Support of Centre key for arbitration success: Justice Ravindra Bhat

Support of Centre key for arbitration success: Justice Ravindra Bhat

The central government’s support for arbitration to become successful in India is imperative, said Supreme Court judge Ravindra Bhat while speaking at a conference titled ‘International Arbitration: An Indian Perspective’, organised by Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC).

Giving reasons for the growth of international commercial arbitration centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, London, and France, Justice Bhat said that these centres “thrive” because of their continuous association with their government, from funding to the creation of new tools.

“I expect and hope that the government will give the same kind of support for the growth of arbitration (in the country),” he said.

Justice Bhat also expressed his disappointment in the non-implementation of the earlier suggestions of a high-level committee and recommendations made by the 246th Law Commission of India on the creation of an autonomous body, which would oversee the functioning of arbitral institutions in India.

He said that even though the committee’s suggestion has been inserted by way of an amendment in 2019, it is yet to be notified.

“I had once the privilege of being a part of a high committee, headed by retired SC judge Sri Krishna, to review arbitration proceedings in India. And this committee made a recommendation of setting up an autonomous body known as the Arbitration Promotion Council of India (APCI). It is interesting to note that an analogous suggestion was made by the 246th Law Commission in 2012 with the designated body being called as Arbitral Commission of India,” the judge said.

While the APCI would have represented different industry bodies and the government to monitor the working of the arbitral institutions, the idea for recommending the creation of the Arbitral Commission of India was to push institutions to excellence by establishing a system of grading them and devise a system of accrediting arbitrators to churn out them as young, qualified and well-trained, the Justice Bhat said.

He added that the committee had also recognised the importance of setting up a specialised arbitration bar and bench, not geographically confined to the national capital or Mumbai.

“These suggestions, even after being codified in the statute, will not achieve their intended level of success without support from the government and stakeholders,” Justice Bhat said.

Saying that young lawyers must have a support system consisting of experienced and seasoned specialists to fall back on, the apex court judge said, adding that people interested in adjudication should be specially trained in arbitration and not treated as an “offshoot of traditional litigation”.

The SEPC is an apex trade body which facilitates services exporters from India and acts as an advisory body to actively contribute to the formulation of policies of the government of India while also acting as an interface between the services industry and the government.

As part of the conference, several connecting issues of international arbitration related to India on the global front were highlighted to help and empower the legal service sector in handling, managing, and implementing the international arbitration process/awards.

Justice Bhat, during his address, also said that Indian arbitration needs to incorporate the new tools and techniques including “hot-tubbing”, introduced by Australia.

“The expression forms a very relaxing image as it is known for its less time-consuming properties. The data for cases are not small, sometimes even in lakhs, thereby, it takes a long time to go through this data. So, Australia innovated a technique of hot tubbing, which is defined as relaxing in a warm hot tub. Hot tubbing needs to find its place in the legislature of India. I hope to see a future where arbitration is used more in commercial matters regardless of the status,” the judge said.

The event focused on augmenting a future where arbitration is used more in commercial matters regardless of the status and it also offered a unique opportunity to both industry experts and young, keen minds to understand and develop their skills in international arbitration and to perceive the realistic picture of the practice of international arbitration.

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