Arbitration is an evolving method of dispute resolution in India to meet the rising demands of globalization. Indian legislature has taken ample measures to promote arbitration as the preferred mode of dispute resolution at domestic as well as international levels, by bringing forth constant amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
However, arbitration proceedings are time consuming in their own ways. Some of the reasons for delay include the respondent deliberately delaying the procedure with mala fide or the arbitrator refusing to continue hearing without regular fees payment.
Fast Track Arbitration or Expedited Arbitration is an efficient mode of dispute resolution which is time bound and hence, cannot be delayed due to any reason whatsoever. It is a sub process of regular arbitration, wherein a sole Arbitral Tribunal is established upon the consent of parties, having fixed time limits and limited procedures to be followed to accelerate the process of dispute resolution.
FAST TRACK PROCEDURE UNDER SECTION 29B OF ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION (AMENDMENT) ACR, 2015
1. Application for a Fast Track Arbitration
Application is done through an “opt-in approach”, in which parties to an arbitration agreement can apply for dispute resolution through a Fast Track Arbitration by agreeing to the same in writing, at any stage before or at the time of appointment of Arbitral Tribunal. The Courts do not have the power to impose the process of Fast Track Arbitration upon the parties.
2. Sole Arbitrator
The parties to the arbitration agreement should agree for the appointment of a sole arbitrator for the Arbitral Tribunal.
3. Fees to be paid
The amount and manner of payment of fees is subject to agreement between the arbitrator and the parties.
PROCEDURE TO BE FOLLOWED BY ARBITRAL TRIBUNAL IN FAST TRACK ARBITRATION
1. Written pleadings:
The dispute shall be decided on the basis of written pleadings, documents and submissions filed by the parties, without any oral hearings.
It can also call for further information or clarifications from the parties along with the documents and pleadings submitted.
Oral hearing should be held only when parties request for it or when the arbitral tribunal considers it absolutely necessary for clarifying certain issues.
4. Expeditious disposal of case:
It may do away with technical formalities associated with oral hearings and adopt a procedure for expeditious disposal of the matter.
The award should be made within a period of six months from the date the arbitral tribunal enters upon the reference. Section 29A (3) to (9) of the Act mentions the time-limit for passing of an arbitral award under the fast track procedure. The parties may consent for extending the period for making award to a period not exceeding six months. In case the award is not made within six months or within the extended time period, the mandate of the arbitrator shall terminate unless the Court has extended the time period. If the Court comes to a conclusion that the delay is due to reasons attributable to the Arbitral Tribunal, then it may order for reduction of up to 5% fees of the arbitrator for each month of delay. In case of extension of the time period, the Court may substitute the arbitrator responsible and the arbitral proceedings shall continue from the stage already reached prior to the substitution of the arbitrator.