Making India global arbitration hub: Law Minister
Pledging to reform arbitration in India, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily laid the foundation stone for adding mediation rooms and an auditorium-cum-convention centre to an existing facility.
‘India will be the most preferred destination for arbitration,’ Dr Moily told judges and lawyers assembled at the nation’s International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution.
The Centre was opened in October 1995 by then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao.
‘We will make it happen in this country shortly,’ the Minister said, promising to get over bottlenecks that have kept arbitration from taking off in India.
The event was attended among others by Moily’s predecessor and Karnataka Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj, who is chairman of the Centre.
In its decade plus existence, the Centre is claimed to have settled 20 disputes, with forty pending, including three global cases, two of them involving Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.
Another facility, the Indian Council of Arbitration, arbitrates relatively more disputes, but hardly enough considering the vast number of cases pending in courts, many for decades.
Arbitration is a process in which a dispute is submitted to experienced and knowledgeable neutral attorneys or retired High Court Judges who hear arguments, review evidence and render a decision. It is less formal, less complex and can be concluded more quickly than court proceedings.
Indian authorities have been trying to promote arbitration and other such alternatives for resolving disputes given 31.1 million cases pending in courts.
But in India, arbitration suffers on account of such issues as partial conduct of arbitrators, disregard of conflict of interest and silence of law on punishing malafide acts or misconduct.
Critics say arbitration often takes inordinately long, costs quite a bit and hardly substitutes court processes, with one or another party challenging an award.
No up-to-date data appears to have been maintained as to how many awards are challenged and how they end up, nor any empirical study made of flaws in the process or practice to which they point.
A few weeks ago, acknowledging the problem of ‘gross illegality’ in some arbitral awards, the government invited public suggestions on how the law be amended to make Indian arbitration more acceptable at home and abroad.
The Centre has tried to spread awareness about usefulness of arbitration, conciliation and mediation through seminars and conferences-- 87 so far. It is even claimed to have trained 9,600 arbitrators or mediators between 1998 to 2010.
Noting a paucity in resources to hire more judges recommended by the Law Commission of India 23 years ago, Bhardwaj stressed the importance of settling disputes through ADR.
He voiced unhappiness at India being almost left out as businesses with disputes approach other jurisdictions-- London, Paris, the Hague-- for settlement.
The new auditorium will be designed on the pattern of Vigyan Bhavan and mediation rooms equipped to allow privacy to parties, Centre secretary general Baldev Singh Saluja told audience.
Credited by Saluja with having conceptualised the Centre, Bhardwaj clarified that the idea actually came from then Finance Minister and now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.