Added to this, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting need for social distancing measures have forced all the above modes of dispute resolution to function at sub-optimal capacities, thereby exacerbating the existing problems. The way ahead lies in the transformation of the dispute resolution ecosystem to adapt to the changing demands of justice by using technology. At the forefront of this transformation across the world has been Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) or e-ADR.

Vidhi’s new paper , by the  JALDI (Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India) Initiative , argues that the future of dispute resolution lies in mainstreaming ODR in India. It also looks at strengthening ADR in the country as a prerequisite for a robust ODR framework.

Vidhi’s paper ‘ODR: The Future of Dispute Resolution in India’ suggests a phased modular strategy for strengthening ADR and mainstreaming ODR in India.

Research focus

1. strengthening mediation.

Despite the references to mediation in multiple legislations, mediation in India has not really taken off as a popular dispute resolution mechanism. Due to lack of certainty as regards enforcement, the demand for mediation is low and consequently, the capacity in mediators and mediation centres has been slow to build up. This is particularly unfortunate considering that mediation is suitable for a wide range of disputes which hold potential to be resolved outside of courts, many of which are likely to see a surge due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The paper examines how the lessons from the Italian ‘opt-out model’ of mediation, which has been successful in multiple countries, can be adopted in India. Under the model, the parties must attend one mandatory session of mediation with their counsel before their case is admitted in the court. Thereafter, either all parties can mutually agree to continue the mediation or any party can choose to discontinue (hence, ‘opt-out’) of the proceedings. Additionally, a case is made for promoting e-mediation for greater reach.

research paper on alternative dispute resolution in india

2. Strengthening arbitration

In India, there is a discernible preference for ad-hoc arbitration over institutional arbitration, which increases costs and makes the process more court-like. In addition, practical difficulties in appointment of arbitrators for lakhs of small value disputes has led to malpractices in appointment of arbitrators. ODR holds potential to ensure that the arbitration as mode of dispute resolution scales up, especially for low to medium value disputes.

While provision for Arbitration Council of India and promoting institutional arbitration have been key developments for this, additional efforts for capacity development and affordable online arbitration need to be made.

3. Introducing and mainstreaming ODR in India

The success of private ODR has motivated several governments in different jurisdictions to co-opt ODR into their own public court systems. Increasingly, jurisdictions have set up court annexed ODR centres for certain categories of cases, which can be disposed of speedily. In this paper, the broad features of ODR are discussed along with an examination of the present framework and its suitability for ODR. Also mapped are the prerequisites for mainstreaming both court annexed and private ODR in India. The paper also delves into an overview of the principles framework which any ODR platform should satisfy to gain and maintain trust in the system.

research paper on alternative dispute resolution in india

Proposed strategy framework

The paper recommends a phased modular strategy for strengthening ADR and mainstreaming ODR in India.

  • Phase 1 (page 33) is focused on catering to COVID-19 induced urgency, generating awareness and building capacity by co-opting the private sector expertise. Ministry of Law and Justice and NITI Aayog can play an active role for this purpose. Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology can take lead for invigorating the private sector.
  • Phase 2 (page 37) attempts to further mainstream ODR by strengthening ADR and incentivising innovation. This can be done by piloting an ODR project for tackling the disputes arising out of COVID-19 pandemic such as in the areas of employment, tenancy, commerce and family law. Further, a slew of legislative and executive reforms can be undertaken for establishing a uniform mediation framework in the country and scaling court annexed ODR.
  • Phase 3 (page 40) takes a futuristic outlook on the dispute resolution in India where private and public ODR platforms work in harmony. This would be critical for progressing towards dispute containment and altogether co-creating an effective dispute management ecosystem in the country.

Filed Under

  • Judicial Reforms

About the Authors

Deepika Kinhal is a Senior Resident Fellow and team lead for the JALDI (Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India) initiative at Vidhi which focuses on judicial reforms. She has authored several data-driven research reports seeking to understand systemic issues that plague India’s justice delivery systems. She is now working towards translating the research findings into tangible solutions through interdisciplinary collaborations. Under the aegis of JALDI Innovation Lab, she is leading her team on projects at the intersection of law and other disciplines such as technology, management and design. Deepika has been a part of expert committees constituted by the eCommittee of the Supreme Court of India and NITI Aayog to design a roadmap to improve justice delivery through technology. She has also lead engagements with multiple High Courts aimed at improving their case and court management systems, and has appeared before Parliamentary Standing Committees on Mediation Bill and Judicial Impact Assessment. Deepika graduated from NLSIU, Bengaluru in 2012. Before joining Vidhi, she practiced as a civil-commercial lawyer in Karnataka with Dua Associates, and as a real-estate and capital markets lawyer at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Deepika is trained in Carnatic classical music and has performed for All India Radio and a Kannada movie

Tarika is a Senior Resident Fellow with the Health Team at Vidhi. She has also previously worked with the JALDI initiative and the Climate & Ecosystems Team, where she researched on efficiency, accountability and transparency in the judiciary with an empirical lens. She has written for leading journals and newspapers like Economic and Political Weekly, the Economic Times and the Indian Express. Tarika graduated from Gujarat National Law University with B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) in 2017 and has completed her postgraduate studies in Public Policy from University College London in 2021. She enjoys anime and rock music.

Vaidehi was a Senior Resident Fellow working in the area of Judicial Reforms. She has a B.A.LLB. (Hons.) degree from Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat and an LLM from the University of California, Berkeley with a focus on jurisprudence and social policy.

Aditya was a Research Fellow working in the area of Judicial Reforms. He graduated from the Institute of Law, Nirma University, in 2018. Prior to Vidhi, he worked in Jharkhand as a Policy Consultant for a regional political party, where he tackled issues pertaining to environmental law, forest rights, election laws and local self-government. He has previously interned with Newslaundry, Childline India Foundation, the Rethink Aadhaar Campaign and with Adv. Nitya Ramakrishnan. While working in Jharkhand he has authored a critique on the implementation of District Mineral Fund in the state. He enjoys collecting stamps and expressing himself through slam poetry.

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39a of the constitution of the India prescribed free legal aid. Disposal of cases in time is the necessity to maintain the rule of law and providing access to justice, which is a fundamental right of every citizen guaranteed by the Constitution. "Behind almost every human conflict someone feels dismissed, discounted, disenfranchised or disrespected. Unresolved tensions that may have immersed below the surface can resurface and make situations difficult." In 1996, the Indian Legislature accepted the fact that in order to lessen the burden on the courts, there should be a more efficient justice delivery system in the form of arbitration, mediation and conciliation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options in appropriate civil and commercial matters. Thus, Parliament enacted Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, with a view to provide quick redressal to commercial dispute by private Arbitration.

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research paper on alternative dispute resolution in india

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mechanism in India

The Idea and its Practicality:

As the saying goes, “The spirit of the law, not its letter, is what gives life to justice.” Lord Justice Earl Warren

With the advent of the idea of Conflict Management via Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), a new, less adversarial method of settling legal disputes has become available. Legally speaking, a lawsuit is a “lis inter partes,” however the Indian legal system has developed an alternative to adversarial litigation known as the ADR Mechanism.

The parties to a disagreement can save time and money by using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques including mediation and arbitration. These processes also have the added benefit of allowing the people involved to lessen their animosity toward one another, reclaim some measure of control over the situation, come to terms with the decision, settle the dispute amicably, and improve their sense of fairness. Disputes are best settled in private settings, where they can be handled in a way that is more practical, cost-effective, and efficient. There are at least four distinct forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR): arbitration, mediation, collaborative law, and negotiation. (Conciliation is sometimes considered a fifth kind, although for our purposes here it can be seen as a subset of mediation.)

Alternative Dispute Resolution in India

It is Necessary because of the Heavy Caseload in the Courts. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases filed in Indian courts in recent years, leading to pendency and delays and underscoring the need for alternate dispute resolution techniques. In light of these concerns, on December 4, 1993, the then-Prime Minister of India and the then-Chief Justice of India convened a conference in New Delhi at which the Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of the States adopted a Resolution.

It read: “The heads of government and the highest judges agreed that the courts couldn’t handle everything and that some conflicts were better suited to being settled through arbitration, mediation, or negotiation. They stressed the value of parties to a disagreement using alternative dispute resolution, which can provide procedural flexibility, save time and money, and reduce the emotional and mental strain of going to trial “.

There is no better option than to work toward developing alternative modes of dispute resolution (ADR) by establishing facilities for providing settlement of disputes through arbitration, conciliation, mediation, and neo-arbitration in a developing country like India with major economic reforms underway within the framework of the rule of law.

Actions taken as a result of ADR:

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is an approach developed to create an effective and equitable substitute for the conventional judicial system. This method of doling out justice moves quickly. Arbitration, mediation, conciliation, mediation-arbitration, mini-trial, private judging, final offer arbitration, court-annexed ADR, and summary jury trial are only some of the alternative dispute resolution methods available.

The scientific method has been used in the development of these methods in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, China, Japan, South Africa, Australia, and Singapore. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has become popular in these nations, and for good reason: it helps parties resolve their disagreements more quickly and cheaply, and it also creates a more relaxed and informal setting in which to do so.

As a result, legislation known as “The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996” was passed. The law regarding Arbitration and Conciliation is nearly identical to those of developed nations. This Act officially recognizes conciliation as a legitimate method for resolving conflicts. The new law also protects against any potential bias or prejudice from the arbitrators’ nationality by requiring them to be neutral and objective. As a result of the new 1996 Act, many adjustments have been implemented to speed up the arbitration procedure. Foreign investors and businesses are more comfortable moving forward with joint ventures, investments, transfers of technology, and collaborations in India as a result of this legislation.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is preferable to going to court since it is more malleable. Every participant in a conciliation or mediation session has the right to walk away at any time. It has been proven that using ADR to settle a legal dispute is both time- and cost-efficient. Instead than causing tension between the parties, ADR helps them continue working together.

Federal Law Concerning Arbitration and Conciliation, 1996

This legislation formally establishes the Arbitration process in Part I, and the Conciliation process in Part III. (The second part deals with enforcing foreign judgments according to the New York and Geneva Conventions.)


Only if the parties to the case have already entered into a valid Arbitration Agreement can the arbitration procedure begin. A written agreement is required per Section 7. The arbitration agreement must be included in the contract giving rise to the dispute or referenced from a separate instrument signed by the parties. It is possible to infer the existence of an arbitration agreement from letters, telex, or telegrams that document the agreement and were exchanged between the parties. A valid written arbitration agreement can also be established by the exchange of a statement of claim and defense in which one party alleges the existence of an arbitration agreement and the other party does not deny it.

In the event that neither side is willing to participate in the nomination of an arbitrator, either party may petition the Chief Justice’s office to appoint one. Reasonable doubt in the arbitrator’s impartiality and the arbitrator’s lack of sufficient qualification as required by the arbitration agreement are the sole grounds upon which a party can challenge the appointment of an arbitrator. The Arbitration Tribunal shall be composed of a single arbitrator or such other number of arbitrators as shall be selected.

The arbitration process leaves limited room for court intervention, save for a few interim steps. Any disputes under the arbitration tribunal’s jurisdiction are within the tribunal’s purview. Therefore, only the arbitration tribunal can hear a challenge to the tribunal’s jurisdiction. If the request is denied by the tribunal, the party has little options beyond appealing the decision to a higher court. party may petition the chief civil court of original jurisdiction to vacate the award on the reasons listed in Section 34.

After the deadline for appealing to have an award set aside has passed, or if the appeal is denied, the award becomes final and binding on the parties.


Conciliation is a form of arbitration with fewer formalities. There is no need for an existing agreement to begin this procedure. A conciliator can be appointed by either side upon request. Although one mediator is recommended, two or even three can be used. If there are more than two mediators, they must work together. It is impossible to mediate if one of the parties refuses the other’s offer to do so.

All parties involved in the disagreement have the option of submitting statements to the mediator outlining the context of the conflict and the specific issues at hand. An identical copy of the statement is sent by both parties. The conciliator may make requests for additional information, request a meeting with the parties, or make other forms of oral and written contact with them. The parties can even provide the mediator their ideas on how to end the conflict.

When the mediator determines that conditions are favorable for a settlement to be reached, he may draft the terms of the settlement and submit them to the parties for their approval. In the event that both parties sign the settlement document, it will become legally binding and final.

One should be aware that in the United States, this method is quite similar to that used in Mediation. Mediation, on the other hand, is a wholly informal form of alternative dispute resolution in India, unlike conciliation.

Mediation is a type of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) with the goal of facilitating agreement between two (or more) disputants. Instead of agreeing to terms imposed by a third party, the parties take the initiative and decide on the terms of any settlements they make. States, organizations, communities, people, and other representatives having a stake in the result may participate (as parties) in the disputes.

To facilitate the parties’ reaching an agreement (with tangible implications) on the disputed topic, mediators employ relevant tactics and/or skills to start and/or improve discussion between the disputants. A mediator is only considered neutral if all parties involved agree.

Mediating disagreements is an option for parties involved in many different types of conflicts, including business, legal, diplomatic, workplace, community, and family issues.

For example, if unions and businesses need to reach an agreement, a third-party mediator could help them do it. When a union representing the company’s employees goes on strike, the company often employs an outside mediator to help the two sides come to terms on the terms of any pending contracts or agreements.


To bargain for personal or group gain, to construct outcomes that satisfy a variety of interests, to reach an agreement on a course of action, or to resolve a conflict all fall under the umbrella of negotiation. It is the most common form of conflict resolution outside of court.

Personal settings like marriage, divorce, and parenting as well as professional and governmental contexts like international trade and international law all necessitate some degree of negotiation. Negotiation theory refers to the academic study of the topic. Professional mediators are also known as negotiators. Union negotiators, leverage buyout negotiators, peace negotiators, and hostage negotiators are all examples of the types of specialized roles played by professional negotiators.

The Lok Adalat:

The Lok Adalat system established by the National Legal Services Authority Act of 1987 is a distinctively Indian alternative dispute resolution mechanism, in contrast to the more generic approach used by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996.

Its literal translation is “people’s court.” Village elders have always played an important role in mediating conflicts in India. The Gandhian-inspired Lok Adalat system is an improvement on it. For the purpose of exercising jurisdiction as they see proper, the State Authority, District Authority, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, High Court Legal Services Committee, or Taluk Legal Services Committee will hold mock courts (called Lok Adalats) on a periodic basis. People with backgrounds in law, social activism, or judicial retirement often preside over these. It does not have authority over cases involving crimes that cannot be “compound.”

Due to the lack of court fees and strict procedural requirements (such as those found in the Civil Procedure Code or the Evidence Act), the process can be completed in a short amount of time. Unlike in traditional courts, the parties involved can speak freely with the judge.

If both parties agree, a case that is already proceeding in a traditional court system might be moved to a Lok Adalat. If a party petitions the court and the court, after affording the opposing party an opportunity to be heard, believes there is a likelihood of settlement, the case may be referred to a Lok Adalat.

Lok Adalats emphasize cooperative problem solving. When negotiations fail, the case must be brought before a judge again. If, however, the parties are able to settle on an agreement, the award will be final and legally binding. A civil court has issued an order, and it must be obeyed. Because it is a judgement by consent, the award is final and not subject to appeal under Article 226.

A Lok Adalat’s proceedings are legally binding, and each Lok Adalat is treated as an equivalent of a Civil Court.

The government-established Lok Adalat (people’s courts) uses mediation and consensus-building to resolve disputes. In 1986, Chennai played host to the first-ever Lok Adalat. Cases pending in ordinary courts within Lok Adalat’s jurisdiction that are amenable to settlement through conciliation and compromise are accepted.

A sitting or retired judge acts as chairman of the Lok Adalat, which also includes two other members who are typically a lawyer and a social worker. You won’t have to pay anything to the court. If a lawsuit is filed in ordinary court and later settled at the Lok Adalat, the filing money will be reimbursed to the plaintiff. The Lok Adalat does not closely adhere to the procedure norms and the Evidence Act when deciding the validity of a claim.

The main need of the Lok Adalat is consensus between the disputing parties. The Lok Adalat’s ruling is final and legally binding on all parties involved in the case, and its order can be enforced in court. In the event of a dispute, the Lok Adalat’s decision is final and cannot be challenged.

When it comes to monetary claims, Lok Adalat is extremely efficient. Since there is usually room for negotiation and compromise in matrimonial, damage, and partition proceedings, Lok Adalat is also an effective forum for resolving these types of disputes.

The public is fortunate to have access to Lok Adalat, a forum for the swift and inexpensive resolution of legal problems.

Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution in India

With so many cases pending in Indian courts, ADR has become increasingly important in the country.

  • In order to alleviate the workload of the Indian judicial system, the country’s alternative dispute resolution process employs tried and true methods backed by science.
  • Arbitration, conciliation, mediation, negotiation, and lok Adalat are only few of the alternative dispute resolution methods available through ADR. In this context, negotiation refers to parties engaging in mutual self-counseling in an effort to resolve the disagreement; nevertheless, this method is not recognized by Indian law.
  • Articles 14 and 21, which guarantee everyone the same protections under the law and the right to life and liberty, are also the cornerstones of ADR.
  • Motivated by a desire to uphold the preamble’s ideals of social, economic, and political fairness, ADR seeks to resolve disputes amicably and keep the society it serves intact.
  • Equal justice and the right to free legal representation guaranteed by Article 39-A, Directive Principle of State Policy, are two additional goals of alternative dispute resolution (DPSP).
  • Alternative dispute resolution has been effective in reducing the backlog of cases at all judicial levels –
  • Over the course of the last three years, Lok Adalats have closed more than 50 lakh cases annually on average.

The availability of such mechanisms, however, appears to be poorly known.

Important Provisions Related To ADR

  • Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 provides that opportunity to the people, if it appears to court there exist elements of settlement outside the court then court formulate the terms of the possible settlement and refer the same for: Arbitration, Conciliation, Mediation or Lok Adalat.
  • The Acts which deals with Alternative Dispute Resolution are
  • Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and,
  • The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987

Benefits of Non-Conventional Dispute Resolution

  • Faster Dispute Resolution: Unlike Legal Proceedings, Most Cases Can Be Heard and Decided in a Single Day
  • Less expensive than going via the court system, which can cost a lot of money.
  • Disputes are settled in an environment free of the formalities of the judicial system, using only informal means.
  • In this society, people are not punished for expressing their opinions. In other words, they can tell you the truth even if they don’t have to in court.
  • Quick and easy: when both parties may air their grievances on the same page, the possibilities of mending fences are increased.

In conclusion, ADR is a fantastic method of obtaining justice. Reasons for the success of ADR include its low cost, speed, expertise, accessibility, ability to mediate conflicts amicably, lack of formality, lack of adversariality, and low cost. Any disagreement can be solved by following the effective procedures outlined in Alternative Dispute Resolution. This is due to the fact that ADR methods have not yielded any workable answers to date. Reason being, in ADR both parties can ask a neutral third party to mediate their dispute instead of going to court themselves. It is recommended that both parties consult an expert, who is generally a lawyer. It is also necessary that the parties agree to be legally bound by this judgment. Because ADR focuses on resolving disputes through communication and compromise rather than litigation, it often results in positive interactions with customers. Using ADR, parties can avoid going to court to settle their differences. Every ruling the judge makes will only inflame tensions between the two sides. This is due to the fact that ADR methods, and particularly conciliation, tend to be somewhat forceful. This is because ADR is more proactive and offers suggestions for how to resolve the conflict. Therefore, there is no doubt that ADR is a simple way to get justice for settling any disagreement that may arise.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution Research Paper Examples

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Dispute , Resolution , Law , Court , Criminal Justice , Supreme Court , Settlement , Town

Published: 2020/09/30

Alternative dispute resolution system is the system that works outside the courts and believed to be a method by which conflicting parties can come to a peaceful resolution of the problems they experience. The experience of the Member States of the European Union and also experience of the United States of America shows that under certain basic rules, alternative dispute resolution systems have a number of advantages for the parties that have a conflict of interests. The main advantages of such system are lower cost of this procedure in comparison with the procedure that will take place in court, and shorter period of time, that is required to resolve disputes. (Bevan 1992) The parties of the alternative dispute settlement may be physical persons, communities, groups, organizations, enterprises and states. Since alternative dispute resolution is not necessarily associated with any country, it is an easy way to settle any disputes between the parties that are form different countries and even different legal jurisdictions. Alternative dispute resolution is also a great strategy in the event of dispute settlement between state and minorities or between state and native population.(Anderson n.d.) Alternative dispute resolution is a procedure which includes the presence of a neutral third party, which is an arbitrator, mediator or conciliator. In many states, dispute resolution procedures outside the courts are alternative ways of litigation. Alternative dispute resolution also may be additional, advanced, or even parallel to the court proceedings, according to the parties will. Basic systems of the alternative dispute resolution method are applied in the most developed countries all over the world. This systems are: mediation, arbitration and reconciliation. Through mediation and conciliation parties try to reach a settlement by peaceful means of legal conflicts with the help of a third party. The task of the mediator is to assist the parties to reach a mutually acceptable solution. The mediator does not impose a specific solution, but takes care that the parties reached a compromise on their own. In the conciliation proceedings, the third party may offer a solution that is not binding on the parties. When the parties choose mediation and conciliation, the parties are not limited by law or the rules of procedures. Thus, the resolution of the dispute is not necessarily to happen under the provisions of a specific law, but may refer on generally accepted principles of morality, loyalty and justice. Arbitration is also a method of resolving disputes outside the courts, arbitration is a method that is very close to the litigation. Arbitration is a procedure in which the parties select one or more individuals, the parties represent an incident for their binding decision. Arbitration can be an individual or institutional. In some models of arbitration for the execution of the decision the parties must perform the required procedures in a court.(Hartley 2002) We should also note that the notion of alternative dispute resolution can be represented in the broadest possible semantic meaning, as the right to choose any method of dispute resolution or settlement of the conflict, which is not prohibited by law, based on the specific situation. Of course, this is a very broad interpretation of the concept version of alternative dispute resolution. It implies the inclusion of both state and non-state (private) methods of dispute settlement and conflict resolution. Such an approach is innovative for the domestic procedural science, its interpretation is possible in the future with the development of theoretical concepts and doctrine in alternative dispute resolution system.

Bevan, A. (1992). Alternative dispute resolution. London: Sweet & Maxwell. Hartley, R. (2002). Alternative dispute resolution in civil justice systems. New York: LFB Scholarly Pub. Anderson, J. (n.d.). Alternative Dispute resolution for Disputes related to intellectual property and traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources. Retrieved January 19, 2015, from

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