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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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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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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Indian Courts settle key issues relating to enforcement of awards

In five recent judgments, the Indian courts have offered important guidance on the enforcement of both domestic and international awards in India.

This post first discusses three judgments of the Supreme Court of India (“Supreme Court“), clarifying the interpretation of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act“), in light of recent amendments intended to simplify the enforcement process.

Next, the post covers two judgments of the Delhi High Court and Rajasthan High Court on challenges to enforcement of awards, which offer useful guidance on the courts’ approach to issues of public policy.

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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 Indian court decisions, including the availability of interim relief in support of foreign arbitration, sanctions for non-compliance with arbitral orders and the pro-arbitration position adopted by the courts in upholding a foreign seat. In other news, we consider the rise of institutional arbitration in India and a detailed analysis of the Sri Krishna Committee report, developments in the Indian mediation landscape, proposed reforms for commercial courts, as well as India-related bilateral investment treaty news (and other developments). Continue reading

Further Indian jurisprudence on appointments of former employees as arbitrators

Since our previous report on the Delhi High Court refusing to uphold an arbitration clause that provided for the tribunal to be comprised of one party’s employees or retired employees, there have been several cases which have provided useful guidance in relation to the appointment of arbitrators under the new provisions in the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015, which came into force on 23 October 2015 and amended the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 (“Amended Act“).  The Amended Act applies to arbitration agreements which pre-date the amendments.[1]

The recent jurisprudence on appointing former employees as arbitrators has dealt with a number of issues, but four key principles emerge:

  1. The provisions of the Amended Act dealing with independence of arbitrators do not prohibit the appointment of former employees.
  2. Nonetheless, it is still important for there to be no doubts in relation to the neutrality, impartiality and independence of the arbitral tribunal. Therefore, where a party has a contractual right to compose a list or panel from which the other parties are to select an arbitrator, a ‘broad based’ approach must be adopted.
  3. The Courts have adopted a narrow definition of what constitutes an employee, and therefore all government employees are not automatically ineligible to be appointed as an arbitrator where one of the parties is a government body.
  4. If an ineligible person (e.g. an employee) was nominated as an arbitrator in the arbitration agreement but is now ineligible as a consequence of the Act, that person cannot nominate another independent arbitrator, notwithstanding what the agreement might provide.

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Delhi High Court confirms that two Indian parties can choose a foreign seat of arbitration and applies the alter ego doctrine to join non-parties to the arbitration agreement

In GMR Energy Limited v. Doosan Power Systems India Private Limited, the Delhi High Court confirmed that two Indian parties can contract to have a foreign seat of arbitration (in this case, Singapore), and also ruled that a non-party to the Arbitration Agreement could be made part of the arbitral proceedings on the grounds that it acted as an alter ego to the contracting party.

A brief summary of the case can be found below. Continue reading

Indian Supreme Court upholds English High Court’s decision on parties’ choice of London seat

The Indian Supreme Court’s judgment in Roger Shashoua v Mukesh Sharma sheds further light on the court’s approach to interpreting arbitration agreements, particularly regarding the parties’ implied choice of seat. The court found that the designation of London as the “venue” of the arbitration in the absence of any express designation of a seat would suggest that the parties agreed that London would be the seat of the arbitration (in the absence of anything to the contrary). It is also notable that the court expressly followed the English courts’ approach to the same question. Shashoua is particularly relevant to contracts with Indian parties providing for arbitration that were concluded prior to 6 September 2012, the date of the court’s judgment in Bharat Aluminium Co. v Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services Inc. (“BALCO“) (discussed here). As we consider in further detail below, this can have significant implications on the degree of Indian courts’ powers to interfere in arbitration proceedings, grant interim relief, appoint arbitrators or set aside an award, in connection with pre-BALCO agreements. Continue reading