Arbitration evolved as an expeditious, cost-effective, simple and fair alternative to litigation. However, over time, it became costly. Coupled with largely ineffective provisions regarding costs allocation and recoverability, this was considered a roadblock to the development of arbitration in India. Section 31A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, which was introduced in 2015, was thus a welcome step towards costs recoverability being based on rational and realistic criteria.
The Supreme Court recently refused enforcement of a foreign award on the basis that it was contrary to the fundamental public policy of India. Although a recent decision, the dispute arose almost 40 years ago and thus pertains to an era which preceded the amendment of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. In its decision, the court analysed the concept of public policy and the difference between contingent contracts and frustration as a principle for voidability of contracts under the Contract Act.
If the parties to a contract fail to choose the applicable law, the task trickles down to the arbitral tribunal. This will be one of the first tasks required of an arbitral tribunal, as adjudication of a dispute is not possible until the applicable law has been determined. Further, the application of an incorrect law is a ground for setting aside an arbitral award. This article examines the role of an arbitral tribunal in determining the applicable law in arbitration proceedings.
Following the passing of amendments in 2015, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act specifically provides that arbitral tribunal orders which are passed under Section 17 of the act will be enforceable under the Code of Civil Procedure as if they were a court order. However, a party can take advantage of Section 17 only when the arbitration is seated in India, which raises questions as to the enforceability of interim measures granted by arbitral tribunals which are situated outside India.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.