CJI pitches against govt role in arbitration process

RSTV Bureau

Chief Justice of India J S Khehar strongly favoured keeping the government away from the arbitration process to help promote confidence of the business community in international arbitration available.

He hoped that the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative would give a fillip to International Commercial Arbitration (ICA) in the country.

FILE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with CJI JS Khehar at a book release function in New Delhi on 23 February 2017.  Photo - PTI

FILE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with CJI JS Khehar at a book release function in New Delhi on 23 February 2017.
Photo – PTI

Speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day ‘Engaging Asia Arbitration Summit’, the CJI said, “At the highest level of planning in Indian government, efforts are going on that neither government nor its agencies will have any interference with the arbitral process. Government interference will be describable as zero role.

“The zero interference in ICA will give room for understanding of foreign traders in India that the process is neutral. These initiatives will provide a great sense of confidence and trust to all those involved in ICA,” he said.

Lauding the efforts of judiciary and the government to encourage arbitration in India, Justice Khehar said the Supreme Court has also adopted a consistent practice of providing arbitrators from a neutral country.

“So in my view, these two initiatives, one by government of having a zero role and the other by the courts when they appoint arbitrators in an international arbitration from  a neutral country, will promote further the confidence of the trading community in international arbitration,” he said.

Sharing his views, former law minister and Congress leader Salman Khurshid said India is moving exponentially forward in arbitration but it lacks equipment, hardware and software required for the process.

He said it is important that the attitude of an arbitrator is different from that of a judge.

“There are constraints within which a  judge has to operate, particularly in our country where there are constraints not only with requirement to law but heavy load of work that the system has to respond to,” Khurshid, a senior advocate, added.

The Chief Justice stressed on the need for a collective choice to take arbitration in Asia to a higher level.

“I believe that no individual Asian country is capable of shifting to itself the culture of established international arbitrations in the UK, USA and Europe. We just don’t have it. This as of now, is an absolute impossibility. Therefore, we must make a collective choice if we want to bring arbitration to Asia,” he said.

He, however, said that the future of ICA in Asia must commence from India as it has a pool of talented lawyers and arbitrators.

“We must make a collective choice to move to the best possible location in Asia and then to expand arbitration centres into smaller nations with smaller trading activities.

My suggestion is India…” the top judge said.

The CJI, giving several reasons for suggesting India to be the centre of arbitration in Asia, said the country is deeply entrenched in a culture of peace that transcends religion and the businessmen here are known for their secular values as they trade in an environment of diversity.

He said this brings flexibility and adaptability, adding that India’s potential for ICA is set to increase on an exponential scale as more foreign investment is coming here.

“This inflow will necessarily generate an increase in ICA. The total foreign direct investment which India received in the Financial Year 2015-16 was USD 5.9 billion,” he said.

The seminar, hosted by Global Dialogue Review, was also attended by Ruchi Ghanashyam, secretary (west) in the Ministry of External Affairs, and Shaikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, former president of the UN General Assembly