India: Road to Become World Arbitration Hub.
Recently Delhi arbitration weekend was observed from 17 to 19 February 2023. The event mainly focused on recent trends and developments in both Domestic and International Arbitration. From the panel discussions which were held, it could be easily deciphered that the main aim of the event was to identify and evaluate the finest arbitration techniques that can be incorporated into the norm.
The objective behind such events is to build a network among academics, practitioners, and specialists through dialogues and panel discussions with renowned judges, lawyers, and arbitration professionals from across the world.
One seems to me mesmerized and amazed at the same time that the vibrant country ours in the 75th year of its independence came a long way from being a colony to the sixth largest economy in the world having a GDP of 2.7 trillion USD. Still, there seems to be a long road till we become the hub of Arbitration in the world the space which is presently being held by Singapore for a long, India too could and will reach that epitome in times to come if we check the right boxes at the right places.
Potential to Become Arbitration Hub
Our country India has the potential to become an international arbitration hub due to several factors.
- Firstly, India has a large and growing economy with a significant number of commercial disputes. As businesses in India continue to grow and expand, there is likely to be an increase in the number of commercial disputes, which can be resolved through arbitration.
- Secondly, India has a large pool of skilled lawyers, judges, and arbitrators who are well-versed in the law and practice of arbitration. This can help in building a strong pool of qualified and experienced arbitrators and mediators.
- Thirdly, India has made significant strides in improving its arbitration laws and procedures, which can provide a conducive environment for conducting international arbitrations. The Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 has been amended several times to align with international best practices, and India has also signed the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
- Fourthly, India has established several arbitration institutions such as the Indian Council of Arbitration, the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration, and the Delhi International Arbitration Centre, which can provide a platform for conducting international arbitrations.
- Lastly, India’s strategic location between Europe and Asia, coupled with its advanced transportation infrastructure and communication technology, can make it an ideal venue for international arbitrations.
Before we could claim ourselves on the road to become the world arbitration hub, we need to first pause and introspect about what are the difficulties we could face or impediments which lie on our road to become the International Arbitration Hub.
There are several limitations to arbitration in India that can impact its effectiveness and efficiency. These include:
- Delays: Arbitration proceedings in India can sometimes face delays due to various reasons, such as lengthy court procedures, lack of qualified arbitrators, and the time taken for enforcement of arbitral awards.
- The limited scope of arbitrability: India’s arbitration laws limit the scope of arbitrability to certain types of disputes, such as commercial disputes. This can prevent parties from choosing arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism for certain types of disputes.
- Limited institutional support: While India has established several arbitration institutions, they are relatively new and lack the infrastructure and resources necessary to handle large and complex international arbitrations.
- Lack of clarity in laws: There are certain ambiguities in Indian arbitration laws, which can lead to confusion and delays in arbitration proceedings. This can also create uncertainty for parties involved in the arbitration.
The above limitations though seem to be an impediment but they are not permanent and could be easily overcome if we follow and undertake the following measures:
- Improve infrastructure and resources: The government and private sector can invest in the development of infrastructure and resources necessary for conducting arbitrations, such as training and certifying arbitrators, creating arbitration centres, and providing support services for arbitrations.
- Streamline court procedures: The courts can take steps to streamline procedures for enforcing arbitral awards and to minimize interference in the arbitral process.
- Expand the scope of arbitrability: India’s arbitration laws can be expanded to allow for a wider range of disputes to be resolved through arbitration, including disputes related to intellectual property, employment, and public policy.
- Enhance institutional support: Existing arbitration institutions can be strengthened by providing more resources, improving infrastructure, and developing expertise to handle international arbitrations.
- Clarify arbitration laws: India’s arbitration laws can be clarified and updated to eliminate ambiguities and provide more certainty to parties involved in the arbitration.
- Streamline arbitration procedures: One of the key factors that discourage parties from using arbitration is the lengthy and costly procedures involved. India needs to streamline its arbitration procedures to ensure that they are simple, efficient, and cost-effective. This can be achieved by setting clear timelines for various stages of arbitration and eliminating unnecessary procedural requirements.
- Develop a robust infrastructure for arbitration: India needs to develop a robust infrastructure for arbitration, including state-of-the-art arbitration centres and facilities, specialized arbitration courts, and a pool of qualified arbitrators. This will help attract foreign investors and make India an attractive destination for international arbitrations.
- Enhance the legal framework: India needs to enhance its legal framework for arbitration to ensure that it is in line with international best practices. This includes amending the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to incorporate the latest developments in arbitration law, such as the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.
- Promote institutional arbitration: India needs to promote institutional arbitration to ensure that arbitration is conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Institutional arbitration involves the use of professional arbitration institutions, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), to administer the arbitration proceedings. This helps ensure that the arbitration is conducted in accordance with established rules and procedures.
- Encourage the use of technology: India needs to encourage the use of technology in arbitration proceedings to improve efficiency and reduce costs. This includes the use of video conferencing for witness testimony, e-discovery for document production, and online case management systems for case administration.
- Ensure enforceability of arbitration awards: India needs to ensure that arbitration awards are enforceable both domestically and internationally. This includes improving the enforcement mechanisms under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, and signing the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
- Special provisions for small claims: India should also consider having a separate and simplified arbitration mechanism for small value claims. This will help provide a cost-effective and efficient dispute-resolution mechanism for small businesses and individuals who may not have the resources to participate in regular arbitration proceedings.
In conclusion, improving the arbitration regime in India requires a comprehensive approach that involves enhancing the legal framework, promoting institutional arbitration, developing a robust infrastructure for arbitration, and encouraging the use of technology. By doing so, India can become a preferred destination for international arbitrations and safeguard the effectiveness and purpose of arbitration in small-value claims.
By implementing these measures, India can overcome the limitations of arbitration and create a more effective and efficient dispute-resolution mechanism for both domestic and international disputes. India has the potential to become an international arbitration hub, given its large economy, skilled legal professionals improved arbitration laws and procedures, established arbitration institutions, and strategic location. By capitalizing on these factors, India can attract more international arbitrations and establish itself as a preferred destination for dispute resolution.