Counsel for the respondent, Puneet Chandra, expressed his wish of not filing a response as the respondent party has no objection if this Court appoints an arbitrator. It is further submitted that the council has spoken with Justice Anil Kumar (Retd.), who has agreed to act as an arbitrator.
Counsel for the applicant, Gantavya Chandra, argues that in an earlier arbitration application between the same parties, which was disposed of in February 2020, Justice Anurag Kumar (Retd.) was appointed as the arbitrator. He is currently dealing with a similar dispute, having considerable experience in the field. He is acquainted with all the facts that would make it easier for the applicant to be heard before him. This, in turn, will result in expeditious disposal of the case.
The respondent’s counsel retorted to this by referring to Schedule V Rule 24 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1986. He further submits that if the arbitrator is currently serving or has served within the past three years as an arbitrator in another arbitration on a related issue involving the parties or a dispute between the parties, it might raise justified doubts about his independence and impartiality. He also refers to Section 12(1)(a) of the Act, 1996.
Further, counsel for the applicant refers to explanation 1 of Section 12(1)(a)(b), which says that the grounds stated in the 5th Schedule shall only serve as a guide in determining whether the circumstances exist which can give rise to a justified doubt as to the independence or impartiality of an arbitrator. He also has contended that Schedule-V does not talk of grounds of ineligibility of the Arbitrator but talks of grounds that might raise justifiable doubts about independence and impartiality. He has further submitted that in all cases, Rule 24 would not be a complete bar. He relies on the judgment of the Supreme Court in HRD Corpn. v. GAIL (India) Ltd., (2018) 12 SCC 471.
After careful consideration of the facts, circumstance, and arguments, this Court observed that the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 had been framed with the avowed object of expeditious disposal of the disputes arising out between the parties under an agreement which has an arbitration clause in it and case, the opposite party herein wish to challenge any finding of the proposed Arbitrator of the applicant, namely, Justice Anurag Kumar (Retd.), they may raise the valid ground of Rule 24 of the Schedule-V even on the termination of the Arbitration and the passing of the Arbitral Award.
Because of the above, the Court disposed of the application with Justice Anil Kumar (Retd.) appointed as the arbitrator.
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