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Navigating Arbitration: A Comparative Analysis of India and the United States



Arbitration is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that provides an amicable way for two disputing parties to settle their differences outside of the courtroom. This process involves the engagement of an authorized third party known as the 'arbitrator' to assist in resolving the dispute, avoiding the need for litigation. The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act of 2015 granted the parties the freedom to select their arbitrator, leading to the formation of an arbitral tribunal. Section 2(a)[1] of this act defines "arbitration" broadly, encompassing all forms of arbitration, regardless of whether it is administered by a permanent arbitral institution. One of the key advantages of arbitration over traditional litigation is its flexibility and adaptability. It offers a more accommodating and efficient way to resolve disputes, making it particularly well-suited for transnational conflicts. There are six primary types of arbitration[2]: Domestic Arbitration, International Arbitration, International Commercial Arbitration, Ad-hoc Arbitration, Fast Track Arbitration, and Institutional Arbitration. Domestic Arbitration pertains to disputes where both parties are from the same nation and seek resolution by their domestic laws. In contrast, International Arbitration occurs when at least one party is based in a foreign nation or when the subject matter of the dispute is foreign. International Commercial Arbitration deals with disputes arising from commercial relationships, involving parties from different countries or legal entities. Ad Hoc Arbitration excludes any arbitral institution, allowing arbitrators to independently determine the procedure. Fast Track Arbitration is characterized by its expedited process, often involving written pleadings completed within six months. Institutional Arbitration is supervised by arbitral institutions, with the procedures guided by their established rules and regulations.

In summary, arbitration is a versatile and effective method of dispute resolution that offers parties the freedom to select their arbitrators and choose the most suitable arbitration type for their specific case, making it a valuable alternative to traditional litigation, particularly in international and commercial disputes.


An arbitral award, rendered by an arbitrator, is a legally binding decision used to resolve disputes. It can encompass both monetary and non-monetary considerations and, if necessary, can be enforced through the court system. In the case of non-monetary awards, where a claim is unsuccessful, the arbitrator may rule that neither party is obligated to compensate the other. The fundamental components of an arbitral award include a clear description of the dispute's cause, a written format with a specified date and time, and the signature of the arbitrator/mediator. Arbitral awards can be categorized into two primary types: domestic awards and foreign awards. Domestic awards pertain to disputes that originate within India's territorial jurisdiction and are governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996. On the other hand, foreign awards involve disputes with international aspects, such as parties from different countries or disputes originating outside India's borders. These awards are subject to distinct regulations and enforcement procedures, making a clear distinction between the two categories. In summary, arbitral awards play a crucial role in resolving disputes and can have both domestic and international applications, with specific legal frameworks governing each.



In the United States, the process of dispute resolution through arbitration is governed by federal law, with a primary focus on implementing international conventions like the New York and Panama Conventions[3]. These laws also dictate the enforcement of arbitral awards by converting them into court judgments and ensuring the validity of arbitration agreements.

The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) is a key piece of legislation in the U.S. that governs arbitration. However, Section 1[4] of the FAA carves out specific exemptions, particularly in maritime operations and commerce. This means that disputes related to maritime activities, such as bills of lading, water carriers, and foreign commerce issues, fall under admiralty jurisdiction rather than the FAA's provisions. Additionally, employment contracts involving seamen, railroad employees, or workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce are also exempted from the FAA's scope.

A significant legal case, Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon[5], delved into the question of whether airline ramp workers are considered workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce, as per Section 1's exemption under the FAA. The court ruled in favour of considering them as such, emphasizing the integral role these workers play in transporting goods across borders.

In contrast, in India, arbitration is regulated by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996. However, certain disputes are categorized as non-arbitrable, which means they cannot be resolved through arbitration. The determination of non-arbitrable matters in India is based on the nature of rights involved in the dispute. Disputes over rights in rem (against the world at large) are generally non-arbitrable, while disputes over rights in personam (against specific individuals) can be subject to arbitration. The Supreme Court of India further clarified this concept by categorizing six specific types of non-arbitrable disputes, including criminal offences, matrimonial disputes, guardianship matters, insolvency and winding up, testamentary matters, and eviction or tenancy matters.

The history of arbitration in the United States reveals its transformation from non-enforceable agreements to the enactment of the New York Arbitration Act of 1920 and the United States Arbitration Act of 1925 (now known as the FAA). These laws made arbitration agreements enforceable, except for specific exceptions, leading to the establishment of a legal framework that encourages the use of arbitration as a viable alternative to court proceedings. Furthermore, on the global stage, UNCITRAL, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, plays a pivotal role in facilitating international trade by promoting harmonization in trade laws through legislative and non-legislative means. It aims to create a conducive environment for international trade by providing a framework for resolving disputes and promoting legal consistency.

In summary, the United States and India have distinct legal frameworks governing arbitration, with the U.S. heavily relying on federal law, while India follows the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996, and both countries have made efforts to define and enforce non-arbitrable matters and promote international trade through legal means and conventions.


The effectiveness of arbitration in India and the United States has significant implications for the legal and business landscape in both countries. In the 2020 World Bank Report on Ease of Doing Business, India showed substantial progress in terms of its business-friendly environment. It was noted that a more efficient judicial system significantly influences corporate efficiency. However, the report also highlighted that settling commercial disputes through the judicial process in India can take an average of 1,095 days, indicating a need for more expeditious methods of dispute resolution. The Nation Judicial Data Grid reveals a substantial backlog of arbitration cases, further underscoring the demand for streamlined processes. Arbitration is generally considered a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to litigation. Singapore has become a hub for international commercial arbitration, thanks to its commitment to upholding agreements and awards, providing world-class infrastructure, and facilitating mediation between domestic and international parties. In India, well-established arbitration centres like the Delhi International Arbitration Centre (DIAC), Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Centre (NPAC), and the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration are instrumental in providing dispute resolution services. However, the arbitration process in India can suffer from delays when disputes move from arbitration to the courts.

One distinctive feature in India is the practice of appointing retired Judges as arbitrators. While some see this as beneficial due to their experience and expertise, others argue that it may contribute to the delays in the arbitration process. The balance between experienced arbitrators and younger arbitration lawyers is a matter of debate. In the United States, recent legal developments have sought to limit the use of mandatory arbitration agreements, particularly in employment, civil rights, consumer, and antitrust disputes. The FAIR Act of 2022 and MeToo laws aim to make such agreements void, increase corporate accountability and encourage companies to improve their policies and address underlying issues. Both India and the United States have international bodies and institutions that facilitate arbitration, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Centre for Dispute Resolution of the American Arbitration Association, and the London Court of International Arbitration. In the U.S., foreign commercial awards can be enforced by presenting an original copy of the award, except in cases of non-recognition, where the losing party can establish specific grounds for such non-recognition.

The case of Al-Qarqani v. Chevron Corporation[6] in the U.S. illustrates the complexities that can arise in the enforcement of arbitral awards. In this case, the court had to determine whether there was a valid arbitration agreement between the parties, which required a careful analysis of historical agreements and the arbitration tribunal's jurisdiction.

In conclusion, arbitration plays a crucial role in both India and the United States, offering an efficient and cost-effective means of dispute resolution. However, challenges in backlog, legal developments, and the choice of arbitrators impact the effectiveness of the arbitration process in each country, with implications for the business environment and the rule of law.



Section 241(a)[7] of the Companies Act 2013 addresses the issue of oppression and allows shareholders with a substantial stake in a company to seek relief from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) when they believe that the company's operations are prejudicial to the public interest, unfairly biased against a specific party, or serve private interests rather than the company's welfare. While the Act does not precisely define "oppression," it typically involves conduct by the majority shareholders that amounts to misconduct against the minority shareholders and must be a continuous pattern, as established in the Shanti Prasad Jain v Kalinga Tubes[8] case. The arbitrability of oppression, a contentious issue, was notably clarified in the Vikram Bakshi v McDonald's case[9]. In this case, a joint venture between Connaught Plaza Restaurants and McDonald's resulted in a dispute over the qualifications of Vikram Bakshi as the Managing Director. McDonald's India sought to expel Bakshi, leading to his allegations of oppression and mismanagement. The matter transitioned from the Company Law Board to the NCLT, which determined that Bakshi's removal was oppressive, as his leadership had significantly expanded the business. The key point is that the issue of oppression and mismanagement, which falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the NCLT, cannot be referred to an arbitral tribunal. While the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996 allows for arbitration of civil and commercial disputes, section 430[10] of the Companies Act 2013 explicitly prohibits civil courts from entertaining issues related to oppression and mismanagement, reserving this jurisdiction for the NCLT. In summary, oppression and mismanagement claims must be addressed through the NCLT rather than arbitration, as the exclusive authority for such matters lies with the NCLT, as mandated by the Companies Act. This principle is grounded in legal precedents and the regulatory framework, making it clear that these issues are non-arbitrable.



India is actively working to promote international arbitration by amending its Arbitration Act, which has made the process more efficient and accessible. The amendments align India's arbitration laws with international standards, as seen in the case of Bharat Aluminium Co. v Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services Inc.[11], which highlighted the distinction between different parts of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. In the United States, adherence to international arbitration norms is achieved through agreements like the New York Convention and the Inter-American Convention. However, recent developments include the repeal of the Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act in 2021 and the controversial passage of the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act) in 2022. Critics argue that the FAIR Act could nullify existing agreements in various areas, including employment, consumer disputes, antitrust, and civil rights, by banning arbitration agreements and class action waivers. Arbitration stands as a vital mechanism for dispute resolution in both India and the United States. It offers an alternative to lengthy and costly litigation, promoting efficiency and flexibility. However, the effectiveness of arbitration in each country is influenced by unique legal frameworks, evolving regulations, and practical challenges.

In India, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996 has been amended to bring it in line with international standards, of arbitration. The FAIR Act and MeToo laws are attempts to increase corporate accountability and protect the rights of individuals. Nonetheless, both countries have recognized the significance of international arbitration, with various institutions and conventions facilitating the process and promoting legal consistency in international trade. The non-arbitrable nature of oppression and mismanagement claims in India, as defined by the Companies Act, serves as a testament to the careful balance between arbitration and specialized tribunals in addressing complex issues. In conclusion, arbitration remains a cornerstone of dispute resolution, with India and the United States showcasing different legal landscapes and recent developments that influence the efficacy of this alternative to litigation. While challenges persist, the commitment to promoting international arbitration and addressing specific categories of non-arbitrable matters signifies the enduring relevance and adaptability of this essential process.


[1] Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, s 2(a)

[2] 'Types of Arbitration' (Law Times Journal, 10 August 2019) <htns://hwtimesJournalr /y of-arbitration/>

accessed 09 November 2023

[3] Daniel Schimmel et al., 'Arbitration procedures and practice in the United States: Overview' Practical Law

accessed 09 November 2023

[4] Federal Arbitration Act 1925, s 1

[5] Southwest Airlines Co. v Saxon [2022]

[6] Al-Qarqani v. Chevron Corp., 19-17074 (9th Cir. 2021).

[7] Companies Act 2013,s 241(a)

[8]  Shanti Prasad Jain v Kalinga Tubes (1965) AIR 1535

[9] Vikram Bakshi v McDonald's (2017) 143 SCL 37

[10] Companies Act 2013,s 230

[11] Bharat Aluminium Co. v Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services Inc. Civ App No 7019/2005

  • Arbitration, a versatile and efficient alternative to litigation, offers parties the freedom to choose their arbitrators and tailor the process to their specific case.
  • In both India and the United States, recent legal developments are shaping the landscape of arbitration, with potential implications for corporate accountability and individual rights.
  • The non-arbitrable nature of oppression and mismanagement claims in India highlights the delicate balance between arbitration and specialized tribunals in addressing complex issues.

BY : Trupti Shetty

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