The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019
The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on July 15, 2019, and the bill received the assent of the President on August 9, 2019. The Act aims to make certain key amendments in the 1996 Act of Arbitration and Conciliation. The key features of the Act are:
- Arbitral Institution- The Act provides that the Supreme Court and the High Court shall have the authority to appoint Arbitral Institutions. The Act also states that in case of international commercial arbitrations, arbitrators shall be appointed by the Arbitral Institutions designated by the Supreme Court. In cases other than international commercial arbitrations, the arbitrator has to be appointed by the Arbitral Institutions designated by the High Courts.
- Time Relaxation - The Act has made relaxations on the time period for making awards. It provides that the Arbitration Tribunals have to make awards within a period of 12 months from the date of completion of pleadings. This relaxation is with respect to matters other than international commercial arbitrations. In matters relating to international commercial arbitrations, endeavors have to be made to dispose of the matter within a period of 12 months from the completion of pleadings.
- Confidentiality of information- The Act provides that the arbitrator, the arbitral institution, and the parties to the arbitration agreement have to maintain the confidentiality of all arbitration proceedings.
- Arbitration Council of India- The Act states that an independent body shall be established by the Central Government, for the purpose of promoting and encouraging arbitration, mediation, conciliation, and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The Council shall be known as the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) and the Council shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal with the power to hold, acquire and dispose of property under its name. The Act also lays down the duties and functions of the ACI.
- Constitution of ACI- The Act provides for the composition of the ACI. The ACI shall consist of a Chairperson who is has been a Judge at the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court or a Judge of a High Court or any eminent person who has special knowledge in the administration of the arbitration. The Chairperson has to be appointed by the Central Government with the consultation of the Chief Justice of India. The other members of the Council are as follows:
- An eminent arbitration practitioner having substantial knowledge and experience in institutional arbitration.
- An eminent academician having experience in research and teaching in the field of arbitration and alternative dispute resolution laws.
- Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, or his representative not below the rank of Joint Secretary.
- Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance or his representative not below the rank of Joint Secretary.
- One representative of a recognized body of commerce and industry.
- A Chief Executive Officer who shall be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Council.
The Act also states the grounds on which the Central Government can remove the members of the Council.
- Applicability of the 2015 Amendment Act- The Act states that the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015 shall not apply to any arbitral proceedings that commenced before the commencement of the aforesaid Act, unless the parties to the agreement otherwise agree on it. This overrules the position laid down by the Supreme Court in BCCI v. Kochi Cricket Private Limited (2018) 6 SCC 287.
- Qualifications and experience of Arbitrators- The Act also provides for a list of nine categories of qualifications as an arbitrator. It also lays down the general norms that need to be sufficient in order to qualify as an arbitrator.
The abovementioned points are the key features of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act,2019. The amendments to the 1996 Act are made with the intention of making India a hub of domestic and international arbitration.