Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 sets out the conditions for setting aside an arbitral award. In this context, the term 'arbitral award' has always been understood as an award rendered by the majority members of an arbitral tribunal. However, recent decisions of the Bombay High Court and the Delhi High Court, while setting aside the award of the arbitral tribunal, have upheld the so-called 'minority award', in variance with the act and established precedent.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) recently exposed a cartel of three top coal-liaisoning companies, holding that in respect of tenders floated for the award of coal-liaisoning contracts, the companies had violated the Competition Act. As the case fell within the category of hardcore cartels, the CCI imposed its highest recorded penalty based on the total profits earned by each company in respect of the tenders.
The Competition Commission of India recently imposed a penalty of approximately Rs1.4 billion (approximately $21 million) on Google for abusing its dominant position in the market for "online general web search and web search advertising services" in India. While the $21 million fine imposed may be small for the global technology giant, the ruling has raised hopes for Indian digital start-ups that are feeling the pressure of Google's dominance.
The Supreme Court recently issued two judgments regarding consumer law. In the first, the Supreme Court held that the courts should take a pragmatic view of consumers' rights considering their relative disadvantage with regard to suppliers of goods or services. In the second, the court held that, in the context of a vehicle insurance policy, the mere failure of the vehicle owner to intimate the insurer immediately after the theft of the vehicle should not bar settlement of genuine claims.
In an important recent case regarding contract law, the Supreme Court held that the commercial courts should not seek to interpret the implied terms of a contract. In a second notable case, the court examined whether an increase in coal prices (due to a change in Indonesian law) could be cited as a force majeure event by certain power-generating companies that were sourcing coal from Indonesia. Finally, the court also recently issued an important decision in a suit for damages and wrongful termination.
The Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology recently established a new regulatory framework for setting limits on and payments of merchant discount rates and encouraging digital payments. Rates will now be determined based not only on the basis of transaction value, but also on turnover. However, in its effort to curb transaction costs for merchants, the government risks imposing significant charges on other system participants.
The most important criminal law Supreme Court judgments in 2017 included a case which held that Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002, on the grant of bail, violates the right to equality and right to life. Elsewhere, the court clarified the criteria for quashing criminal proceedings and issued certain guidelines in order to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the Penal Code.
A division bench of the Supreme Court recently decided to examine the correctness of a judgment by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), New Delhi. The NCDRC had held that, among other things, consumer disputes cannot be settled by arbitration. This decision begs the question whether the line of reasoning preferred by the NCDRC is likely to invite more critical scrutiny by the Supreme Court.
The Competition Commission of India recently imposed a penalty of almost Rs120 million on 10 transport companies for bid rigging in regard to coal and sand transportation tenders. It held that identical pricing despite different cost structures, last-minute filing of price bids and the existence of earlier financial dealings between the defendants constituted evidence of a clear understanding to fix prices, which should be treated ipso facto as having an adverse effect on competition.
Throughout 2017, the Supreme Court issued judgments on public interest litigation cases. These include reviewing the way in which senior advocates are designated, determining whether to constitute a special investigation team and establishing fast-track courts for criminal cases.
The Competition Commission of India has dismissed claims against Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation for abuse of its dominant position in the market for the procurement of bus chassis in India on the grounds that it holds no dominant position. The court did not assess the claims of abuse after finding that the company has low shares in the market, which comprises numerous competing transport operators.
In 2017 the Supreme Court delivered several significant judgments which have far-reaching importance in the field of constitutional law. In particular, in one case, the court set aside the practice of talaq-e-biddat, while in another it held that the right to privacy was an intrinsic part of the right to life and other freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.
Multi-tiered dispute resolution clauses prescribing pre-arbitral steps are common in commercial contracts in order to allow parties to resolve their disputes in a non-adversarial set up, preserve commercial relationships and save costs. Almost all contracts require performance of such pre-arbitral steps as a condition precedent to arbitration, but are they specifically enforceable? In other words, are pre-arbitral steps mandatory or directory in nature?
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs recently held that nationalised banks are exempt from the applicability of the merger control regime under the Competition Act. The ministry issued a notification which stipulates that the government – in the interest of the public – will exempt all cases of reconstitution, transfer (wholly or in part) and amalgamation of nationalised banks from the application of Sections 5 and 6 of the act for 10 years.
There were a number of interesting developments in the Indian insurance industry in 2017, including a rapid increase in the number of insurers, new forms of online commerce and evolving business processes. From a regulatory perspective, 2017 also saw a continued overhaul of the existing insurance regulatory framework, with a slew of new regulations being introduced and existing guidance being amended and updated.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) recently dismissed allegations of cartelisation against the Reserve Bank of India and 19 other banks. The claimant alleged that the banks, acting pursuant to a horizontal anti-competitive agreement, had assumed no liability for the loss of items kept by customers in their safety deposit locker facilities. However, the CCI found no evidence of cartelisation or any understanding, consensus or arrangement among the banks.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs recently issued a notification exempting regional rural banks (RRBs) from the applicability of the merger control regime in India. The notification provides that Sections 5 and 6 of the Competition Act 2002, which regulate combinations, will not apply to amalgamations of RRBs for which the government has issued a notification under the Regional Rural Banks Act 1976. This exemption is applicable for a five-year period.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) recently found the Container Trailer Owners Coordination Committee and its four participating associations guilty of anti-competitive conduct for imposing a turn system which had led to unilaterally fixed prices. However, the CCI held that certain mitigating circumstances existed in favour of the defendants and therefore imposed no penalty on them. Instead, it merely directed them to desist from indulging in such anti-competitive conduct in future.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has recently been receiving requests to allow private equity funds to acquire a majority stake in Indian insurers. In response to such requests from private equity funds, venture funds and alternate investment funds, the IRDAI released new guidelines to facilitate and regulate private equity funds' investment in insurers as investors and promoters.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) recently closed a case against OLA Cabs for the alleged abuse of its dominant position in the market for radio taxi services in Bengaluru. The CCI found that the company held no such position in the market and that competitors regularly engaged in practices such as below-cost pricing and offering loyalty discounts. Reluctant to intervene in a nascent market, the CCI exemplified the growing trend for economic analysis in decision making in India.