Australian Court sets aside an international arbitration award and removes an arbitrator

The respondents in an international commercial arbitration were successful in the Federal Court in Australia in setting aside parts of two partial awards and removing the sole arbitrator pursuant to Articles 12, 18 and 34 of the UNCITRAL Model Law. These articles are incorporated into Australian law by the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth).

The Court found that the arbitrator had conducted himself in such a manner that the applicants could no longer have confidence in him. This was mainly because the arbitrator had decided various substantive questions in a final manner without giving some of the parties an opportunity to be heard on those questions.

The Court observed that procedural difficulties were encountered due to the hiving off and determination of incomplete separate questions where issues between the parties had not been properly crystallised.

Hui v Esposito Holdings Pty Ltd [2017] FCA 648 and Hui v Esposito Holdings Pty Ltd (No 2) [2017] FCA 728 demonstrate the circumstances in which the Court may review the actions of an arbitrator and may be prepared to terminate an arbitrator’s mandate and set aside awards.

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New Zealand considers further amendments to its Arbitration Act

On 9 March 2017, the Arbitration Amendment Bill (Bill) was introduced to the New Zealand Parliament. The Bill proposes to amend the Arbitration Act 1996 (Act), and follows recommendations by the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ).

The proposed changes include:

  1. permitting the inclusion of arbitration clauses in trust deeds;
  2. greater confidentiality of arbitration-related court proceedings; and
  3. narrowed grounds for the set-aside of an arbitral award.

Other amendments to the Act came into effect on 1 March 2017, which we earlier reported on here.

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Supreme Court of India Clarifies the Scope of Public Policy grounds for Challenging a Domestic Arbitration Award under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act

In a decision handed down recently, the Supreme Court of India found that the Delhi High Court had overstepped its powers and wrongly set aside a domestic arbitration award. In the process, the Supreme Court has clarified the scope of the “public policy ground” to set aside awards under Section 34(b)(ii) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (Act).

The Supreme Court was critical of the Delhi High Court re-opening an arbitrator’s award on merits by reviewing evidence considered by the arbitrator and even considering evidence above and beyond that which the arbitrator had the opportunity to consider. The Supreme Court advocated giving due weight and recognition to a determination by an arbitration – especially on issues of fact. The court recognized that an award could only be set aside on grounds of public policy in very limited circumstances, such as where an award was arbitrary, capricious or such that it would shock the conscience of the court.

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