Scope of Section 11(6A) of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act
Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), mainly denotes a wide range of dispute resolution processes that act as a means of disagreeing parties to come to an agreement without using the means of litigation. It is a collective term that refers to the ways in which the parties can settle disputes, with the help of a third party. It is also known as external dispute resolution (EDR). ADR has gained widespread acceptance among both the general public and the legal profession in the recent years and is also being adopted as the means to help settle disputes alongside the court system itself. Arbitration is one of the most popular forms of ADR. In the process of arbitration, there has to be a valid Arbitration Agreement between the parties prior to the emergence of a dispute for the process of arbitration to exist. In this method of dispute resolution, the parties refer the dispute to a third party, who is appointed as an arbitrator. In India, the process of arbitration is governed by the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996. It must be noted that the arbitrator is appointed by either party to the dispute and if the other party does not approve of the said arbitrator, the party can approach the Chief Justice for the appointment of the arbitrator. The decision of the arbitrator is binding on both the parties and his decision is given in the form of an award. It is important to point out that an arbitration tribunal has jurisdiction over its jurisdiction. Therefore, if either of the parties is unhappy with the arbitral award then Section 34 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act provides certain grounds upon which a party can appeal to the principal civil court of original jurisdiction for setting aside the award.
India has had a long-standing tradition of resorting to arbitration as an ADR. The settlement of differences by tribunals chosen by the parties themselves was well known in ancient India as well. There were in fact, different sections of arbitrators with provisions for a variety of appeals in cases from the award of a lower section of arbitrators to arbitrators of the higher section. The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015 brought about certain significant changes that were required to support the growth of international arbitration in the country. One of these was the provision of finally allowing the arbitral institutions to create their own rules which are consistent with the Act to ensure that arbitrations are prompt and effective. The 2015 amendment also added part 6A to section 11 of the Act. The 2015 amendment widened the scope of section 11 of the act. The section makes it necessary for the court to consider the existence of a valid arbitration agreement between the parties. It makes it clear that the court can refuse to refer the parties to arbitration if a valid arbitration agreement does not exist between them. The amendment gives the authority to the courts to determine whether an arbitration agreement between the parties is null or void.
As an application of the right judicial mind became important under the new amendment, the broadening of the scope of the appointment of arbitrators while adjudicating a petition made the whole process delightful for a lawyer. It is after the 2015 amendment that judicial intervention has become limited in arbitration proceedings especially in cases relating to the enforcement of arbitral awards. The amendment was necessary to limit the act from becoming just another piece of legislation. The 2015 amendment has gone a long way in strengthening the process of arbitration in the country.