The arbitration and conciliation amendment bill-2019

On July 15, 2019 the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced by the Ministry for Law and Justice in Rajya Sabha. It seeks to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. This Act has provisions to deal with the international and domestic arbitration and states the law for conducting conciliation proceedings.

Salient features of the Bill are:

  • Arbitration Council of India:
    The Act seeks to set up an independent body known as the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) for the advancement of conciliation, arbitration and meditation and other dispute redressal mechanisms Its functions include:
    • structuring policies for grading accrediting arbitrators and arbitral institutions,
    • creating policies for the establishment, maintenance and operation of uniform professional standards for all other dispute redressal matters, and
    • maintaining a depository of arbitral awards made in India and abroad.

  • Composition of the Arbitration Council of India (ACI):
    The ACI will consist of a Chairperson who is either:
    • Chief justice of a High Court or
    • a Judge of a supreme Court; or
    • a Judge of a high Court; or
    • a prominent person with knowledge in conduct of arbitration.
    Other members will include a prominent arbitration practitioner, a scholar with experience in arbitration, and government appointees.

  • Appointment of arbitrators:
    According to the Act, 1996 parties had liberty to appoint arbitrators. In case of disparity on an appointment, the party could appeal in the concerned high court, the Supreme Court, any institution or concerned court designated by such court, to appoint an arbitrator.

  • In accordance with this bill, the Supreme Court and High Courts may now designate arbitral institutions, which parties can approach for the appointment of arbitrators. For international commercial arbitration, appointments will be made by the institution designated by the Supreme Court. While for domestic arbitration, appointments will be made by the institution designated by the High Court. If in case there are no arbitral institutions available, the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court may maintain a panel of arbitrators to perform the functions of the arbitral institutions. An application for appointment of an arbitrator is needed to be prepared within thirty days.

  • Relaxation of time limits:
    Under the Act, arbitral tribunals have to make their award within a period of one year for all arbitration proceedings. The Bill seeks to eliminate this time limit for international commercial arbitrations. It adds that tribunals must try to dispose off international arbitration matters within 12 months.

  • Accomplishment of written submissions:
    At present, there is no time restriction to file written submissions before an arbitral tribunal. The Bill needs that the written claim and the defence to the claim in an arbitration proceeding should be accomplished within 6 months of the appointment of the arbitrators.

  • Confidentiality of proceedings:
    The Bill facilitates that all information of arbitration proceedings will be kept confidential except for the information of the arbitral award in specific situation. Exposure of the arbitral award will only be made where it is needed to enforce or implement the award.

  • Applicability of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 2015:
    The Bill illuminates that the 2015 Act shall only apply to arbitral proceedings which commenced on or after October 23, 2015.