Arbitration has been an age-old concept in the Indian judiciary. It is when parties involved in a business dispute agree to settle matters privately, avoiding the judiciary. “Given my role as the State commentator in 2018, I recognised an increased opportunity for handling arbitration cases. That’s when I felt a book of this nature may be useful for practitioners,” says M Sricharan RangaRajan, Senior Advocate, Madras High Court at the launch of his two-volume book “Treatiseon Arbitration Law and Practice,” released by OakBridge Publishing.
Recognising the surge in arbitration cases, following the 2015 amendment, I saw an opportunity to contribute a book focusing on the practical aspects practitioners might find useful.
Originally planned as a single chapter, it expanded into two volumes, primarily addressing the first part of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996. Part 1 covers domestic arbitration, which is more pertinent to both Indian and international companies seeking alternative dispute resolution, added RangaRajan.
Arbitration in India is filled with lots of problems. The challenge in domestic arbitration is its original intent — to simplify proceedings, ensure speedy resolution and be cost-effective. The 2015 amendment aimed to address this, achieving some improvement, but there are still grey areas, said RangaRajan.
For instance, a recent seven-judge bench ruling raised questions about the first stage of arbitration, particularly the appointment of arbitrators. The dispute arose over whether an arbitrator could be appointed if the arbitration agreement lacked proper stamping, leading to three conflicting judgments. This uncertainty prolongs the initial arbitration step, affecting efficiency.
Confidentiality is another challenge; it saw amendments in 2015, with Section 42 B addressing international models. Maintaining confidentiality is challenging due to court challenges to arbitrator appointments and making cases public. Despite recent legislative amendments, there is still room for improvement, asserts RangaRajan.
The book launch saw the presence of various lawyers and sitting judges from across the country, including the Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Sanjay V Gangapurwala.