Photo of Indranil Deshmukh

Partner in the Dispute Resolution Practice Area at the Mumbai office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Indranil has extensive experience in a wide range of disputes, both of a general commercial litigation nature as well as public and regulatory disputes. His experience is diversified across numerous sectors including financial regulation, health, sports, local government, planning and environment and public sector projects. Indranil also routinely advises the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in relation to their contracts and tenders. He can be reached at indranil.deshmukh@cyrilshroff.com

Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Act) sets out the grounds on which arbitral awards passed in domestic arbitrations and international commercial arbitrations seated in India can be set aside.  As regards foreign awards (i.e. arbitral awards passed in foreign seated arbitrations), whilst the same cannot be challenged in India, the enforcement of the same in India can be validly objected to by the award debtor on grounds that are set out in Section 48 of the Act. The grounds for setting aside arbitral awards passed in domestic arbitrations and international commercial arbitrations seated in India under Section 34 of the Act and the grounds for refusing enforcement of foreign awards in India under Section 48 of the Act are substantially identical. One such ground is if the arbitral award is found to be contrary to the “public policy of India”.


Continue Reading Supreme Court’s judgment in Vijay Karia v. Prysmian Cavi e Sistemi S.r.l.: Impact on challenges to awards passed in International Commercial Arbitrations conducted in India

Supreme Court to have its say on legality of Fantasy Sports

Introduction

Online gaming, particularly fantasy sports, has witnessed a surge in the Indian market primarily due to easy internet access and increase in digital usage. The number of fantasy sports operators increased seven-fold between 2016 and 2018, whereas the user base grew over 25 times between June 2016 and February 2019[1].  Investments upto USD 166 million (approx.) were made in fantasy sports operations during 2018 -2019.[2] While no valuation of the industry as a whole is readily available, Dream11, the largest fantasy sports operator in India was estimated to be valued at approximately USD 1-1.5 billion in April 2019.[3]

The growth of fantasy sports has raised questions on its legitimacy and legality in India. Fantasy sports are legally recognised in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Canada, France and in most states in USA. In India, the High Courts of Punjab & Haryana, Rajasthan and Bombay have clarified that fantasy sports are games of “skill” rather than “chance” and, therefore, do not amount to gambling. These decisions have encouraged participation in such sports and led to its growth in India.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to have its say on legality of Fantasy Sports

The Pursuit of Enforcement – Can the Corporate Cloaks be Unravelled

Introduction

It is trite that a company is a separate legal entity, and is distinct from its members.[1] As Lord Sumption observed in Prest v Petrodel Resources Ltd.[2], “The separate personality and property of a company is sometimes described as a fiction, and in a sense it is. But the fiction is the whole foundation of English company and insolvency law.” Equally sacrosanct is the principle that arbitration proceeds on the basis of an agreement between parties. After all, “like consummated romance, arbitration rests on consent”.[3] However, practical considerations have led to the marginal dilution of these otherwise fundamental principles.

There are instances where a company and its members are not treated as separate legal entities (i.e. where the corporate ‘veil’ is pierced). Similarly, there are cases where arbitral proceedings enjoin non-signatories.[4] A unique amalgam of these exceptions is found in cases where an arbitral award is sought to be executed against an entity that was never a party to the arbitral proceedings. For example, in Cheran Properties Limited v. Kasturi and Sons Limited and Ors.[5] (“Cheran Properties”), applying the ‘group of companies’ doctrine expounded in Chloro Controls,[6] and analysing Section 35 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”) to ascertain who “persons claiming under them” would be for the purpose of binding such persons to the arbitral award, the Supreme Court permitted enforcement of an arbitral award against a third party/non-signatory. In this post, however, our focus is on whether Indian courts have pierced the corporate veil to execute an arbitral award against a third party to the arbitral proceedings when such third party’s unique relationship with the award debtor has been exploited to fraudulently circumvent or frustrate execution of the arbitral award.
Continue Reading The Pursuit of Enforcement – Can the Corporate Cloaks be Unravelled?

Summary Judgment under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 – An Underutilized Tool in Contractual Disputes

The Commercial Courts Act: A game of catch-up 

The Commercial Courts Act, 2015 (“Act”) introduced a slew of measures intended to streamline procedures relating to commercial litigation as part of the Ease of doing Business in India initiative. The changes brought about were made on the recommendation of the Law Commission of India to bring Indian commercial litigation on par with international standards. Among the measures introduced to improve efficiency and reduce delays was a mechanism for summary judgment of claims pertaining to commercial disputes.
Continue Reading Summary Judgment under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 – An Underutilized Tool in Contractual Disputes

Put option Holders - Financial Creditors under the IBC – Part 2

In our previous post, we discussed the La-Fin Judgments passed by the NCLAT (Pushpa Shah v. IL&FS Financial Services Limited[1]) and NCLT[2], which had held that a put option holder may be treated as a ‘financial creditor’ under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC). A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court set aside the La-Fin Judgments in Jignesh Shah vs Union of India[3] primarily on the technical grounds of limitation without expressing a view on whether the NCLT and NCLAT were correct in treating a put option holder as a financial creditor.

This was followed by the landmark decision of Pioneer Urban and Infrastructure Limited vs Union of India (Pioneer Judgment)[4] in which the Supreme Court interpreted the provisions of Section 5(8)(f) of the IBC in a manner similar to that done in the La-Fin Judgments, stating that the provision would subsume within it “amounts raised under transactions which are not necessarily loan transactions, so long as they have the commercial effect of a borrowing” and “done with profit as the main aim.”
Continue Reading Put option Holders: Financial Creditors under the IBC? – Part 2

Takeover regulations Companies Act

Background 

The Central Government recently notified Sections 230(11) and 230(12) of the Companies Act, 2013 (“Act”), which deal with takeover offers in unlisted companies. Section 230 of the Act provides for arrangements between a company and its creditors or members or any class of them, specifying the procedure to be followed to make such a compromise or arrangement. The newly-notified Section 230(11) states that in the case of unlisted companies any compromise or arrangement may include a takeover offer made in the prescribed manner, while Section 230(12) permits a party aggrieved by the takeover offer to make an application, bringing its grievance before the National Company Law Tribunal (“NCLT”). The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has also amended the Companies (Compromises, Arrangements and Amalgamations) Rules, 2016 (“CAA Rules”) and the NCLT Rules, 2016, corresponding to the above provisions. Sub-rules 5 and 6 have been added to Rule 3 of the CAA Rules, and Rule 80A has been inserted in the NCLT Rules, detailing the manner in which the applications may be made under Sections 230(11) and 230(12), respectively. However, these rules are not applicable to any transfer or transmission of shares through a contract, arrangement or succession, as the case may be, or any transfer made in pursuance of any statutory or regulatory requirement.
Continue Reading Takeover Rules for Unlisted Companies: Minority Squeeze Outs Under Section 230(11) of the Companies Act, 2013

Exclusion of Time Spent in Pre-arbitration Negotiations

Complex commercial transactions and arrangements often contemplate a requirement to engage in good faith negotiations/discussions or mediation in order to resolve the dispute amicably before the parties can resort to arbitration[1]. It is also common in these arrangements that the parties are required to spell out their claim in writing and provide the other party with an opportunity to respond before good faith negotiations can commence. Given the complex nature of arrangements, stakes involved and multitude of relationships between the parties, often a considerable amount of time is spent in exploring ways to amicably resolve matters instead of “washing dirty linen in public”. It has been a matter of considerable debate whether the time spent in good faith negotiations/discussions/mediation can be excluded for the purpose of computing the period of limitation for reference to arbitration.

The recent Supreme Court judgement in the case of Geo Miller & Co. Pvt. Ltd. v. Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd.[2] (Geo Miller Case) has explained the legal position on this aspect and paved the way for making a carve out for time spent in exhausting pre-arbitration procedures for the purpose of computing the period of limitation for reference to arbitration.
Continue Reading Exclusion of Time Spent in Pre-arbitration Negotiations/Settlement Discussions: A Much Needed Carve Out

Good Faith Negotiations and Mediation 

It has become increasingly common for parties to adopt multi-tiered dispute resolution clauses in agreements. A typical multi-tiered dispute-resolution clause requires parties to first attempt to resolve a dispute amicably – for instance, by engaging in friendly discussions, submitting to mediation or undertaking good faith negotiations – before the commencement of arbitration proceedings. There has been much ado about the enforceability of such clauses and whether they should be considered void due to vagueness: how does one engage in “friendly discussions”, and what exactly are “good faith negotiations”, when a presumably acrimonious dispute has already arisen between parties?

Despite this ambiguity, courts have increasingly found tiered dispute-resolution clauses to be enforceable. In fact, with a view to combat rising pendency in courts, these principles have been extended to the initiation of litigation as well. The Commercial Courts Act, 2015 (CCA) was amended last year to state that any suit that does not contemplate urgent interim relief cannot be instituted without the plaintiff having exhausted the remedy of pre-institution mediation and settlement.[1] A similar model is also followed in a number of other countries, including the UK, Italy, Greece and Turkey, where it has been successful in encouraging dispute resolution through mediation.[2]
Continue Reading Good Faith Negotiations and Mediation: A Missed Opportunity So Far

Put-option Holders - Financial Creditors Under the IBC

In its recent judgment in the case of Jignesh Shah v. Union of India[1] (Jignesh Shah), a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court set aside the NCLAT judgment in the case of Pushpa Shah v. IL&FS Financial Services Limited[2] (NCLAT Judgment) along with the original judgment of the NCLT[3] (NCLT Judgment and, together, La-Fin Judgments). The NCLT Judgment and the NCLAT Judgment had rejected the corporate debtor’s objection in relation to the claim being time barred and initiated corporate insolvency resolution process on the basis that a put option holder may be treated as a “financial creditor” under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).
Continue Reading Put-option Holders: Financial Creditors Under the IBC?

Arbitrator Fees in India

The Law Commission of India, in its 246th report, noted that one of the problems associated with arbitration in India (especially ad hoc arbitrations) is the high quantum of fees charged by arbitrators.[1] The Report went so far as to call the fees “arbitrary, unilateral and disproportionate”. The Commission recommended the adoption of a model schedule of fees for Courts to consider while framing rules for fixing of the fees of arbitrators appointed in accordance with Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (the Act). The Commission restricted its suggestions to ad hoc domestic arbitrations, noting that different standards may apply in institutional arbitrations and in international commercial arbitrations (where the Commission recommended greater deference to party autonomy).
Continue Reading Arbitrator Fees in India: In a Fix?