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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 Supreme Court recently held that a dishonoured post-dated cheque for repayment of a loan instalment that was described as 'security' in the loan agreement was covered by the criminal liability set out in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. While deciding whether dishonoured cheques issued to discharge existing liability fall under Section 138, the court explained that the question of whether a post-dated cheque is for "discharge of debt or liability" depends on the nature of the transaction.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently issued a press release stating that given the rapid changes to the payments solutions space, it was in the process of reviewing the regulatory framework governing pre-paid payment instruments. The RBI also stated that it will grant no new licences for the issue of pre-paid payment instruments until the end of February 2017. This temporary suspension will not apply to applications made by new small finance banks and payment banks.
The Reserve Bank of India recently issued guidelines for the at-will licensing of universal banks in the private sector which, for the first time, will allow applicants to apply for a banking licence at will. The at-will regime will lead to increased transparency, better innovation and more realistic valuations, and is a significant step towards a healthier licensing regime for new private banks.
Continuing its slew of exemptions, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has exempted all public sector oil and gas companies (created under the Petroleum Act 1934) from pre-merger scrutiny by the Competition Commission of India under Sections 5 and 6 of the Competition Act 2002. The exemption – which will be valid for five years from the date of the official Gazette notification – also extends to all wholly or partly owned subsidiaries of such companies.
In 2017 the Competition Commission of India (CCI) found a prima facie case of abuse of a dominant position by the Haryana Urban Development Authority and sent the case to the director general for further investigation. Despite the Haryana Urban Development Authority Act and Regulations being the governing law in the case, the CCI opined that it would have jurisdiction to examine the matter in order to establish any anti-competitive conduct or practice under the Competition Act.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has re-imposed a penalty of Rs522.4 million on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for abuse of its dominant position in the market. The BCCI argued that it is a not-for-profit organisation established to promote cricket in India and does not engage in any kind of commercial activity with the aim of profiting. However, the CCI held that despite there being no profit motive, the BCCI should be considered an enterprise under the Competition Act.
The Competition Commission of India recently initiated an investigation into Star India Pvt Ltd for an alleged violation of the Competition Act 2002 following claims filed by a private multi-system operator (MSO) engaged in cable TV distribution in the state of Kerala. The claimant alleged that Star India had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and abused its dominant position by charging excessive licence fees compared with the fees that it had charged the claimant's competitors and other Kerala MSOs.
The Competition Commission of India has directed the All India Film Employee Confederation and various regional associations to cease and desist anti-competitive conduct, including suspending work and boycotting film directors who engage artists from outside the associations. The order establishes the importance of maintaining competition in the marketplace even in matters concerning workers' rights, which are otherwise protected under the respective labour statutes.
The new Code on Wages 2017 was recently introduced in Lok Sabha and is currently pending approval. The code seeks to integrate, amend and simplify the four central labour laws in order to reduce the multiplicity of definitions given under various labour legislation and foster a conducive labour environment by facilitating ease of compliance, thereby promoting the establishment of more organisations and creating more employment opportunities.
The Payment of Gratuity Act 1972 is a form of social security legislation which prescribes a scheme for the payment of gratuity. For the private sector, gratuity is capped at Rs1 million, whereas central government employees can receive gratuity of up to Rs2 million. There is a proposal to increase the cap for the private sector in order to align it with the central government. Although this is a step forward in ensuring better benefits to eligible employees, it will increase employers' financial burden.
The federal government recently enacted a new act in order to empower disabled individuals and ensure their inclusion in the education and employment spheres. Although the government is primarily responsible for ensuring that disabled individuals receive equal treatment under the act, private organisations have also been made accountable for various obligations.
With the growing landscape of global businesses, there is a constant need to deploy employees for international assignments not only for skill development, but also for the business needs of the organisation. In order to abate similar obligations in a host country, India has entered into social security agreements (SSAs) with many countries. SSAs offer various benefits, such as the totalisation of benefits and exemption from dual contributions of social security.
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016 was recently passed by the upper house of Parliament. Key changes include enhanced maternity leave, the introduction of maternity leave for adopting and commissioning mothers and new remote working provisions. The amendments are undoubtedly a positive step towards promoting diversity and the increased participation of women in the workforce in the manufacturing and service industries.
The Reserve Bank of India recently directed several banks to start insolvency resolution proceedings against a list of identified companies, including Jaypee Infratech Limited, a leading real estate development company. The case has highlighted the need for the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 to recognise a wider class of creditors that can initiate an insolvency proceeding and participate meaningfully in such process. It has also emphasised the important role that financial creditors play.
With the enactment of many of the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and regulations therein, the code has been sufficiently developed to operate in practice and provide speedy resolutions to companies undergoing a debt crisis. Further, the remarkable pace of the code's implementation in the past six months reflects the central government's commitment to making the code operational as soon as possible.
Following the establishment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board, the government has taken concrete steps to expedite the implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016. In particular, the government has appointed members to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board and released draft rules and regulations. These are positive steps towards achieving a fully functional insolvency and bankruptcy regime encapsulated under the code.
As part of the ongoing overhaul of the insolvency regime, the government recently notified certain provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 that deal with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India's constitution and the appointment of its members and passed the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill 2016 in both houses of Parliament.
From an investor's standpoint, a robust and effective bankruptcy regime is a prerequisite for the development of the corporate debt market. However, the existing insolvency and bankruptcy framework is highly fragmented. In order to resolve this serious issue, the government recently enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016, which essentially consolidates the existing legal regime for insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings in India.