India World's Arbitration Hub : Bhardwaj

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New Delhi, Oct 19 (UNI) Asserting that prospects are ''bright'' for making India a hub of international arbitration, Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj today stressed a separate arbitration Bar.

Opening a Conference on Critical Issues in International Commercial Arbitration, Dr Bhardwaj said, ''We have legal skills better than those in other parts of the world. Our lawyers and judges are second to none.'' The two-day conference is sponsored jointly by the Indian Council of Arbitration and the International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions. The Council is affiliated to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Dr Bhardwaj said bilateral and multilateral treaties have resulted in a growing body of jurisprudence but cautioned because a signatory undertakes to do much more than a commercial contract.

Citing the Dabhol Arbitration, he reminded that India has had its share of investment disputes.

Bhardwaj said there was an urgent need to develop institutional arbitration and create an awareness of arbitral process in India's legal fraternity.

He said this would bring about a new brand of arbitrators and practitioners devoted full time to arbitration and not treating it as a part time affair.

Senior Advocate Fali Nariman suggested establishing an international court for business disputes capable of handling complexities of international trade and commerce.

Supreme Court Judge Ashok Bhan suggested creating an appellate jurisdiction against an arbitral award on limited grounds and with a set timeframe for disposal.

Inaugurating an International Judicial Colloquium on Arbitration and Courts, Harmony Amidst Disharmony, Justice Bhan regretted Courts' tendency to intervene in arbitral awards.

He said ''Section 5 of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, envisages part autonomy and non-intervention of the courts in the arbitral process. It also clearly provides that no judicial authority will intervene except where so provided.'' He said the business community must avoid litigation which is fruitless. ''If you are driven to litigation, then the dispute should be settled quickly. The approach of the legal fraternity should not be to convert the proceedings before arbitration into one before ordinary civil court, which is invariably the position today. If you do so, then the purpose of arbitration is defeated.'' Justice Bhan said arbitration ought to be accepted as an alternative to courts and a speedier remedy for dispute resolution.

Arbitrators, he said, should not enter the fray until and unless they are in a position to accept and respect this fundamental premise.

Justice Bhan said the mindset in India must change to make the system more effective, attractive and functional.

The tendency to ask for or grant frequent adjournments, which has already affected the principal system, should be drastically curtailed, if not done away with completely.

Justice Bhan appeared to agree with a FICCI speaker's suggestion on using institutional arbitration instead of ad hoc arbitrators.

He said institutional arbitration offered advantages such as office facilities, rules and procedures to ensure that the process comes to a timely conclusion.

He stressed quicker settlement of disputes as that would encourage more cross border commercial transaction, helping the nation prosper.

UNI

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