Khaitan & Co

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Updates

Arbitration & ADR

Supreme Court rules that arbitrators' fee schedule fixed by parties overrides Fourth Schedule of Arbitration Act
India | 08 August 2019

The division bench of the Supreme Court recently held that if the parties to an arbitration have agreed an arbitrators' fee schedule, the arbitrators must charge their fees in accordance with this agreed schedule and not in accordance with the Fourth Schedule of the amended Arbitration Act. While this decision gives credence to party autonomy and may thus be hailed as pro-arbitration, it specifies no limits and provides no other directions for parties to bear in mind when fixing a fee schedule.

Terminating arbitrator's mandate – can parties proceed with truncated tribunal?
India | 25 July 2019

It is common knowledge that arbitration provides greater flexibility and party autonomy compared with traditional litigation before the courts. Corollary to this, the agreed terms for the appointment of an arbitrator or arbitral tribunal must be strictly followed while making such appointments if a dispute arises between the parties to an agreement. However, what happens when an arbitrator fails to or is prevented from acting specifically at the penultimate stage?

Award replacing contractual provisions with new terms "shocks the conscience" of Supreme Court
India | 20 June 2019

The question of whether a contract can be amended retroactively was raised in the arbitration proceedings between Ssangyong and the National Highways Authority of India. The Supreme Court's ruling on the case is a welcome exposition on the contours of Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, especially in relation to challenges on grounds of violations of principles of natural justice.

Enforcement of foreign awards: does violation of legal provision equate to contravention of fundamental policy?
India | 18 April 2019

In 2013 the Supreme Court held that the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award can be refused only if it is contrary to, among other things, the 'fundamental policy of Indian law'. This article focuses on the Indian courts' interpretation of this term and looks at a common question that arises in relation to this area of law – namely, whether a foreign arbitral award which is a mere violation of an Indian legal provision qualifies as a contravention of the fundamental policy of Indian law.

Arbitrability of consumer disputes: loophole in Booz Allen framework?
India | 14 March 2019

The Supreme Court recently ruled that consumer disputes are incapable of being submitted to arbitration, placing them in the infamous category of 'non-arbitrable' subjects in India. However, the court also stated that where an elected consumer fails to file a consumer complaint, the parties are not barred from submitting the dispute to arbitration. This article analyses whether such a statement could have far-reaching implications for arbitrability as a ground for challenging an award.

Clarity in arbitral proceedings – legislation post-pronouncement of arbitral award
India | 07 February 2019

The focus of India's rapidly evolving arbitration regime appears to be concentrated on factors such as ensuring that arbitrations are completed in a timely manner and appointed arbitrators are impartial. While these factors are significant, the importance of substantive and procedural clarity in terms of what happens after an award is passed is also crucial.

Revisiting Supreme Court Centrotrade decision and utility of two-tier arbitration clauses
India | 13 December 2018

Two-tier arbitration clauses or appellate arbitration mechanisms were upheld by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Centrotrade Minerals and Metal Inc v Hindustan Copper Limited. This article discusses the evolution of the jurisprudence surrounding two-tier arbitration in India and analyses both the utility of such a mechanism for the parties and its usefulness in certain situations.

Unsigned arbitration agreement does not bar arbitration
India | 29 November 2018

The Supreme Court recently held that the only prerequisite for an arbitration agreement is that it be in writing. Through this decision, the court has adopted a pro-arbitration approach and, as such, may contribute positively to the existing jurisprudence on the Indian arbitration regime. By relying on the unsigned bill of lading, the court focused on the parties' conduct and intent, both of which indicated that there was an arbitration agreement between them.

Non-signatory to arbitration: right to appeal under Section 37
India | 18 October 2018

The Bombay High Court recently issued a landmark ruling regarding third parties' right to challenge interim measures granted by an arbitral tribunal under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The ruling is a welcome reprieve for non-signatories to arbitration proceedings in situations where disputes between arbitrating parties have a bearing on their rights and interests, as well as a step towards balancing innocent parties' interests.

Analysis of Section 11(6A) – a conundrum
India | 11 October 2018

Before its amendment in 2015, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 neither promoted institutional arbitration nor discouraged parties from considering it. The 2015 amendment was an attempt to reduce judiciary intervention in arbitration proceedings and promote a culture of institutional arbitration. One of the proposed changes was the amendment to Section 11 of the 1996 act, which provides for the appointment of arbitrators by the competent court.

Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2018: coherence or chaos?
India | 13 September 2018

Following the enforcement of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015, the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2018 proposes to further amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996. The bill is another step by policymakers towards making India "a robust centre for international and domestic arbitration" and attempts to make it an investor-friendly jurisdiction and a preferred seat of arbitration for dispute resolution.

Bombay High Court upholds minimal judicial intervention in appointment of arbitrator
India | 09 August 2018

The Bombay High Court recently held that in accordance with the 2015 amendment of Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, the courts' responsibility to refer a dispute to arbitration is narrow and limited to examining the existence of an arbitration agreement. Further, the high court held that an unstamped document does not bar a dispute from arbitration.

Appropriate court in context of post-award of foreign-seated tribunal
India | 24 May 2018

The Bombay High Court recently ruled that an application under Section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 which had been filed following an award passed by a foreign-seated arbitral tribunal had to be brought before a 'court' as defined in the explanation to Section 47 rather than Section 2(1)(e)(ii) of the act. The judgment has clarified, and to a large extent simplified, the procedure for a foreign award holder.

Enforcement of 'minority award': law or flaw?
India | 22 March 2018

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.

Pre-arbitral steps: Indian law perspective
India | 25 January 2018

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?

Challenging appointment of an arbitrator: legal position
India | 09 November 2017

The Supreme Court recently set out the legal position regarding challenges to a person's possible appointment as an arbitrator. It held that since ineligibility goes to the root of the appointment, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 clarifies that if the arbitrator falls under any of the categories specified in the Seventh Schedule, he or she becomes ineligible to act as an arbitrator. However, if the circumstances fall under the Fifth Schedule, the person would not be de jure ineligible.

Interim orders in international commercial arbitrations – an Indian perspective
India | 10 August 2017

By way of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015, the government sought to reform the law in relation to international commercial arbitrations conducted in India and foreign-seated international commercial arbitrations. Following recent judgments from the Delhi High Court and the Bombay High Court, it is timely to analyse the amendment act with reference to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on international commercial arbitration.

Two-tier arbitration clauses
India | 04 May 2017

The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that Indian arbitration law does not specifically prohibit two-tier arbitration clauses which provide for appellate review of an arbitral award by a subsequent arbitration. This judgment is an important win for party autonomy in India and sends a pro-arbitration message.

Applicability of arbitration amendments
India | 30 March 2017

The Delhi High Court recently clarified the scope and interpretation of Section 26 of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015. The Delhi High Court held that if arbitration was commenced before October 23 2015, the amendment act does not apply to the court proceedings for setting aside an arbitral award rendered in relation to such proceedings.

Significance of independence and impartiality in constitution of arbitral tribunals – critical analysis
India | 22 December 2016

The independence and impartiality of arbitral tribunals is significant in order to encourage faith and trust in litigants and ensure that disputes are independently, impartially and fairly adjudicated. Against this backdrop, the enforceability of contracts between private parties and government entities must be considered, as such entities often appoint arbitrators who act with such inflexibility as essentially to render arbitration agreements redundant and the required consent of the parties meaningless.

Ambiguities in applicability of Arbitration Amendment Act 2015
India | 18 August 2016

India's arbitration law was transformed in several key respects when the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015 came into force. However, despite the visionary changes introduced by the act, it is vague in both applicability and scope, which has led various courts to reach different conclusions about its applicability. Until these issues are resolved, the act cannot be hailed as a game changer for the Indian arbitral regime.

Transition from Commercial Courts Ordinance to Commercial Courts Act: ambiguities and implications
India | 26 May 2016

The Delhi High Court recently addressed a unique jurisdictional issue regarding the applicability of an incorrect provision of the Commercial Courts Ordinance which was retrospectively corrected by the Commercial Courts Act. However, the retrospective application of the Commercial Courts Act has raised concerns which must be clarified to ensure a smooth transition from the Commercial Courts Ordinance to the Commercial Courts Act.

Impact of Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act on foreign-seated arbitrations
India | 17 March 2016

In order to rectify the issues associated with arbitration in India, Parliament recently passed the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act. The amendment seeks to make arbitration in India a quicker and more streamlined process, reduce interference by the courts, make India a more attractive destination for foreign investors and improve the ease of doing business.

Substantial changes introduced in new Model Bilateral Investment Treaty
India | 18 February 2016

India recently released its new Model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Compared to the previous Model BIT, the new BIT incorporates substantial and critical changes and considers international precedents and trends in investment treaty law. The new Model BIT attempts to safeguard the host state's interests and is intended to form the basis of India's negotiations with other countries in relation to the redrafting of existing BITs.

Ambiguities in Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015
India | 19 November 2015

The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 – which provides for less cumbersome, more cost-effective, efficient and expeditious dispute resolution – has been welcomed by litigants. However, more clarity is needed with regard to the ambiguities in the new Section 11 – in particular, in relation to the scope and applicability of the Fourth Schedule and the model fee structure payable to arbitrators.

Bombay High Court rules on foreign-seated arbitration between two Indian parties
India | 20 August 2015

The courts have issued a series of judgments which have strengthened the pro-arbitration stance of the Indian judiciary with regard to international commercial arbitration. However, the jurisprudence is more nuanced with respect to arbitrating disputes between two Indian parties and uncertainty still persists with regard to whether two Indian parties can choose a foreign seat and a foreign law to govern their arbitration agreements.

Implied exclusion of Part 1 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act – tips and strategies
India | 25 June 2015

The courts continue to retain jurisdiction over pre-BALCO arbitration agreements under the Bhatia International regime. However, theories of expressed and implied exclusions have been carved out to bar the application of Part I of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996. That said, unless the courts provide further clarity, implied exclusion of Part I does not apply to two Indian parties which have agreed to foreign-seated arbitration.

Jurisdiction of Indian courts in international commercial arbitration
India | 09 April 2015

While the jurisdiction of the Indian courts in relation to international commercial arbitration remains a complex issue, the Supreme Court has attempted to strike a balance between the courts, arbitrators and parties through a series of judicial pronouncements. A recent Supreme Court decision significantly altered the settled position on the application of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act in relation to international commercial arbitration.

Claims for compound interest in arbitral proceedings now sustainable
India | 22 January 2015

A transaction culminating in arbitral proceedings often creates questions regarding the scope and power of an arbitral tribunal to grant relief to a successful party. A question that often arises when arbitral awards are made is whether further interest can be imposed on an awarded sum. In other words, can interest be awarded on interest? The Supreme Court recently ruled that such claims for compound interest are sustainable.

Restrictions on domestic courts' jurisdiction on challenges to foreign awards
India | 09 October 2014

A recent Supreme Court judgment confirms that Part I of the (Indian) Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, which governs domestic arbitration, does not apply where the arbitration clause has expressly specified foreign law as the law applicable to the arbitration agreement. The court further held that the issue of arbitrability of the disputes themselves would be determined in accordance with the law governing the arbitration agreement.

Swiss Timing – Supreme Court on arbitrability of fraud
India | 24 July 2014

A recent Supreme Court decision has significantly altered the country's position on the arbitrability of fraud. However, while the decision could speed up domestic arbitration proceedings, it has raised many questions, as the single judge held that he was not bound by a two-judge bench decision because it had been made without reference to relevant decisions and statutory provisions.

Allegations of fraud as threat to arbitration proceedings
India | 01 May 2014

Allegations of fraud by a party have proved to be a vexatious issue for arbitration in India. Judicial pronouncements have led to a situation where even a hint of any fraudulent activity could take disputes out of an arbitrator's jurisdiction. Although recent decisions on international arbitrations linked to India appear to have steered the legal position towards international practice, allegations of fraud in domestic arbitrations remain a minefield.

Is double exequatur doctrine applicable to foreign arbitration awards?
India | 13 February 2014

The Supreme Court recently held that the doctrine of 'double exequatur' is inapplicable in India, in light of the change in law introduced by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The court rejected the argument that a foreign arbitral award could not be enforced in India unless confirmation thereof was first sought from the relevant foreign court.

Minimising judicial interference in international commercial arbitration
India | 31 October 2013

A series of recent Indian court judgments have given a much-needed impetus to arbitration and its practice in India. These judgments are clearly a conscious attempt on the part of the Indian judiciary to restrict intervention in arbitration and related processes in order to make the arbitration process a credible, speedy and effective mode of dispute resolution.

Supreme Court restricts scope of public policy challenges to foreign awards
India | 22 August 2013

The Supreme Court recently held that that when interpreting the expression 'public policy in India', patent illegality cannot be included as one of the grounds on which the enforcement of foreign awards may be refused. The court has endeavoured to make a distinction between awards made in India and foreign awards, with a view to limiting the scope of grounds by which to challenge the latter.

Can arbitration be binding on parties not signatory to arbitration agreement?
India | 20 June 2013

The Delhi High Court recently examined the question of when an arbitration clause can be deemed binding on a party that is not a signatory to the agreement containing the clause. The court held that the question should be determined based on the terms of the agreement, along with the intention and conduct of the parties. However, a cautious eye should be kept on applications in order to discourage frivolous petitions.

Question of law: court affirms restrictions on interference with arbitral award
India | 14 March 2013

The Delhi High Court recently affirmed that where parties to an agreement make reference to an arbitrator for the purposes of determining a question of law, the decision taken by the arbitrator cannot be interfered with by the courts, even if the court itself may have a different view on the question of law from that taken by the arbitrator. The court may interfere only where the view arrived at by the arbitrator is implausible or contrary to law.

Law of limitation is procedural, not substantive
India | 10 January 2013

In a recent appeal of an International Chamber of Commerce arbitration in Malaysia, the Delhi High Court had to consider whether the Indian law of limitation was a procedural law or a substantive law. The lead arbitrator had noted that since the statute of limitations in both India and Malaysia was procedural, an action could be brought in Malaysia even if the period of limitation in the claim had expired under the Indian Limitation Act.

Courts discourage frivolous impleadment of unnecessary parties
India | 27 September 2012

A recent case before the Delhi High Court demonstrates that the courts continue to frown on parties' efforts to avoid arbitration by filing suits that implead unnecessary parties. Efforts on the part of the courts to weed out frivolous civil suits filed by parties to scuttle the arbitral process is a necessary step and will go a long way towards building the confidence of commercial parties when considering engaging in arbitration.

Supreme Court restricts domestic court jurisdiction over foreign arbitrations
India | 13 September 2012

A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court recently issued a judgment in which it restricted the scope of interference by Indian courts in arbitrations conducted outside the territorial boundaries of India by excluding the applicability of Part I of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 to such arbitrations. This judgment was much anticipated in international commercial arbitration circles and is very welcome.

Bilateral investment treaties: chosen pathway for dispute resolution
India | 07 June 2012

Bilateral investment treaties have recently become the chosen pathway for dispute resolution by foreign investors in India. However, historically foreign companies that invest in India have rarely invoked the dispute resolution clauses of such treaties. A view has been canvassed that India should therefore consider amending its investment treaties so as to reduce the protections accorded to foreign investors.

Amendment of grounds in application for challenging arbitral awards
India | 08 March 2012

A recent case before the Supreme Court has confirmed the grounds under which arbitration awards may be challenged. As detailed under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the court has the power to allow an amendment where an application has been made within the prescribed limits, if the peculiar circumstances of the case so warrant and it is so required in the interest of justice.

Court rules on choice of curial law in international commercial arbitrations
India | 08 December 2011

In a recent case the Supreme Court held that there is an implied exclusion of Part I of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 if the parties have expressly chosen foreign law as the curial law to govern the arbitration procedure. Therefore, as a cautionary approach, where parties intend not to be governed by the act's provisions, it is best specifically to exclude the applicability of Part I of the act.

Supreme Court rules on dragging non-parties to arbitration
India | 08 September 2011

Two recent Supreme Court judgments deal with a situation where, due to the peculiar facts of the case, non-parties to the arbitration agreement were joined in the arbitration proceedings. The court therefore considered whether the arbitration agreement should be allowed to have effect in relation to all parties before the court, or only with respect to the parties to the arbitration agreement.

Court implies exclusion of Part I of Arbitration Act in favour of alternative law
India | 30 June 2011

The Supreme Court recently issued its judgment in Videocon Industries Limited v Union of India. The court clarified that on a correct interpretation of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 and relevant judgments, application of Part I of the act would be held to have been excluded by the parties to an arbitration agreement who had agreed that the arbitration agreement will be governed by foreign law.

Exercise of writ jurisdiction not absolute bar in case of arbitration clause
India | 26 May 2011

The Supreme Court recently considered the extent to which the high courts in India are entitled to exercise their powers under Article 226 of the Constitution (writ jurisdiction), notwithstanding the presence of an arbitration clause in the agreement entered into between the parties. The court held that the presence of an alternate remedy did not constitute a bar on the high court from entertaining the dispute in its writ jurisdiction.

Supreme Court affirms limited scope of Section 11 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act
India | 14 April 2011

The courts try to give a restrictive interpretation of the nature and scope of enquiry and the jurisdiction of the chief justice or his or her designate when dealing with petitions under Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The Supreme Court recently held that the chief justice or his or her designate cannot decide on the issues of whether the claims are barred by principles of res judicata and by limitation.

Foreign awards and the scope of 'public policy'
India | 17 February 2011

A recent Delhi High Court decision raised important questions about the enforcement of foreign awards in India. The judgment confirmed that the expression 'public policy' under Section 48(2)(b) of the 1996 Arbitration and Conciliation Act (pertaining to enforcement of a foreign award) carries a narrower meaning than that assigned to the same expression in Section 34(2)(b)(ii) (pertaining to enforcement of a domestic award).

Courts confirm key ingredients of arbitral agreements
India | 09 December 2010

A recent decision by the Supreme Court of India confirmed that an arbitration agreement that is not in writing is invalid. Such agreements should be signed by both parties as mutual consent is a fundamental part of all contracts. Additionally, faxed copies are now considered acceptable.

Is the appointment of a company employee as sole arbitrator bad per se?
India | 30 September 2010

Contracts to which large corporations or government agencies are a party often provide for arbitration as the method of dispute resolution, with a nominee of such corporation or government agency acting as the sole arbitrator. In most cases the arbitrator is named either in person or by designation. Presumption of such arbitrator's bias or lack of independence has always been a bone of contention between parties.

Litigation

Bombay High Court upholds constitutionality of Maharashtra's right to tax lottery schemes
India | 18 December 2018

The Bombay High Court recently upheld the constitutionality of the Maharashtra Tax on Lotteries Act 2006. The legality and taxation of lottery schemes in Maharashtra has been at the centre of a catena of judgments, including State of Bombay v RMD Chamarbaugwala and Writ Petition 854/2007. The latest judgment clarifies that the taxation of lotteries falls within the ambit of the term 'betting and gambling' under Entry 62 of the State List of the Constitution.