Set up arbitration council, specialist benches, says panel

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New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Setting up an autonomous Arbitration Promotion Council of India (APCI), and specialist arbitration benches and changes in the Arbitration Act are among recommendations made by an expert panel to the government, which is keen to position India as a global arbitration hub, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Friday.

Briefing reporters about the recommendations, he said that most of them relate to existing laws and the government will take follow-up steps adequately.

Noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stressed making India a global hub for arbitration, he said a 10-member committee, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice B.N. Srikrishna, had been formed as a step in that direction.

It submitted its three-part report to Prasad on Thursday, which the Minister termed as “very good”.

“We will see what changes are needed in the law. The proposed changes in arbitration law should not be seen in isolation and are parts of large eco-system of good governance,” said Prasad, He adding India should become hub of arbitration as it has robust legal system, democracy, rule of law, competent lawyers and competent judges.

Called for an arbitration bar to be developed in the country, he said: “Today I am appealing to young lawyers and professionals that India does not have an arbitration bar. It is going to become a big opportunity for work, gainful employment and for good earning and learning.”

Prasad said the committee has recommended setting up of APCI, an autonomous body, which would have representatives from all stakeholders for grading arbitral institutions in India.

The APCI would recognise professional institutes and provide for accreditation of arbitrators.

He said the committee has also recommended creating specialist arbitration bench to deal with such commercial disputes in the domain of courts.

The committee has proposed further changes to the amendments made in 2015 in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act to make arbitration speedier and more efficacious and incorporate international best practices.

In the report’s second part, the committee reviewed the functioning of International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR), which is working under the aegis of the Law Ministry, and recommended its take-over by statute.

Prasad said the institute has dealt with 22 arbitration cases in 23 years of its existence and has “outlived its utility in present moment”.

The committee has recommended declaring the ICADR as an institution of national importance and noted that a revamped ICADR has potential to be globally competitive.

In the third part, the committee recommended creating post of International Law Adviser (ILA), who will advise the government and coordinate its strategy in disputes arising from its international law obligations, particularly disputes related to bilateral investment treaties (BITs).

The committee has emphasised that ILA may be consulted by the Department of Economic Affairs when entering into BITs.

Officials said that the roadmap of reforms suggested by the committee can result in a paradigm shift from the current perception of delay in resolution of commercial disputes in India to the country being viewed as an investor-friendly destination.

They said the suggested reforms will not only lessen the judiciary’s burden but give a fillip to the government’s development, aid the country’s financial strength and serve the goal of citizens’ welfare.

Noting that a schedule in the Act regulates fee as also time spent in arbitration and if the process, a court can pass orders, they said that the government is also working towards a mandatory arbitration clause in its contracts.

–IANS

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