India has been taking significant strides in popularizing Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms such as Arbitration and Mediation because of the special interest shown by the Modi Government. On 31st December 2015, the Indian Arbitration and Reconciliation Act 1996 was comprehensively amended (w.e.f. 23rd October 2015) which brought in significant changes to the system as has been prevailing in India. (Check for details at Naavi’s the ADR Knowledge Center). The changes were aimed at reducing delays in the arbitration process, bringing in higher level of discipline among the Arbitrators, Reducing the Cost and also encourage the use of electronic documents in the conduct of ADR.
On January 13, 2017, the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice formally constituted a ten member High Level Committee under the chairmanship of retired Judge of Supreme Court, Justice B.N.Srikrishna.
The committee was to look into various factors to accelerate arbitration mechanism and strengthen the arbitration ecosystem in the country as well as examining specific issues and drawing up a roadmap required to make “India a robust centre for international and domestic arbitration”. In particular the committee was required to suggest measures for institutionalization of arbitration mechanism, national and international, in India so as to make India a hub of international commercial arbitration.
After considering views of existing arbitral institutions in March 2017, the Committee has now come up with its recommendations which were released by the Honourable Minister Ravi Shakar Prasad today.
The detailed report is yet to be available for discussion. However, as per the press reports the following recommendations have been made by the committee.
- Setting up of an autonomous body, styled the Arbitration Promotion Council of India (APCI), which would recognize institutes providing accreditation to arbitrators, hold training workshops for advocates.
- Creation of a specialist Arbitration Bench to deal with commercial disputes. Judges hearing such matters should be provided with periodic refresher courses in arbitration law and practice.
- Creation of a specialist Arbitration Bar by encouraging the establishment of fora of young arbitration practitioners.
- Changes in various provisions of the 2015 Amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act to make arbitration speedier and more efficacious.
- Declaring International Center for Alternate Dispute Resolution (ICADR) as an institute of National Importance and takeover of the institution by a statute.
- Creation of the post of an ‘International Law Adviser’ who shall advise the Government and coordinate dispute resolution strategy for the Government in disputes arising out of its international law obligations particularly arising out of bilateral investment treaties (BIT).
- Permission to foreign lawyers to represent clients in international arbitrations held in India and promoting India as a venue by easing restrictions related to immigration, tax etc.
- Promotion of ADR mechanisms including provisions of mediation facilities by arbitral institutions and considering a separate legislation governing mediation
The changes proposed are of far reaching effect and requires to be closely followed.
We shall await the availability of the detailed report to comment on specific parts of the recommendations in due course.