Swiss Federal Tribunal refuses to set aside the Deutsche Telekom v India Award

We previously reported here that a Geneva-seated UNCITRAL tribunal (the “Tribunal“) constituted under the India-Germany Bilateral Investment Treaty dated 10 July 1995 (the “India-Germany BIT”) found India in breach of its treaty obligations in relation to its cancellation of a spectrum allocation contract[1] (the “Contract“) in an interim award dated 13 December 2017 (the “Award“).

The Contract was entered into in 2005 between Devas Multimedia Private Limited (“Devas“), an Indian company and Antrix Corporation Limited (“Antrix“), an Indian state-owned satellite company, wherein Devas agreed to pay a fee in return for the lease of the S-band electromagnetic spectrum provided by two orbiting Indian satellites. In the arbitration before the Tribunal, the Claimant, Deutsche Telekom AG (“DT“) (which indirectly held a 20% stake in Devas via a Singaporean subsidiary) alleged a breach of the fair and equitable treatment standard under the India-Germany BIT.

In the Award, the Tribunal dealt with issues of jurisdiction and liability (leaving aside issues of quantum for a later award), and held that it possessed jurisdiction to hear the dispute and that India had indeed violated the standard of fair and equitable treatment under the India-Germany BIT.

India sought to challenge the Award in the Swiss Federal Tribunal (“Federal Tribunal“), being the court of supervision of the arbitration. In a decision last month, the First Civil Law Court of the Federal Tribunal rejected India’s application for the annulment of the Award by a 3:2 majority in a judgment dated 11 December 2018 (available here (in French)).

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Indian Supreme Court rules that Indian courts have jurisdiction to hear an application to set aside an award issued in Malaysia

In its recent decision in Union of India v Hardy Exploration and Production (available here), the Supreme Court of India found that a contractual clause stipulating Kuala Lumpur as the ‘venue’ of arbitration did not amount to a choice of juridical seat. While the Indian courts’ jurisdiction to hear set-aside applications will be excluded if the seat of the arbitration is outside India, the Supreme Court found that in this case there was no chosen seat (and the tribunal had not determined a seat), notwithstanding the choice of Kuala Lumpur as the venue for the arbitral proceedings, and the fact that the award was signed in Kuala Lumpur. Since this was a case where the arbitration agreement pre-dated 6 September 2012 (the date of the key Supreme Court ruling in BALCO), it appears that the Court did not find it necessary to positively determine that the seat was in India; the fact that an overseas seat had not been established appears to have been sufficient for the Indian courts to have jurisdiction to hear the application.

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Indian Government launches international research project on the impact of Bilateral Investment Treaties on investment flows from/to the country

India entered into its first bilateral investment treaty (BIT), with the United Kingdom, in 1994, as part of a strategy to attract inbound foreign direct investment (FDI).  Having begun to open its economy in the 1990s, India today is a major investment destination.  The Modi government has been keen to attract further investment, including with its “Make in India” campaign.

However, in recent years, a variety of events has led to India being the recipient of a large number of claims by investors under BITs. By 2016, India was one of the most frequently-named respondent states in BIT proceedings.  Following its first loss in a BIT arbitration in 2011 (the White Industries case, discussed here.  Note: India has recently won its first BIT case, discussed here), the stance of the Indian government towards BIT protections for inbound investors appeared to harden, leading it to send notices in 2016 to terminate BITs with 58 countries, including 22 EU countries (discussed here).  This followed its publication of a new 2015 Model BIT (discussed here).  For the remaining BITs not cancelled in 2016/2017 (seemingly because they were within their initial terms), India has circulated a proposed joint interpretative statement to the counterparties to these BITs seeking to align the ongoing treaties with its 2015 Model BIT.

There are no known instances of states agreeing to a new treaty based on India’s 2015 Model BIT, although it was reported last year that the Indian government had approved a joint interpretative note to apply to India’s BIT with Bangladesh

In the meantime, the Indian government, through the Centre for Trade and Investment Law (CTIL), a think-tank established in 2016 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in collaboration with Dr. Rishab Gupta, Partner, of Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., has instituted a survey on experiences and attitudes towards BIT protections, and their importance to FDI flows into and out of India.  This outbound element is an important aspect of the analysis as Indian businesses are increasingly involved in FDI outside India, and may wish to take advantage of BIT protections over their investments.

A link to the survey can be found below, which we understand will remain active until the end of October 2018. The survey contains 10-12 questions which vary depending on the initial answers regarding the location and type of entity responding.

http://survey.sogosurvey.com/r/r1ocQs

The outcome of the questionnaire together with the rest of the study results are scheduled to be publicly released by the end of 2018. All stakeholders with experience of or insight into the BIT regime applicable to India are encouraged to participate.

For further information, please contact Nicholas Peacock, Head of the India Disputes Practice, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.

Nicholas Peacock
Nicholas Peacock
Partner
+44 20 7466 2803

Recent Developments in India-related International Arbitration

Herbert Smith Freehills has issued the latest edition of its Indian international arbitration e-bulletin.

In this issue we consider various court decisions, which cover issues such as the applicability of the Arbitration Amendment Act 2015, binding non-signatories to an award, enforcement of an award before the National Company Law Tribunal, and the continued pro-arbitration approach of the Indian courts. In other news, we consider the continued rise of institutional arbitration in India, a detailed analysis of the proposed amendments to the Arbitration Act, as well as India-related bilateral investment treaty news (and other developments).

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Tribunal awards India first BIT case win, dismissing claims of French investor

An UNCITRAL arbitral tribunal has reportedly dismissed a US$36 million claim by a French investor, Louis Dreyfus Armateurs SAS (“LDA“), against India under the 1997 France-India bilateral investment treaty (“BIT“). The award is not public at this time, but press reports state that LDA has also been ordered to pay approximately US$7 million in respect of India’s substantial legal expenses.

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India’s lower house of Parliament approves further amendments to the Indian Arbitration Act

As previously reported here, a draft Bill to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 (the “Act“) was approved by the Indian Cabinet on 7 March 2018 (the “Bill“). The Bill was listed as a part of the agenda for the monsoon session of the Indian Parliament and was passed by the Lower House on 10 August 2018, without any amendments. The text of the Bill can be found here.

The Law Minister has described the Bill as “a momentous and important legislation” aimed at making India “a hub of domestic and international arbitration”. The key features of the Bill are:

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Delhi High Court agrees to enforce CIETAC arbitral award against Indian company despite CIETAC split

In its decision of 4 July 2018, the Delhi High Court (“Court“) has agreed to enforce a China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) award against an Indian company, despite the award debtor’s arguments that the dispute should have been referred to and administrated by the now independent Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC), which until mid-2012 was the Shanghai Sub-Commission of CIETAC (“Shanghai Sub-Commission“). The Court’s decision is interesting not only in discussing the 2012 split of CIETAC, but also because it may provide some guidance on how Indian courts may, in future, deal with structural changes to other arbitral institutions, such as the very recent termination of the joint venture between LCIA and Mauritius (the LCIA-MIAC Arbitration Centre), or the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (SCIETAC/SCIA) and the Shenzhen Arbitration Commission (SAC) merger at the beginning of 2018. Last but not least, this decision reinforces a pro-enforcement approach of Indian courts in relation to foreign arbitral awards.

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Reliance v Union of India: English Court confirms that there is no serious irregularity under s68(2)(a) if an issue of construction decided by the tribunal is “squarely in play”

In Reliance Industries Limited & Ors v The Union of India [2018] EWHC 822 (Comm) the English commercial court (the Court) considered a number of challenges to parts of an arbitration award brought under sections 67, 68 and 69 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (the  Act).

The decision provides useful guidance regarding the requirements to be satisfied should a party wish to challenge an award due to a “serious irregularity” under the Act. In particular, the Court confirmed that the general duty under s33 of the Act to give each party a reasonable opportunity to present its case was satisfied if the “essential building blocks” of the tribunal’s analysis and reasoning were in play in relation to an issue, even where the argument (in this case on a point of construction) was not articulated in the way adopted by the tribunal.

In addition to the issues discussed in this blog post, the Court considered the foreign act of state doctrine. This challenge is discussed in a post on our Public International Law Notes blog here.

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Delhi High Court refuses to grant injunction restraining Vodafone’s second BIT arbitration against India

In a decision dated 7 May 2018, the Delhi High Court dismissed the Government of India’s application to declare Vodafone’s second BIT arbitration proceedings in relation to the retrospective tax liability imposed on Vodafone’s 2007 acquisition of Hutchison Whampoa’s Indian operations an abuse of process, and in so doing declined to grant a permanent injunction restraining Vodafone from continuing those arbitration proceedings. The Court granted liberty to India to bring the issue before the Tribunal in those second proceedings (under the India-UK Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement) for that Tribunal to decide on the alleged abuse of process on its own merits.

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Dispute Resolution in Asia-Pacific: Parties seek efficient processes and enforceable outcomes

Following our report on the Global Pound Conference series, which brought together over 4000 stakeholders at 28 conferences worldwide, our analysis of the Asia Pacific results reveals different demands in Asia and Oceania.

Six Asia Pacific cities hosted conferences to assess how dispute resolution can be improved: Singapore; Hong Kong; Chandigarh, India; Bangkok, Thailand; Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. Each conference addressed the demand side (commercial party perspectives on dispute resolution); the supply side (what advisers and providers are delivering to commercial parties); the key obstacles and challenges; and what needs to be addressed to effect change.

In Asia the data revealed a clear desire for enhanced regulation of mediation compared to Oceania. At first blush, this could be said to be rooted in civil versus common law traditions. But only one of the Asian countries to host a GPC event, Thailand, has a civil-law system. The reason appears to be more complex: enhanced regulation, particularly around enforcement, would lend credibility to mediation in Asia as a viable alternative to litigation or arbitration. This is particularly so in the context of commercial cross-border disputes. UNCITRAL’s proposed New York-style Convention on the mutual recognition and enforcement of mediation settlement agreements is likely to be applauded in Asia and may hail an inflection point for the use of mediation.

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