The Union Law Ministry has taken a significant step towards enhancing the arbitration ecosystem in India by constituting an expert committee to recommend reforms in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996. Chaired by Dr TK Vishwanathan, Former Secretary of the Department of Legal Affairs, the committee comprises sixteen members with diverse legal expertise and representation from key government bodies. The committee aims to assess the functioning of the current arbitration law and provide recommendations within a span of 30 days, starting from June 14.
The expert committee boasts a team of legal experts, including Dr TK Vishwanathan as the chairman and DK Singh, CCA, Department of Legal Affairs, as the convener. It also includes prominent members such as N Venkatraman, ASGI, Gourab Banerji and AK Gangull, Senior Advocates, and representatives from esteemed organizations like NITI Aayog, Ministry of Railways, and Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, among others.
Terms of Reference for the Expert Committee
The expert committee has been entrusted with a comprehensive set of terms of reference to guide its work. These include:
- Evaluating the current arbitration ecosystem in India, comparing it with other foreign jurisdictions, and identifying strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.
- Recommending a framework for a model arbitration system that is efficient, effective, economical, and meets the requirements of users.
- Devising strategies to create a competitive environment in the arbitration services market, both for domestic and international parties, focusing on cost-effective arbitration and the development of arbitration professionals.
- Proposing measures to expedite the enforcement of arbitral awards, including modifications to existing provisions related to setting aside awards and appeals.
- Suggesting statutory means to minimize the recourse to judicial authorities and courts in arbitration-related dispute resolution mechanisms.
- Recommending an administrative mechanism or standard operating procedure (SOP) to minimize routine challenges to arbitral awards by the government.
- Proposing principles for the determination of costs and fees in arbitration.
- Developing a charter of duties to guide arbitral tribunals, parties, and arbitral institutions.
- Examining the feasibility of enacting separate laws for domestic and international arbitration and for enforcing foreign awards.
Conclusion The constitution of the expert committee by the central government marks a significant step towards reforming and strengthening the arbitration ecosystem in India. The recommendations put forth by this committee have