Centre to move Bill on stays on arbitral awards tainted by fraud

stays on arbitral awards

The Union government is set to introduce in the Lok Sabha on Thursday a Bill that aims to empower judicial courts to grant unconditional stays on the enforcement of arbitration awards tainted by fraud or corruption.

The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2021 aims to ensure that all stakeholders get opportunities to seek unconditional stays on the enforcement of arbitral awards where the arbitration agreement or contract is “induced by fraud or corruption”, a senior government official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The Law Ministry’s Bill also seeks to remove provisions that prescribe qualifications and accreditation of arbitrators, which had effectively excluded foreign nationals from acting as arbitrators in Indian arbitrations.

The qualifications are now to be specified by regulations, which are yet to be notified.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will introduce the Bill during Business Hour once the Lok Sabha reassembles at 4 pm.

On November 4 last year, President Ram Nath Kovind had promulgated the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, which amends Sections 36 (enforcement) and 43-J (norms for accreditation) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Arbitration Act).

A provision inserted by the Ordinance stipulates that the court, if satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out, shall stay the award unconditionally pending disposal of the challenge under Section 34 (Application for setting aside arbitral award) of the Arbitration Act.

The Ordinance also omits the Eighth Schedule of the Arbitration Act, which deals with qualifications and experience of arbitrators. This provision had faced criticism from some quarters that the conditions prescribed in the law came in way of India getting the benefit of having foreign arbitrators.

A government functionary said that a “wrong impression” had been created on the issue. “The government dropped the 8th Schedule to do away with that impression,” the official told IANS.

Now, the qualifications on the basis of which arbitrators will be accredited will be prescribed by regulations, which will be framed by a proposed Arbitration Council.

The provision will come into effect retrospectively from October 23, 2015 as per the Bill proposed to be moved in the House, said another official.

Besides, papers related to answers to questions will be laid on the table by Ministers concerned related the Ministries of Minority Affairs; New and Renewable Energy and Power; Housing, Urban Development and Aviation; Shipping and Waterways; Road Transport and Highways; and Jal Shakti, soon after the House assembles for the day.

Three Standing Committee reports will also be tabled.

The discussion on Motion of Thanks on the President’s address is also expected to resume, which was stalled by the opposition ruckus in the last two sittings of the House on three contentious farm laws.