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Experts list problems plaguing the arbitration process

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IN DISCUSSION: H.L. Gokhale, Madras High Court Chief Justice (third from left), interacting with K.K. Venugopal, senior advocate, Supreme Court, at a conference in Chennai on Saturday.
IN DISCUSSION: H.L. Gokhale, Madras High Court Chief Justice (third from left), interacting with K.K. Venugopal, senior advocate, Supreme Court, at a conference in Chennai on Saturday.

Special Correspondent

“No institutional rules on matters such as fees and time limit”

CHENNAI: Singapore, which enacted the International Arbitration Act in 1994, based on the Model Law of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, has become the seat of arbitration, Chief Justice of Madras High Court H.L.Gokhale said on Saturday.

Noting that the 1994 Act adopted the Model Law with minor modifications, Mr.Gokhale, who inaugurated a conference on arbitration, gave examples of similarities between the Singapore’s Act and India’s Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996. He posed the question whether arbitration in India was slow and whether interference by courts was on a larger scale.

Mr.Gokhale was addressing the conference organised by the Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Centre (NPAC), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). K.K. Venugopal, senior advocate, Supreme Court, said arbitration was supposed to be a swift and inexpensive remedy but was as expensive and time consuming as civil cases in courts. The Law Commission, in 2001, researched the system of arbitration and came out with “excellent suggestions.” It had followed up with a Bill, which cited the defects in the 1996 Act, including the fact that there was no time limit for completing arbitration. To set right this problem, the Bill had recommended a one-year time limit.

For each extension, approval had to be sought from courts. The courts had to be informed about the number of hearings conducted, the money spent on arbitration by way of administrative expenses and fees paid to arbitrators and the reasons for adjournment. “If this Bill had been made into law, the result would have been that we would have had arbitrations which would be completed swiftly and without much delay.” Noting that ad hoc arbitrations were the norm, he said there were no institutional rules on matters such as fees and time limit.

So, there had to be some amount of supervision to ensure that arbitrations went through swiftly.

Arvind P. Datar, Director of the NPAC, said his organisation was established three years ago for developing institutional arbitration in the country.

Till now, 1,022 sittings had been conducted.

C.K. Ranganathan, chairman of the State council of the CII, committed his organisation’s willingness to work closely with the legal system in dispute resolution. Minn Naing Oo, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer (designate) of the SIAC, said Singapore was fast developing into a regional hub of dispute resolution and other legal services.

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