AMENDMENT BILL FOR ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION ACT

It is very significant to bring to the notice of the readers that recently the Union Cabinet gave its approval for Amendments to Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, 2015. Of course, before giving approval, Union Cabinet carefully considered important suggestions and recommendations made by Law Commission and other stake holders. But this approval given by Union Cabinet clearly suggests that the Government of India has decided to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 by introducing the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in the Parliament.

It will be quite interesting and also very useful for the readers to comprehend that what are the Amendments that Government is planning to introduce through Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, 2015. Few of the proposed amendments are reproduced hereinbelow:

[1] There is proposal to amend Section 12 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. Now when a person is contacted for being appointed as Arbitrator and if he has any relationship with the parties or any interest of any kind in the subject matter of the dispute, which is likely to give rise to doubts, then he must disclosed this fact in writing at the first instance. It is also clarified that if a person is having specified relationship, he shall not be entitled to be appointed as Arbitrator.
This Amendment attempts to ensure the impartiality of Arbitrator.

[2] The Second important amendment is Arbitral Tribunal shall make its award within a period of 12 months. Parties may extend such period up to six months. It is important to mention that after extension of 6 months, no further period can be extended by Arbitral Tribunal. In such circumstances, time limit can be extended only by the court, on being subjectively satisfied about the reasons of delay. There is also provision that court, while extending the period may also order reduction of fees of arbitrator(s) not exceeding five percent for each month of delay, if the court finds that the proceedings have been delayed for reasons attributable to the arbitral tribunal. Similarly, there is corresponding positive provision for the speedy disposal of the matter by Arbitral Tribunal. If the award is made within a period of six months, arbitrator may get additional fees if the parties may agree.
This is very very significant amendment and it is also very necessary for the speedy disposal of the matter and if this amendment is implemented, it will totally change the scenario of speed of disposal of the cases in the arbitration proceedings.

[3] The third important proposed amendment is with respect to “fast track procedure for conducting arbitration procedure”. Parties to the dispute may agree that their dispute be resolved through fast track procedure. Award in such cases shall be given in six months period.
In my humble opinion, this proposed amendment, when implemented, will prove to be revolutionary. If party agrees to fast track procedure, matter can be disposed off just within period of 6 months.

[4] The fourth important proposed amendment is with respect to “grounds for challenge of an arbitral award”. Proposed amendment is in Section 34 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. Award can be challenged only on the few grounds i.e. award was induced, or affected by fraud or corruption, or it is in contravention with the fundamental policy of Indian Law or is in conflict with the most basic notions of morality or justice, the award shall be treated as against the Public Policy of India.
In my opinion, this amendment is also going to encourage the arbitration proceedings. Government is trying to narrow down the grounds to challenge the award. Because of insertion of this amendment, there will be very little scope to challenge the award.

[5] Next Amendment decides limitation of one year for the court to dispose off the application to challenge the award. This means that even if application is made to challenge the award, it shall be mandatory for the court to dispose off such matter within period of one year only.
A very good proposed amendment . if implemented, will definitely encourage the arbitration proceedings.
[6] Next amendment is with relation to section 36 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. This amendment decides that whenever application to challenge the award is made, award of arbitrator will not be stayed automatically. Award can only be stayed where the Court passed any specific order on an application filed by the party.
Thus, execution of award will be speedy and stay of the execution will be rarity. Everybody will be attracted to this new amendment and everybody will be inclined to go for arbitration proceedings.

[7] The most important amendment is to empower the Arbitral Tribunal to grant all kind of interim reliefs, which court is empowered to grant. All such orders made by the arbitrator will be enforceable as if it is an order of the court.
Just imagine that now arbitrator will be enjoying all the powers which court is enjoying.
Apart from above, amendments in Sections 2(1)(e) , 2(1)(f)(iii), 7(4)(b), 8(1) and (2), 9, 11, 14(1), 23, 24, 25, 28(3), 31(7)(b), 34 (2A) 37, 48, 56 and in Section 57 are also proposed for making the arbitration process more effective.

Conclusion

Government of India is trying to improve its legal frame work with regard to Arbitration Act. It is attempting to ensure that India may become Hub of the international commercial arbitration. If all these amendments are implemented, it will totally change the scenario and speed of the arbitration proceedings.