Since the past few months, there were robust discussions on the proposed Arbitration Amendment Bill to incorporate necessary changes in the existing Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 along with the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Placing into consideration the need for incorporating certain changes in the existing law relating to Arbitration and other related ADR mechanisms with reference to enhancing and promoting institutional, arbitration vis-a-vis ad hoc arbitration and to remove some practical difficulties in applicability of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015, a High Level Committee (HLC) under the Chairmanship of Justice B. H. Srikrishna, Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India, was constituted by the Central Government to review and provide possible remedies and solutions. With the new 2018 Amendment Bill being approved by the Cabinet for being introduced in the Parliament for further discussions, the following new agendas and features are proposed to be intorduced by way of this bill:
- The Bill proposes to create an Arbitration Council of India (ACI) whose prime objective is to grade arbitral institutions and accreditation of arbitrators on certain specific guidelines to promote and recognise ADR mechanisms for dispute resolution along with maintaining an electronic depository for all arbitral awards. The ACI would act in the capacity of formulating norms and policies towards , operation and maintenance of uniform professional standards in respect of all matters relating to arbitration and ADR mechanism. It is also envisaged that parties could directly approach arbitral institutions designated by the Supreme Court for International Commercial arbitration and in other cases the concerned High Courts.
- Under the proposed amendments, the ACI shall be a body corporate. The Chairperson of ACI shall be a person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice or Judge of any High Court or any eminent person. Further, the other Members would include an eminent academician etc. besides other Government nominees.
- Further the Section 42A and 42B have been proposed to ensure confidentiality of arbitral proceedings by arbitrators and arbitral institutions except for the arbitral award and to safeguard arbitrators from any suit or legal proceedings for any act or omission that may have been committed in good faith during the arbitral proceedings respectively.
- A prominent amendment to Section 29A (1) is proposed to exclude International Arbitrations from bounds of timeline i.e. passing of awards are not bound to be made within 12 months from the institution of the Arbitral Tribunal. Further, the timeline for passing an award in other arbitrations would be from the completion of the pleading of the parties.
- A new section 87 is proposed to be inserted to clarify that unless parties agree otherwise the Amendment Act 2015 shall not apply to
(a) Arbitral proceedings which have commenced before the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015
(b) Court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such arbitral proceedings irrespective of whether such court proceedings are commenced prior to or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and shall apply only to Arbitral proceedings commenced on or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and to court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such Arbitral proceedings.
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