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Panel headed by former law secretary Vishwanathan submits report on arbitration reforms

An expert committee headed by former law secretary T K Vishwanathan has submitted its report on reforms in the arbitration sector to the law ministry, sources said on Wednesday. The panel, which also had representatives of the law ministry as well as domain experts, has recommended an amendment to the Arbitration law to confer on the court the power to set aside or vary the arbitration award, the sources said.

Industry representatives have dubbed the proposed changes in the law as a setback for arbitration reforms in the country.

They said that one of the major issues plaguing arbitrations especially in a jurisdiction such as India is with regard to the fees charged by arbitrators being on the higher side.

The reforms propose deletion of the Fourth schedule dealing with fee schedule.

The panel has also set no limits on number of arbitrations an arbitrator can take, leading to delay in award, they said.

The also noted that no upper age limit has been prescribed for accepting appointment as arbitrator.

According to the terms of reference for the committee, it was to evaluate and analyse the operation of the present arbitration ecosystem of the country, including the working of the Arbitration Act, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses and challenges vis-a-vis other important foreign jurisdictions.

The committee was also asked to recommend a framework of model arbitration system which is efficient, effective and economical and caters to the requirements of the users.

Under arbitration, the parties concerned, instead of approaching courts, opt for private dispute resolution through arbitrators. The decision of arbitrators is binding.

Last month while hearing a civil appeal, the Supreme Court had noted that a draft of the committee report has been received by the government.

Once the report is finalised, its soft copy should be provided to the Bench as well as the counsel appearing on behalf of the diverse parties on or before February 15, 2024, the top court had said.

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